Favorite Posts

The posts we think you should read no matter what!

With All Good Intentions

An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.  (Buddha)

 In 2007 I started Sports Media Journal (SMJ).   As our About Us page states, the idea was to create “a site where you’ll find out more about the people and organizations that manage and report sports.”

Even though the sports media beat was well-covered on a national and local level back then, I felt a need to delve deeper.  My idea was to provide commentary and interview the people who make up this industry.  I was able to do much of that over the last six-plus years, especially on the podcast we launched with Ken Fang of Fang’s BitesSports Media Weekly.

I began Sports Media Journal as a hobby, as do many others who create blogs.  I knew that the success of the blog would be based on consistent, quality writing that is not found anywhere else.  Even though I did have advertising on the site, the future of SMJ was never contingent on making a profit.

I have a full-time job outside of SMJ which is the focus of my weekdays.  Spending time with my wife and daughter take-up the remaining hours of the week.  I could not be happier when it comes to my personal and professional life.  I am truly blessed.

In recent months it has been more difficult to post regularly on SMJ.  My level of interest in sports media has waned.  And as I creep closer to 50, I feel the need to simplify my life.

Therefore, as of January 1, 2014, Sports Media Journal will be no more.  I will still own the domain and over the next few months the blog’s content will be migrated away from a hosted site to a free website service.  I can still be reached at keith@sportsmediajournal.com.

I am eternally thankful to those of you who made SMJ a regular stop for news and information.  It amazes me how many of you are as interested in sports media as me.

I have met some incredible people both inside and outside the sports media industry over the six-plus years I have owned SMJ.  I have made many new friends.

Even though I leave the sports media beat, there are so many people doing great work. Among them:

Looking back I have no regrets in starting Sports Media Journal.  Ideas spring to life.  People evolve.  Peace.





Top Sports Media News Items of 2011

It’s tradition that news organizations look at the top stories of the year as December winds down.  Why should we be any different?  Here are what we consider the top sports media news stories for 2011:

Despite Lockout, NFL Thrives: The National Football League spent the first half of 2011 mired in a labor dispute which resulted in the owners locking out the players.  The impassed ended in July and the 2011 season was salvaged.  The work stoppage did nothing to quell the support for the NFL.  NFL games continue to be some of the highest rated programs each week, and the league re-newed television broadcast agreements with ESPN, NBC, CBS, and Fox which will bring in nearly $5 billion annual until 2022.  The only television deal yet to be finalized is one which may extend a Thursday night match-up each week of the season.

NBC Retains Rights to the Olympics Through 2020:  NBC will continue its run as the U.S. network of the Olympic Games after having secured the broadcast rights to the Summer and Winter Games through 2020.  NBC, ESPN, and Fox all put in bids to telecast the games, but the International Olympic Committee decided that its relationship with NBC, along with its $4.38 billion dollar bid, was worthy of the retention.

ESPN Loses the Rights to the World Cup to Fox: Despite losing the Olympics to NBC, it was widely assumed that ESPN would be able to retain its U.S. broadcast rights to the World Cup.  But when the rights to the men’s and women’s torunaments came up for bid this summer, ESPN was outbid by Fox, which will pay $400 for all evets beginning in 2015.  Telemundo was awarded the Spanish-language rights, at a cost of $600 million.  ESPN still has the rights to the men’s World Cup in 2014.

Changes at the Top of Network Sports Divisions: Some big news was made off-the-air as NBC and ESPN announced changes at the top of their sports organizational structures.  Long time NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol resigned in May after 22 years at the helm.  He has been replaced by NBC Sports Group President Mark Lazarus.  Late last month it was announced that ESPN President George Bodenheimer was being promoted to ESPN Executive Chairman while Vice President of Content John Skipper will be promoted to President of ESPN.  That moves take place January 1st.

NBC Sports Extends its Reach in Competition with ESPN: After its merger with Comcast was complete, NBC Sports began making moves toward compteting with ESPN.  Along with its deals with the NFL and the Olympics, NBC extended its deal to air the NHL on its networks.  It also announced in August that Versus will be re-branded as the NBC Sports Network effective January 2nd.

Sports Networks Handle Sexual Abuse Scandals at Penn State and Syracuse: When accusations of sexual abuse of minors arose against former Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky and former Syracuse Assistant Basketball Coach Bernie Fine, sports media outlets became news journalists.  Sports networks break news all the time, but it seemed that it was uncomfortable at times for these outlets to tackle these sensitive issues.  ESPN was also called to task for not reporting what it knew about Fine back in 2002.  These stories will definitley evolve in 2012.

ESPN Continues Its Dominance In Coverage of the NCAA:  2011 was another seminal year for ESPN in terms of its coverage of college athletics.  In August the network launched the Longhorn Network, the first network devoted to the sports of one educational institution.  Later in the fall ESPN also renewed its deal to televise 24 NCAA Championships through 2024.  Event though Fox Sports has made inroads in securing rights deals, especially with the Pac 12, ESPN remains the dominant force in telecasting college atheltics.

The Latest Book on the History of ESPN is Released Amid Much Talk: It was the most anticipated sports book release of the year, Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales.  Excerpts of the book leaked out up until its release in May, giving readers a look at some of the seedier moments behind-the-scenes in the history of the network.  In the end some were disappointed that there was not more sleeze, while those interested in television history in general, and ESPN in particular, found much to like in the book.  You can hear our two interviews with co-author Miller on the Sports Media Weekly Podcast here and here.

Those are what we feel were to top sports media stories of 2011.  There were plenty of others, including the controversies at ESPN over the firing of Ron Franklin and the “suspension” of Bruce Feldman, Gus Johnson leaving CBS for Fox, The launch of Bill Simmons’ Grantland, Bob Costas and Al Michaels sharing the mic for a Major League Baseball game, and the NCAA tournament games being shared by CBS and Turner Sports.

Needless to say the sports media beat is now a 24/7 endeaver and we’ll continue to do our best, within our resources, to bring you what’s making news within the industry.  Please let me know what you think of SMJ and how we can improve.  Thank you for your continued support and we wish you all the best for 2012!

The Goods on ESPN- Part 2: Making It Better

I hope you found yesterday’s post enlightening as to some of the criticisms being levied against ESPN.  Some are valid, others, not so much.  Today I want to give you one man’s view on how ESPN can enhance its product for all its viewers.

Let’s get one thing straight. The accusations lodged against ESPN by reporters and bloggers are only opinions. What’s that old phrase about opinions and noses? You get the idea.  These are mine.  Take them for what they’re worth. Comment and give your view.

I have no doubt that what ESPN has been able to accomplish over the last 28 years, good or bad, was done with careful thought and planning.  It also was done, no doubt, with shareholders in mind.  We can jump on them all we want about their content. But if ratings are high and they can make mucho bucks, they will continue to do so.  No matter what we all say on our blogs, that’s the bottom line (pun intended).  You have to give ESPN their props for what they have accomplished.

Let me begin by pointing out what I like about ESPN.  I like the fact that they are so big. It may sound like I’m a corporate suck-up, but I like that they have sports covered, soup to nuts, like no one else.  One-stop shopping if you will.  Their blanket coverage of sports on television, radio, in print, and online has to be respected.

I think we all would like ESPN to face some credible competition.  There were contenders during the early years.  Remember CNN Sports Tonight?  Fox Sports tries to compete on the television, radio, and online fronts.  Sports Illustrated gives ESPN a run for its money in print and online.  But no one to date has been able to match the empire ESPN has built. Being such a force has made ESPN both loved and reviled.

My ideas for making ESPN better are relatively simple and hopefully take into consideration the interests of each demographic the network seeks to covet.

The basis of my proposal is to restructure ESPN’s programming divisions.  Currently the programming at ESPN is broken up into the following entities;  News and Information, Studio Production, Remote Production, and Content Development (this used to be entitled ESPN Original Entertainment or EOE). My idea is to pare those four categories into three divisions, similar to what you would see on the broadcast network level. I would rename them;  News and Information, Game Production, and Entertainment. The names are basic, and their jurisdictions should be as well.  Here is how I see the role of each division;

News and Information Division- This division would produce and coordinate all sports information and investigative reporting broadcasts. Among the programs under this division would be SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, the new E:60, and all the sports specific highlight shows which air on a nightly basis (College Football Live, NFL Live, Baseball Tonight, etc.). These news shows would be hosted by journalists, not entertainers acting as journalists. This would lend credibility to the productions and instill some trust and objectivity for the viewer. This would mean that a huge number of the SportsCenter anchors need to make a decision as to whether they want to be journalists or entertainers.  The journalists are welcome.  The entertainers can work for one of the other divisions.  I’m not saying that the anchors shouldn’t display their personality, but catch phrases and cute remarks would be discouraged.  ESPN Ombudsman Lee Ann Schreiber put it best in her August 8th post about the need for a serious news product:

“…just news and highlights, without gimmicks or sponsored segments or recaps, without self- or cross-promotion, with a consistent anchor team accountable for a consistent tone, with spare to no use of instant commentary. A prime-time island of clean, clear, straightforward news on which ESPN’s journalistic credibility could securely rest”.

Game Production- This division would handle the coordination of all game telecasts across each of the ESPN family of media outlets.  This includes pre and post-game shows. All play-by-play announcers and analysts fall under this umbrella.  So do the hosts and analysts of the pre and post-game shows.  Game production would allow for plenty of creativity both visually and through the imagination of the talent.  I would still hope that the announcers would be objective in their description of the game, but it’s not as important as if they were part of the News Division.  Programs like NFL Countdown, College Gameday, and NBA Countdown would be considered under the domain of the Game Production Division since they are pre-game shows.

Entertainment Division- This division would cover all other ESPN programming, from The Contender, to PTI, to Stump the Schwab, to its reality series and the ESPY’s. This is where ESPN can make its mark in reaching out to the younger demographics.  As I said yesterday, these programs have their place on the network.  It’s a great way to diversify the viewer base.  We may not like it, but we need to accept it.

A couple of points as to how these entities would work together.  I see no way to avoid the ESPN promotion machine continuing to use their platforms to shill their products.  I don’t expect the Budweiser Hot Seat to go away under my proposal.  That’s fine.  Just keep the content of that segment within clearly defined journalistic standards.

Each division would have its own talent base, with crossovers only within the Game Production and Entertainment Divisions. There is no need to jeopardize the integrity of the news staff by planting them in the play-by-play chair or having them host the ESPY’s.

Speaking of the news product, is it necessary to have two morning information programs on ESPN and ESPN 2?  I would re-produce SportsCenter with fresh anchors for a live telecast at 6am Eastern then follow-up with a First Take-type show from 7am-9am.  I would repeat SportsCenter for the West Coast crowd at 9am (6am Pacific).  If you want to repeat the First Take program again from 10am-12pm, that’s fine.  All this would air on ESPN.  I know this sounds like the Today Show, but it makes sense to me.

Now what to do with ESPN 2? I suggest ESPN go back to the days when it replayed its game programming from the night before. Why couldn’t this be possible?  I’m sure a little talk with the sports leagues could work this out.  You would satisfy an audience that, for whatever reason, couldn’t see the game live while giving the sports leagues greater exposure.  Who could be against that?

I would devote ESPN Classic to replays of historis sports match-ups and programming. Original game shows like Stump the Schwab could have a place here as would historical documentaries.  It doesn’t make sense to use the channel for live game programming. Create ESPN 3 for that.

I like ESPN.com. It utilizes technology well and appears to possess more integrity in its reporting than SportsCenter.

As for ESPN Radio, that would fall under the Entertainment Division, except for the update reporters who would work for the News Division.

That’s my plan.  I will pass it along to the powers that be at ESPN.  I hope they read it and at least give it a little thought before it’s sent to the trash bin.  As always, thanks for reading!

The Goods on ESPN- Part 1: The Criticisms

I knew that being the owner of a sports media blog I would one day need to provide an in depth evaluation of ESPN.

By and large I like ESPN. They sometimes act like they’re the bull in the china shop. But you know what, they are. They’re not perfect. And no one should expect them to be. Those who do have the problem.

In preparing my analysis, I decided to look at what others say about ESPN, comment on it, then provide my opinion on ways they can make the network better. Today I look at some of the the criticisms of ESPN. Tomorrow I’ll offer my remedy.

Over a month ago, I posted two questions on this issue in which I sought your opinions; What do you like least about ESPN? and What would you do to change it? I also sent these questions to some of the best known and most popular sports blogs on the net to get their reaction. By the way, thanks to all of you who responded.

I also scoured the web, searching for common terms associated with criticism of ESPN; “ESPN Sucks”, “Why I Hate ESPN”, etc. I was able to come up with more than enough information to chew on.

In my opinion, the reason there is so much angst against ESPN from reporters and bloggers is that we all watch ESPN…A LOT. Since there ‘s no real competition to their empire we spend hours viewing their programming. That expanse of time watching one network affords us the opportunity to see many of their programs over, and over, and over again, making it an easy target to criticize. That’s not unique. If you watch any network for as long as we watch ESPN, you would also be able to pick out elements to scrutinize. Until there is a viable alternative, ESPN will more than likely be one of the first options we choose to get our sports information.

One note before I get started. Many critics spend an exhorbitant amount of time focusing on individual anchors, reporters, play-by-play announcers and game analysts. I am not about to throw anyone individually under the bus, this post would be too long if I did. My goal is not to look at individuals, but to look at some of the systemic problems over at the Worldwide Leader.

OK…here we go…

1. By and large the number one criticism of ESPN has to do with the way the network markets itself. The complaint is that ESPN promotes itself and its programming above all else. There are many aspects of this I want to delve into:

A. Using their editorial control on SportsCenter to give preferential treatment to stories about the leagues to which they hold broadcast rights. Just one example; This past spring the NHL Stanley Cup Finals were starting while the NBA playoffs were only in it’s second round. ESPN has the rights to telecast the NBA. It does not have the rights to the NHL. The NBA games consistently received top billing on SportsCenter. Even if the NHL is not as prominent as it once was, it’s championship series was getting short changed by SportsCenter. (Last night could have added more fuel to the fire. But wisely SportsCenter led with the NL Wild Card tiebreaker game over ESPN’s Monday Night Football contest between the Patriots and the Bengals.) In relation;

B. Promoting the games ESPN has the rights to while barely mentioning the big games not on the family of ESPN networks. Think about this one for a moment. I think by and large they do focus on the games they carry, specifically post-game on SportsCenter. But you know what? More times than not their games are some of the biggest of the day. They heavily plug Monday Night Football, because, well, for most of the season it is the biggest game of the day. For college sports, they tend to do a better job at spreading the wealth over the games of the day. They may lead SportsCenter with their game, which may or may not be the biggest, and spend more time on it, but they don’t neglect the others.

C. Promoting the ESPN brand at every turn. This doesn’t bother me as much as it does others. ESPN is what it is because it has multiple platforms to promote its products and programs. It does bother me when they promote so much that they leave out highlights during SportsCenter. I find it no different than CBS pimping 60 Minutes each Sunday during the football season. This criticism again is more intense because we watch so often. See how many promos surface on other networks. Because ESPN’s focus is solely on sports, its constant promotion could seem a little overbearing. Other networks promote just as much. But because they spread out their promos over their news, sports, and entertainment entities, it doesn’t seem as problematic. Remember the goal of any television network is to get people to watch their shows. In reference to ESPN we seem to get all in a bunch over their promotional antics.

2. Conflict of interest issues. This criticism has surfaced in a couple of areas. One being in relation to the Arena League, of which ESPN is a minority owner. Do they cross the line in their blatant support of a sport they rarely covered in the past? Maybe a little. But then again they are using their resources to enhance the return on their investment. Although a little seedy, it makes business sense. The second has to do with the use of SportsCenter anchors to star in promotional ads side by side with athletes. This practice does send a message that these anchors who work with an athlete may not be as objective when covering them. A valid point, but I have yet to see an example of this being the case. If it exists, please let me know.

3. The talent at ESPN thinking they are more important than the events they cover. This is my #1 gripe. When ESPN started in 1979 it was cute to see the personalities of the talent come through, either on SportsCenter or during game telecasts. Now these guys and gals go out of their way to make themselves the show. Remember, the sports games are what we want to see. You are not. Give us the facts and intelligent analysis. Leave the catch phrases at home. Walter Cronkite never needed schtick and he proved to have a pretty successful career.

What’s awkward is when the anchors are full into their act and then have to make an about face when they need to report on a serious story such as the death of an athlete. I cringe when this happens. I almost expect the anchor to come up with a catch phrase even in this situation.

I know ESPN is trying to cater to an audience which is on the low end of my demographic scale. There are plenty of opportunities to reach to those viewers (see my post tomorrow). Don’t lose the viewers who got you to this level of success by cheapening the product with anchors who spend too much time trying to come up with a cheeky nickname or an original way to describe a home run.

4. Over using corporate sponsorships tie-ins. Many have decried ESPN for tying content with corporate sponsorships like the Budweiser Hot Seat and the Coors Light Six Pack. I agree that these tend to cheapen the content of those segments. I don’t discount the idea, just don’t use it on SportsCenter. Can you imagine Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News hosting a segment with an advertising tie-in? Just doesn’t make sense in that venue.

5. East Coast Bias. This one is difficult to prove. It does appear that there is a bias toward the east coast when it comes to the major sports leagues. Look at baseball for instance. This season, which teams were the best or made more news for most of the season? Really. The Red Sox, Mets, and yes, the Yankees. There was also a bias toward other large market teams like the Cubs and Phillies. How about the NFL? Yes, the Giants, Jets, and Patriots received a lot of attention. Basketball? I am not so sure that there was much of an east coast bias. Hockey? You can’t have a bias if the sport isn’t covered like it was when you held the broadcast rights. I would say overall the bias is toward large markets. It seems that coverage of our popular sports (baseball, football) are dominated by east coast teams because they are currently at the top of their leagues. I guess I can see arguments both ways.

6. Getting away from sports. ESPN Original Entertainment (EOE) has done more to bring drama and documentaries to the air. ESPN has also been called to the carpet over its coverage of such non-sports as poker, the National Spelling Bee, and the ESPY’s. Fans say they want more sports. Remember, ESPN stands for ENTERTAINMENT and Sports Programming Network. As much as we don’t like it, it’s in their name for God sake. I also want to see more sports action. For those of who do as well, don’t complain when they show soccer or more auto racing. These shows may have their place. Pick your poison.

There is more on which I can nitpick, but what I’ve posted above seem to be the biggies.  Comment if you wish.  Back tomorrow with one man’s ideas on how to make ESPN palatable to all.

Who Should Be Allowed in the Press Box?

Few people can argue that bloggers have added an intriguing dynamic to the quantity and quality of information we receive.  In some instances blogs have displaced traditional media outlets as the first stop for people in their quest for news and entertainment.

Many of these bloggers often act as reporters and columnists without the access to those they cover.  Because they have garnered some level of respect, the question has been raised as to whether bloggers should be allowed to cover events as credentialed reporters.

News bloggers have been given the powers of the press in many instances, including at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and the Scooter Libby trial.  There is even an organization whose mission is to ensure that bloggers gain access to press passes.

The world of sports, however, has been slow in granting credentials to bloggers.  Many organizations take the view that bloggers are nothing more than fan boy geeks whose comments lend little to the discourse of covering the team.  There is no doubt there are plenty of those sites out there, but there are others who seek to use their blog as more than just an electronic forum of criticism.

Part of what I hope to accomplish here at Sports Media Journal would require access to the press box.  In an attempt to bring you the “behind the scenes” of press row I would need a press pass to it.

There have been efforts to change the conventional thinking about sports bloggers and press credentials.  Eric McErlain at Off Wing Opinion has worked hard to draft guidelines that would allow bloggers in the press box.   His efforts worked out so well that he is now fully credentialed by the Washington Capitals.  Last month the New York Islanders made news by announcing that they will be allowing bloggers to cover the team for the 2007-2008 season.  The Arena Football League will also look to credenatial bloggers for its championship game.

I was interested in getting people’s opinions as to whether they feel sports bloggers should be allowed in the press box.  The recent SMJ poll gave us mixed results.  Deadspin, one of the largest and most visited sports blogs, was adamant in its desire NOT to seek press passes.

What better place to seek out opinions on the issue than from the sports media itself?  The best place to do this is at Sports Journalists.com.  Reporters of all skill levels post and read industry opinions under the guise of general anonymity.  I decided to post the question about bloggers in the press box and the response was, to say the least, enlightening.

Here are some of the comments.  First, those who support the concept of allowing bloggers in the press box:

Any blogger or community reporter belongs in the press box if they have a legitimate reason for being there. It’s not a daily newspaper reporter and television hack box – it’s a press box.

Why not have some of these bloggers that run sites that get many more hits than some of the papers the journalists represent get?
Some of these bloggers reach far more people than the journalists from smaller markets.

Why deny them the chance to get in the box and relay that info to the masses? Especially if more and more people are looking to blogs for info nowadays? It just seems like the right thing to do.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t teams and/or leagues control press box access? If a team or event thinks the bloggers they credential can help reach its fans, then why would it give a flying f*** what any “legitimate” journalists think? After all, don’t we “legitimate” journalists get credentials because teams, in their heart of hearts, believe we’re giving them free publicity, even if it isn’t exactly what they would write?

When it comes to the issue of bloggers in the press box, to me it comes down to readership and credibility. My site certainly has more readers than the sports sections of many of the credentialed papers covering a given team, so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be given credentials. We don’t need them, but if we wanted them for a particular reason, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Perhaps the word “blogger” is the problem. Maybe a sub like “independent journalist” would be better. (That could cover freelancers, too.) Honestly, I would guess that most of us wouldn’t notice where the person next to us was from as long as that person appeared to be working, and wasn’t there making an ass of himself or herself.

Now those who are not too keen with the notion of bloggers in the press box:

I say hell no to the question. There are already far too many loser fan-boys who get their crusty fingers around credentials and then in turn fill up press boxes and clog up locker rooms and make the job of those of us who are actually working ten times harder than it needs to be.

I have an NFL beat. If I ever get a call from the team’s PR people telling me I have to stand in the concourse next season because the PRESS box is full of fan-boy bloggers, I’m gonna quit my job and become a farmer.  Just because you understand HTML and have a website no more makes you a member of the media than dispensing Tylenol to my wife makes me a doctor.

There is no reason any blogger needs to be in the press box unless his blog is connected with a legitimate media outlet and he agrees to adhere to the same journalistic standards as all of the rest of us. I’d even go so far to say the blogger must also be getting paid for blogging because that would eliminate about 95 percent of them right off the top.

We should be making our newspapers and newspapers’ websites THE NO. 1 SOURCE FOR BOTH BLOG READERS AND NEWSPAPER READERS (i.e. blog during, and immediately after the game – brief, quoteless recaps or short opinionated pieces; and for the morning paper run feature-ish and reaction-type pieces about the game and its players, including quotes and stats).
Do both those things and “real blogs” (i.e. those of banged out by basement dwellers) become less relevant, other than to rant, rave and cheer in an unregulated fanboyish manner.

There is one point I would like to make in favor of newspapers that I haven’t really seen anyone discuss. There is a sense of “trust” that the general public does have with newspapers. While there have been arguments of specific incidents to say that the media is no longer trusted by the public, I do not believe that people trust bloggers over traditional media.

The majority of them are poorly written by people who love the sound of they’re own keyboarding. They’re an exercise in literary masturbation.

There were over 200 posts in relation to this topic.  Read them all here.  (Reader beware…there are some bitter sports journalists out there.  Not all comments are suitable for all eyes.)

What’s my take on the issue?  I fall in line with this post from Sports Journalists:

I think I would allow a blog in if it was real journalism in the blog. Can bloggers be journalists? Yes. Are all bloggers journalists? No. It is a matter of definition. If the blog is an economic enterprise (trying to make money), like rivals/scout or the blogger is actually doing professional work while blogging, I say let them in. But, if it is a fan site where a guy doesn’t adhere to journalistic standards, then I don’t think he she it should be allowed.

I firmly believe that a great majority of bloggers do not wish, nor need, press credentials.  These fan sites have a place on the web and are quite entertaining.  Their work does not rely on access to the team. 

For those sites, however, that are attempting to compete journalistically with traditional media outlets, there should be some consideration to allowing them in the press box.  However there needs to be criteria set on deciding who should get such access.  Off Wing Opinion is on the right track.  The decision should be left up to individual teams. 

What the Islanders are doing is realization that bloggers can play a role in covering the team.  I hope more teams follow suit and view bloggers (in some form) as potentially valuable club resources.

Guidelines in Analyzing Sports Radio

We plan to give our opinions on the effectiveness of sports radio stations from around the country.  In doing this, we want to let you know that we plan to take this task seriously.

To that end, we pledge:

To listen to a station for at least a three week period. We want to get a good feel about the station and its hosts.  Listening to just one broadcast may not be a good indication of how the programs are conducted.

To see how the hosts conduct interviews. The best hosts are the ones who provide a good flow to their show.  The good hosts handle each interview with the listener in mind.  The goal should be of eliciting information, not stroking an ego.

To see how the hosts deal with callers.  Good hosts know how to handle callers.  The best ones will engage the knowledegable ones and ditch the ones who bring nothing to the table. 

To see how the station supplements its talk shows with live sports and information. This includes the “flashes” and bringing lisetners breaking sporting news when it happens.  Play-by-play falls into this category.

To make sure the hosts are not the focus of the show.  The sporting events and the teams who play them should dictate the discussion.  The hosts should moderate and not make the shows about themselves.

What I Like About Sports Media- 2007

As I prepare content for Sports Media Journal, I thought it would be a good idea to let you to know where I stand when it comes to how the media covers sports.  (For more about the site, visit the About page.) This will be the basis of my point of view when I comment in the future.  As with all opinions, these points of view are subject to change…without notice.

Newspaper and Magazine Reporting: I like when reporters report.  Sounds simple?  It really is.  Too often sports reporters find the need to slip commentary into their stories from time to time.  Their job is to tell us what happened and interview those who played/coached the game to give their opinion on why they won or lost.  Period. 

I also like the notes columns.  These are the essence of print reporting.  Just sports…no spin.  This is not to say that reporters should not inject a sense of style in their pieces.  You can exhibit style in writing without the need to inject sarcasm, criticism, etc.

Columnists are the ones who give us their opinions.   They usually have earned the honor by first working the beats.  They should have enough experience through their beat writing to provide a clear, albeit subjective, opinion on the sports topics which they cover in their piece.  Many times these columnists cultivate contacts that result in exclusives the beat reporters wish they had.   I like insight based on research.  Many columnists are contrarians as a way to sell newspapers.  That’s fine, as long as they can back up their arguments.  I don’t like complainers.

By the way…despite all the technology we enjoy, I still love the feel of holding and reading the daily paper!  I hope it lasts forever!

Sports Radio: Like many of you I drive to and from work listening to sports radio.  Residing in Southern New England I can find many sports radio choices.

I like sports radio where the hosts talk sports.  Again, this sounds simple.  But there are some who feel the need to entertain rather than inform.   The games themselves are the entertainment.  Talk about the games and the people who play them.  I don’t want sophomoric attitudes and drivel along with it.  The best talk show hosts are the ones who give their opinions and mix in interviews and callers.  That is what sports radio is all about.  It is not meant to be flashy.  It is a niche industry.    If sports radio GM’s think they should be #1 in a market, then they are in for some disappointment.  That only happens in Boston.

Radio Play-by-Play:The one thing that drives me batty is, again, the need for announcers to entertain.  It’s a game!  Let the action do the talking!  I like radio announcers to accurately describe the action and for the analysts to tell us why a play developed a certain way.  Keep the sound effects and and catchphrases for your friends. 

Television Sports Reporting:You can probably guess where I’m going with this.  The greatest thing about Sportscenter is that they have so many resources to do a professional job that there is no need for the “Boo-Ya’s” to get in the way.  Show me the highlights.  Let the analysts tell me why a team won.  Give me the interviews.  ESPN has done a better job of late doing just that.

Local television sports reporting unfortunately has suffered because of the emergence of ESPN and the Internet.  I can’t tell you the last time I watched a local sports report.  That’s too bad.

Television Play-by-Play: I don’t need to repeat myself do I?  Good.

I like the technological innovations television has made in bringing more action to the tube.  Where would we be today with the “Fox Box”?  I find myself searching for it while watching the rebroadcast of the 1974 Rose Bowl.  How much time is left in this game! Yikes!  The first down marker and the placement of cameras in different locations to provide another point of view is fantastic.  High definition will soon take all of us to places we wish we were all along.

Sports Web Sites: The future (at least in the short run) is here.  If you do not have an Internet presence, you are not credible.  In terms of the sports reporting websites, all of my points made earlier apply as well.  Just because you use technology, doesn’t give you the right to become sloppy.  Being able to read about an event the instant it is over (or, in many cases now, while it is taking place through live blogging) is an information junkie’s dream.  Count me in!

What I envision will happen (and maybe should) is that newspapers with a web presence will soon be charging for content found in the hard copy version of the paper.  Papers claim they are losing subscribers because they get their information from the newspaper’s web site.  It is logical for them to charge for the right to read that material.  Before the web you had to buy the paper to read the columns.  Same thing here. 

Sports Blogging: The world of weblogs has made everyone potential citizen journalists.  I like the fact that anyone can use technology to spew forth their opinion on anything.  The corresponding dialogue (via comments) allows for interaction and debate.  I don’t like that these sites are sometimes viewed as “legitimate” reporting organizations.  When “news” breaks on these sites, it is usually concerning an athlete’s personal life.  On a rare occassion a blog will report a REAL SPORTS story, but usually it’s about an athlete having run-ins with the law; dealing with a drug problem; or facing personal issues at home.  Although these events can have an impact on a player’s performance, (or future with the team) sometimes they are best left for the gossip pages (see Tom Brady).

Sports blogs are what they are…a narrowcasting of opinion.  That includes Sports Media Journal.