Thursday, February 28, 2008

A positive review

Media coverage of gays and lesbians in sports is improving, said Pat Griffin, a leading scholar and activist on issues of homophobia in sports during a lecture at Penn State tonight. Griffin said media coverage has started to educate people about homophobia and facilitated greater acceptance of gays and lesbians. Griffin and activist Lea Robinson outlined the ways that conditions are improving for sexual minorities in sports, most notably in the willingness of players to accept gay teammates and the support athletes receive from their families in coming out. At the same time, though, they critiqued image of female athletes that reinforced the hetero-sexy ideal for lesbians and noted that coverage of the Don Imus incident last year didn't focus enough on his homophobia.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

High school sports on TV: The price

New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick's column, "ESPN, schools invite trouble," is a little over the top, but it informs a larger point about the increasing commercialization, mediation and exploitation of high school athletics by big-time networks like ESPN. Mushnick sounds the alarm about a 9 p.m. high school game in Jersey City, a place he describes a "very tough town" and no place an ESPN exec would want his child after the game was over.
I think that even though Mushnick pushes the envelope a bit, he points to the way coverage of high school sports at the national level can alter the educational values for which scholastic sports were designed. The price for cheap sports programming will become very high if educators and parents do not protect the athletes and the integrity of their sports programs.

Friday, February 22, 2008

What they make: Sports reporters' salaries

Despite recent stories in the WSJ and the NYT comparing sportswriters to rock stars (I wrote about it in late December), the average salary of a sportswriter at an APSE-member paper is around $47,000, according a phone survey of more than 200 reporters. The minimum salary was $18,000 and the highest salary reported was $150,000. The average for women was slightly less than for men. For a complete breakdown, go to the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism Web site and see the "Newspaper Salaries" report, which was just posted.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sexualizing the sporting woman

SI's swimsuit edition, the magazine's biggest money maker, was released last week. The magazine, in keeping with a practice that stretches back at least 10 years, features athletes in sexually provocatives poses -- this year, it's Danica Patrick. Although sports feminists have condemned such images as degrading to women, athletes like Patrick argue that it's a sign of their empowerment. Our interviews with collegiate athletes -- many of whom look to women like Patrick as role models -- show they are torn. They see posing as an athlete's right...but they aren't so sure about the "empowerment" part.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Teetering on the Edge of Sports

Dave Zirin fans should love his improved site, which allows visitors to leave comments about his columns. If you're not a regular reader of Zirin's, I urge you to visit his site for commentary that will bring you back.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Minimizing a minimal role

Michael Hiestand's USA Today column discusses comments by NBC's Andrea Kremer about ESPN's decision to marginalize two female MNF sideline reporters. It's unfortunate, agreed. But, as Hiestand points out, CBS has already dropped its sideline reports, so MNF's decision here should not be a surprise. The sideline role has become virtually the only place where women covering big-time sports get face time (which is measured in seconds, not minutes) -- and it has been framed as a dispensable role.
Kremer charges that ESPN's decision "sets back women." I would argue that when it comes to sports TV, they simply couldn't be set back much more than they were before ESPN's announcement. Women have always been on the sidelines in relationship to televised sports -- and that's the bigger problem.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Seeking the 'supercrip'

Beth Haller's new blog, Media-dis-&-dat, includes entries about media coverage of adapted sports and athletes. Her latest entry discusses how wheeelchair athletes are often molded by reporters to the "supercrip" stereotype. She cites a story by tennis player Ruth Harrigan, who was interviewed many times by reporters seeking this type of angle. Haller adds, "I wish more people with disabilities would write about their experiences being interviewed by the news media. Reporters will only start getting it right when enough people tell them what they do wrong."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Web, women and sports journalism

The Internet has put increasing pressure on sports columnists to write before they think -- in response to "fanatical" sports fans who demand knee-jerk responses to sports controversies. During a panel at the annual AWSM convention, columnists Jemele Hill, Christine Brennan, Jenni Carlson and Jill Painter talked about ways the Web has also enabled them to present themselves in "3-D" -- in text, audio and video, becoming more familiar to sports fans.
The panel was one of a number for women in sports journalism and information over the weekend in Miami. Attendance at the convention was among the highest in the organization's history, signaling AWSM's growth and visibility. But the employment of women in the industry remains low, especially in online media. A top editor with Yahoo!Sports told the group on Saturday that no women are in key roles with sports at Yahoo.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sports and politics on the eve of Super Tuesday

LZ Granderson's ESPN column asks why black athletes aren't more involved in presidential politics, especially in light of the fact that an African-American has a serious shot at winning. Granderson's informal survey of about 100 black NFL and NBA athletes found that many aren't even registered to vote.
Granderson implies apathy as the primary reason that most black athletes don't speak out politically. That may be the case. But another resaon they don't is that they may risk their livelihoods by doing so. After all, their paychecks are controlled by corporate owners who may not share their views. As Dave Zirin has also pointed out, players who make political statements have also drawn the wrath of journalists and a fan base who'd rather they shut up and play.
It is interesting to note that some high-profile retired athletes have gotten involved in this year's race, including Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson. So have the team owners and other high-ranking sports executives, including David Stern, Arthur Blank, Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones Sr.