Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Treading a troubled past: Racist coverage?

Richard Prince's Journal-isms column today reviews concerns of NABJ sports journalists about AP coverage of the death of Washington Redskin Sean Taylor. Prince quotes a MLB.com writer who wrote: "To suggest that black men like Taylor aren't dealt with unfairly in the media is to embrace the idea of mermaids as real or that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction." Also taken to task was Leonard Shapiro's latest column, where he suggests that Taylor had it coming.
It's difficult to know if the same kind of coverage would have taken place had this been a white player with a similar background who had been shot. Ultimately, though, it seems that any review of Taylor's troubled past needs to be justified as clearly relevant and newsworthy -- and I'm not sure, at this point, it is.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Roberts likely the exception at SI

In a recent Washington Post column, Leonard Shapiro writes about the moves of high-profile sports journalists among newspaper, magazine and television. Of Selena Robert's recent move from the NYT to SI, he chronicles the magazine's stay-the-course record of marginalizing women and women's sports. He writes that the addition of Roberts "and perhaps more talented women to come, there's some hope for a little more gender equity in the SI ranks."
Shapiro then comes back down to earth: "Maybe Roberts will just be an exception, albeit a very welcome one, and that would be a great shame." Unfortunately, his afterthought is likely right. When it comes to women in sports journalism, the door tends to be a revolving one.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Despite concerns, revenue-driven model in college sports continues to mushroom

Penn State Professor Malcolm Moran and others in the movement to reform college sports met at a Hechinger Institute event earlier this month to review the ways college sports are pressuring academics -- see the video for a summary. These concerns have been around for a century, but the demands of commercial interests outside the academy are the new wrinkle. A recent article in Forbes outlines just what is on the line: millions and millions of dollars in a system that has taken its cues from the NFL.
The hand-wringing will help draw attention to the topic, but it won't make the solution any less difficult. The model built on revenue production but under the facade of higher education will have to be completely dismantled.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Zirin: Abolish the sports pages

Speaking at the annual conference of the North American Society of Sports Sociology yesterday, sports columnist Dave Zirin said he thinks sports sections need to be a thing of the past and that newspapers instead need to focus on providing news that is intensely local, politically engaging and important to readers' lives.
Zirin added that because sports journalists rely so much on access to athletes for their livelihood, they play along with the institutional sexism, racism and homophobia that have been part of professional sports. "The problem is that there is not more courage to challenge that," he said.
Although Zirin wondered out loud whether sports draws journalists who are conservative, he said that they are generally "anti-political" -- that is, unwilling to acknowledge the politics that are embedded in sports (thus, preserving the status quo). That is one reason what Zirin does is so unusual -- and so necessary.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The slow, steady slide of SI

Josh Levin's latest piece in Slate, What's Wrong with Sports Illustrated, describes the magazine as "passive and uncritical," seeking too much to mimic its cliche-crammed competitors such as ESPN the Magazine. Levin points to the NYT's Play magazine as a smart alternative, although Play doesn't have the influence or the potential of SI.
SI needs to focus on what can really set it apart (and above)most of the mindless, fawning fluff that fills sports-related pages and Web sites: smart, thorough, hard-hitting opinion pieces, and investigative journalism. But both of these mean investing in writers and reporters who can do the work -- not TV brand Dan Patrick.