Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New study focuses on ethics, sports coverage

A new survey of more than 100 sports media professionals, conducted by Marc Rosenweig at Montclair State University, has found that sports communication professionals have a variety of ethical concerns about the industry and news gathering practices. For instance, 43 percent said ethics are weaker than 5 years ago. More than half said they thought social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook were important for journalists. For instance, one respondent wrote, "Contacts can be found and stories broke just by keeping up with college athletes who use the site religiously.” Pressure to be first with breaking stories was a top concern for respondents. For more about sports coverage and social media, join our "hot topics" chat this Thursday. Visit here for more details.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

ESPN dishes out big assist to LeBron James

In devoting one hour of prime-time coverage to LeBron James Thursday night in its “The Decision” special, ESPN further blurred the lines between entertainment and sports journalism. The network effectively ran a 60-minute ad for the LeBron James brand that was less journalism and more production – despite that at its core, this was about a huge story in the sports media world.

ESPN reporter Jim Gray appeared to read off a script of questions, failing to follow up on key points, which protected James from addressing difficult issues. At one point James said “I never wanted to leave Cleveland,” but Gray never pressed James to reconcile that statement with his decision to leave. Later, during Michael Wilbon’s Q&A with the basketball star, James said his decision was not about money, something Wilbon accepted at face value. Yet arguably, moving to a bigger media market where he will have better opportunity to bring visibility to his personal brand will earn him much more money in the long run, issues that were not discussed either. Further, the “special” was sponsored by Vitamin Water, one of James’ major personal sponsors. Each commercial break featured ads starring James resulting in one straight hour of devotion to the player.

Still, by leaving his hometown and disappointing several other major cities (notably Chicago and New York), LeBron James finished the “special” not necessarily in the best graces outside of Miami. ESPN helped out once again, dishing out another assist by allowing James to promote a large donation to the Boys & Girls Club. Certainly this donation is a wonderful gift, but in the context of the announcement, and at a time where James will feel some immediate “heat” from Cleveland fans, the additional airtime arguably helped him do some initial “damage control” in this emotional moment, capping off one of the longest sports advertorials we’ve ever seen.

--Erin Whiteside