Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Oh, the meanness of it all

A 90-minute town-hall style "Costas Now" on HBO last night used a combination of taped and live segments to explore the role of sports talk radio and bloggers in the evolution of sports media. Mitch Albom blamed sports talk radio for spreading negativity and meanness to other forums, including sports columns. During the discussion about blogging, Buzz Bissinger told Deadspin's Will Leitch that blogs are conduits of cruelty and dishonesty. Traditional-media journalists also had their turn on the hot seat; they were accused of being jealous of athletes (One has to wonder if they're also jealous of bloggers) and of fueling distrust by athletes. The whole thing makes one wonder...So who is responsible for the ugliness in much of sports coverage today?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The risks of sports blogging

A week after the NYT piece about the uneasy relationship among institutional sports, mainstream media and sports blogs, today Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell writes about a sports blogger who was fired after identifying himself as affiliated with the Post on his blog,
Some blog readers apparently sent the paper angry e-mails, suggesting that its firing of Michael Tunison indicated that the paper was out of touch with today's readers.
Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, AME for Sports, said he understands the formula that drives most sports blogs -- it's nothing news. He told Howell, "They all combine sports with a little sex. It's the same formula the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue started years ago."
Howell also discusses another sports blog -- this one on -- that prompted complaints about a contest proposed by blogger Jason La Canfora. These complaints accused La Canfora of stereotyping Italian Americans.
Although the same type of complaints can arise from the content in traditional print media, blogs can reach a wider audience and more quickly solicit feedback.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bionic cover!

ESPN the Magazine's May 5 issue includes a cover story about the ways advanced prosthetics are allowing amputees to compete with able-bodied athletes. It goes beyond the well-publicized story of Oscar Pistorius and features other athletes such as Anthony Burruto.
The cover -- and the story -- are exciting because elite athletes with a disability have received so little media attention. It also forces us to rethink our ideas about the ideal athletic body. Yet the story also raises troubling questions about the continuing marginalization of these athletes -- with and without the prosthetics.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Petition to let women compete

Sign the petition for Friends of Women's Ski Jumping, designed to rally support behind women's entrance to the Vancouver Games in 2010.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Character, dignity, and racial stereotypes

I couldn't help but be struck by the tired racial stereotypes that seem to be reinforced in images that accompany the print edition of SI's latest feature, "Nebraska Lost, Nebraska Found.". The subhead promises a story about ways the Huskers plan to restore "character and dignity" to the program -- with "homegrown" players. Apparently, although the roster includes many African-American players, it's the white ones, whose images dominate the article, that will restore the "character" to this team.

From sex symbol to real threat

Although much of the mainstream media hailed Danica Patrick's IRL victory as a boost to IndyCar racing and predicted that Patrick's marketability would soar, it's interesting to see the reaction of popular sports blogs, where her historic win topped the discussion, according to Sports Business Daily. Not surprisingly, some (including the Deadspin and The Big Lead) found reason in Patrick's win to question the validity of auto racing as a sport or invited degrading, sexist comments from fans. What will be interesting over the next few months will be to see how mainstream coverage of Patrick evolves, as she has proven the ability of women to threaten the dominance of men in this sport.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The price for honest Olympic coverage

Thursday night the Center for Sports Journalism focused on Olympic coverage with a panel involving former LAT editor Bill Dwyre along with editors Tom O'Toole and Jim Welch from USA Today and freelance journalist Jay Weiner. Welch highlighted the challenges faced by reporters in Beijing with a story about a reporter who, after covering protests in Tibet, returned to Beijing to receive harassment and death threats. He said the paper is working with the IOC to influence Chinese officials to make it easier for journalists to do their work. Dwyre said he hopes reporters will stay focused on human-rights issues, but predicted that "once you get into ... all the hoopla, a lot of the political issues fade into the background. That's sad, but that's the reality."
The panelists also talked about the new realities in newspaper sports departments, which have been influenced by market demands. "ESPN sets the agenda in sports," Dwyre said. Increasingly, the relationship between sports properties and those who cover them is blurred -- and not just at ESPN. Weiner mentioned, which has purchased the Web rights to several Olympic sports as an example. Welch talked about special sports sections produced at USA Today that have been paid for by sports organizations. He compared the practice to the Staples Center coverage by the LA Times in 1999, which at the time was condemned. "It's a whole different model," he said.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sports coverage: Public service?

During the Women's Final Four weekend in Tampa, several sports journalists shared experience and tips with college students during the USBWA Sportswriting Seminar. One question from a student for the AP's Doug Feinberg, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Mel Greenberg, and the Chicago Sun-Times' Steve Tucker was about the social value of sports journalism.
Feinberg and Tucker both pointed to the ability of great sports stories to take readers places they otherwise would never visit -- exciting games, emotional locker rooms, athletes' homes. But Greenberg, considered the "guru" of women's college basketball coverage, said he thought the value was his ability to help readers escape their everyday lives and learn about sports. "Basically, you see yourself as a public servant," he said.

Coverage at the Women's Final Four

The Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times both featured front-page stories about women's sports over the weekend during the Final Four championship. Among the storylines: a piece on women and performance-enhancing drugs ("When women dope, it's different") and another that warned of the perils as women's basketball gains success.
The Tampa Tribune on Saturday also featured a centerpiece headlined "Final Four Gives Lesbians Forum to Celebrate Women." The piece, which focused on lesbian fans at the tournament and drew its share of protest from readers, included a sentence that read that the NCAA has "supported lesbian athletes." After the article was posted on the Tribune's Web site, the NCAA released a statement distancing itself from the idea that the tournament draws lesbian fans (I guess there are limits to that support ...).