Tuesday, February 08, 2011

PSU undergrads use blogs to analyze and critique the sports-media-society relationship

This is the second semester my Sports, Media, & Society course has maintained blogs--as groups of 3-4 students--for critique and analysis of the role of sports in American culture. Each week half the class is required to post to their group's blog, with the goals of (1) critically reflecting on the relationship between course content and the contemporary sports, media, & social landscape, (2) developing new media skills that are increasingly desired by employers in both the media industry and industries across American society, and (3) getting students to think about how the choices they make as media creators and the processes they employ in putting together media shape the content they develop in important ways.

Each week this semester I've been writing up "digests" of these student blog posts (and I'll continue trying to keep this up throughout the semester). From a pedagogical perspective, I've gotten some student feedback that suggests these digests encourage students to go to their classmates' blogs, check out their posts, and reflect on how their classmates are approaching the project. Have a read through these digests from the weeks of 1/26 and 2/2, and follow the links to my students' posts. I'd love feedback and suggestions on the project.


Mega-events offer outlet for against-the-grain analysis & critique

Sports mega-events like the Super Bowl, the World Cup, and the Olympics offer grand stages for the participants (athletes & others), organizations, and institutions associated with each; these mega-events also provide an opportune stage for analysis and critique of the relationships between -- on the one hand -- these very participants, organizations, and institutions, and -- on the other hand -- culture, society, politics, and economics. That is, of course, if those offering the analysis and critique can manage to be heard over the cheerleading.

Several articles have caught my eye recently as intriguing analysis and criticism concerning the NFL and society. Each are, in my opinion, definitely worth a read:

NPR's Michele Martin looks at concerns about football-related long-term brain injury from the NFL down to pee wee. Further, she goes on to point out the social toll our exuberant emphasis on youth sports may have: "this might be particularly insidious in sports dominated by poor kids, especially poor black kids, because the people involved are so busy congratulating themselves on how they are saving the kids from ruin."

The Washington Post's Sally Jenkins considers whether "Jerry World" -- referring to Cowboy's owner Jerry Jones' new $1.15 billion stadium -- is the direction the league should be going in. While Jenkins acknowledges that the Super Bowl can be a valuable source for civic pride, this Super Bowl highlighted for her that "luxury can be debasing." She points out that everyday fans have been priced out of the spectacle, while the taxpayers in most of the NFL's U.S. metropolitan areas have been asked to pick up much of the tab for stadium and luxury box construction over the past 15 years.

Finally, progressive sportswriter Dave Zirin has been on a tear of late (see here, here, and here), highlighting the non-profit, public ownership of the Green Bay Packers by the citizens of Green Bay -- a unique arrangement in U.S. professional sports (NFL bylaws, interestingly, say that no other NFL franchise is allowed to employ a similar ownership structure).

Zirin has been busy of late...

** He's got a new book out, "Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love."
** His new documentary "Not Just a Game: Power, Politics, and American Sports" (produced by the good folks over at the Media Education Foundation) is getting attention within academic circles and in major sports media outlets.


As posted in "Mega-events offer outlet for against-the-grain analysis & critique"

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Changing the Title IX narrative: A prescription for change

Women’s sports activists are gathering around the country to recognize National Girls and Women in Sports Day and encourage advocates to keep pushing for the benefits mandated by Title IX.

Such efforts for equality are needed to keep issues like Title IX on the front burner; as advocacy groups often point out, the majority of institutions that fall within the purview of the law are out of compliance.

Although such efforts are needed, solely advocating for equality may not translate into the change women’s advocates are hoping for. Although sports fans may support the idea of Title IX – after all, notions of fairness and equity are cornerstones of American value systems, there is still not widespread acceptance for its application. This may be because of the consistent way in which sports are framed; as long as sports are situated in popular discourse as a space for the celebration of masculinity, cultural acceptance of women’s inclusion may falter.

It is thus critical, then, that we continue to support equality efforts, while also advocating for the adoption of new frames in sporting discourse to trouble the association between masculinity and sports. Such frames may stem from increased media coverage of women’s sports that focuses on athleticism rather than femininity. Continued visibility of women in authority positions – from athletic directors to play-by-play announcers – will also help deconstruct the notion that sports belong to men. Most importantly, however, is a continued push toward challenging existing cultural meanings of sports so we may move toward a vision in which women’s inclusion seems not only logical, but beneficial.

--Erin Whiteside

Curley Center chat to address issues in covering recruiting

Sports fans across the country often follow the recruiting of potential college student-athletes as closely as any on-field action, and that coverage of high school students about to make major life decisions comes with many challenges for sports journalists.

The competing agendas, ethics, influences and impact of recruiting coverage will be discussed at 1 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14, during an online chat conducted by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism.

"Issues in Covering Recruiting" is free, and people may access and participate in the session by visiting http://sportsjourn.psu.edu/live-chats online.

Participants include:

-- Sean Fitz, a recruiting expert who focuses on Penn State for 247sports.com, which operates program-specific web sites for major college athletic programs across the nation;

-- Rachel George, who covers college sports and recruiting for the Orlando Sentinel; and

-- Malcolm Moran, the Knight Chair in Spoors Journalism and Society and director of the Curley Center.

Marie Hardin, an associate professor of communications at Penn State and associate director of the Curley Center, will serve as moderator for the hourlong session, which will also include a coach or recruiting coordinator from a Division I-A football program. Because coaches and recruiting coordinators are finalizing their classes of incoming student-athletes in advance of national signing day this week, the participation of a specific coach or coordinator will not been determined until later.

The Curley Center explores issues and trends in sports journalism through instruction, outreach, programming and research. The Center's undergraduate curricular emphasis includes courses in sports writing, sports broadcasting, sports information, sports, media and society, and sports and public policy, which is cross-listed with the Penn State Dickinson School of Law.

- Curley Center for Sports Journalism