Sports Media Journal

What’s Right and What’s Wrong with Sports Media- Game Coverage

In my 2007 post on what I like about sports media, I chose to break-up play-by-play into radio and television.  I think it’s best to lump them into general game coverage as I look at how things have changed since that original column.

Let me begin by asking a question…why do you watch/listen to a game?  Sounds a little silly, but when some are critical of those who handle play-by-play or analysis, they need to ask themselves that question.  I know I watch/listen to a game for the action on the field.  I really don’t watch for the play-by-play.  I’m knowledgeable enough to follow the action and deduce what it means.

When it comes to a play-by-play announcer and color analyst, the more  understated the better. That’s why I feel Joe Buck, Jim Nantz, and Al Michaels are great announcers.  They let the game speak for itself.  I don’t care for announcers who go over the top and get overly excited, like a Gus Johnson.  When I see Johnson call a game, I wonder how long he practiced what he was going to say.  It’s appears contrived.

I like to pay more attention to the color analyst and how he/she provides insight into what just transpired on the field.  Yes, I know that the Packers just pick-ed up a first down, but I want the analyst to point out the nuances as to how it happened.   Those with a firm grasp of X’s and O’s generally make the best analysts.

Networks need to stop catering to the lowest common denominator in game coverage, even during big events like the Super Bowl.  You’re never going to attract new fans if they’ve never been invested in the sport in the past.  Don’t take the rest of us for granted, educate us and let us handle the newcomers in our midst.

There is no need for a three person booth or for sideline reporters.  We all see when the extra man in the booth leads to everyone fighting for air time.  Sideline reporters rarely get any information that a competent associate producer couldn’t get.  We hear from them so infrequently that their talents are wasted.

The need to recoup money for rights fees has resulted in selling just about every part of a broadcast to advertisers.  Pre-game, post game, and such mundane events as pitching changes now all have their own sponsor.  That should bother me.  But it’s become so commonplace now that I rarely seem concerned by all these intrusions.

Technically, games have never been covered better.  There’s been no real trends set on the radio side.  But innovation has led the way to how games are broadcast on television.  Since 2007 just about all professional games are now telecast in high definition.  The placement of cameras in unique locations have resulted in seeing a play from just about every conceivable angle.  Audio enhancements have also positively impacted the viewing experience.  The only aspect to this innovation I’m not excited about is 3D.  There’s simply not enough 3D content available and most people who recently bought a television in the last two years will be willing to invest in another one just for the 3D experience.

What’s Right and What’s Wrong with Sports Media- Sports Radio

There really hasn’t been any glaring changes in the sports radio industry since 2007 when I first wrote of what I liked about sports media.

Living within the Boston media market, I now have two reputable choices for my sports radio listening pleasure.  Both have very knowledgeable hosts who, when they want to be, are very, very good.

What I said four years ago about what I like about sports radio holds true today…I like when hosts talk sports.  Novel idea, isn’t it?  But for some reason there are times when hosts think they need to expand their horizons and talk about topics not associated with the hometown teams.   Case in point…one of the Boston area sports radio morning shows last month spent its entire four hour show on two topics; Mark Sanchez dating a 17 year-old and whether the husband of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords should leave her side and command the last space shuttle mission.  That’s the kind of sports I love!

Hosts who delve into the non-sports realm say they’re bringing up topics that “guys” are talking about, specifically “guys” in the 18-49 or 25-54 demographic.  We may have interests outside of sports on our mind, but we tune in to sports radio to hear a discussion of sports.  If we want to hear about other topics we can find those elsewhere on the dial.

As much as all radio stations live and die on ratings, sports radio remains a niche format with low ratings.  That’s why in most markets sports radio consists of a blend of local sports shows and those from ESPN Radio or other national syndicators.  Boston is one of the only markets where sports radio has consistently scored high in the desired male demographics.

I tend to value local sports talk radio to national programs, because I get more information on the teams I follow.  The downside to this is because local sports shows focus on the regional sports scene, they tend to ignore other sports when in season.  Back to what I hear in Boston, sports radio programs focus exclusively on the four major sports teams and rarely, if ever, talk college sports or individual sports like golf and tennis. The nationally syndicated shows tend to give me more variety, so I’ll check in with them more during golf and tennis majors, etc.

The best sports radio programs are the ones where the hosts are knowledgeable and respect the views of the callers.  They are also the ones that include interviews of local and national newsmakers.  Unfortunately there are many hosts who feel that because they have control of the microphone, they are why people listen.  These hosts may have good ratings numbers, but not for the reasons they think.

Like newspapers, sports radio faces competition on other media platforms.  There are now satellite and online audio programs which focus on a specific sport or team that are gaining market share with audiences.   Some of these programs are better than others, but isn’t it great that we have these choices?  I like that.

What’s Right and What’s Wrong with Sports Media- Reporters and Columnists

In 2007 when I wrote this column on what I thought was the best and worst of sports media, the first category I explored was Newspaper and Magazine Reporting. Since newspapers and magazines are now just a segment of the platforms by which sports is reported, I thought I’d just focus on general reporting and opinion columnists, regardless of the platform by which it is delivered.  This will not be an indictment of any individual reporter or columnist, just an overview of what I think reporters and columnists do, or no longer do, well.

Today’s professional journalists are still the best at providing coverage of the world of sports.  Many sports bloggers are doing some great work as well, but if I had my choice of who I rely on for information, I will continue to choose those who are trained in the art of reporting.   Don’t get me wrong there are some bad reporters out there, but as a whole I value the work done by the professionals over the non-professionals.

What I said in 2007 still holds true today…I like when reporters report.  If your beat is to be the eyes of a specific team or specific sport, your job is to report the facts of what is happening, along with reaction from these involved.  You are not paid to offer opinion in your day-to-day work.  If part of your beat is to offer an opinion column every so often, that’s where you can let your thoughts on the facts come through.  Give us the facts and let us decide how to interpret them.

I see a greater disconnect between general sports columnists and the topics they cover.  There appears to be less research done on a topic but more reaction.  Maybe it’s because we sports fans are able to get the facts of a story from so many sources that the columnist feels he or she doesn’t need to delve into them any further.  That’s understandable.  But I do miss when a columnist mixes opinion with some reporting.

Reporters and columnists today seem to possess a general lack of humility.  There was a time, not too long ago, when sports radio and television hosts were trained in electronic media and reporters generally worked for newspapers.  Now many of those same writers host radio and/or television shows.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of modest reporters out there.  But there are a growing number of others who let their increased visibility go to their heads.

I really hate when those critical of professional sports reporters accuse them of being cozy with athletes, coaches and ownership.  For a journalist to do his or her work, there needs to be a respectful relationship established between the reporter and those he or she covers.  Without that access reporters do not have a job.  I disagree with many who say that reporters are often protective of the people they cover.  That may have been the case a few decades ago, but since the beginning of the sensationalizing of sports (a topic I’ll cover in another post) reporters today are more aware of the need to break news regardless of who is impacted.  Again the best reporters do this in a respective, professional manner.   That can’t be said for all those who cover sports.

The sports reporter of today is aided greatly by technology (another topic for a future post).  That technology has yielded what we now know as the 24 hour news cycle.  Reporters now work harder to gain/maintain readership.  The days of writing one game story a day is over.  These reporters now need to file multiple times a day for fear of being out-hustled by a competitor.   As a sports fan I like that I can get my sports news now.

What I don’t like is that the “get it out now” news mentality often means there is less time available for the production of unique content for readers.  Too much time is wasted posting the starting line-ups when the reporter should be working on investigative pieces and player profiles.

The reporters of today (and especially of tomorrow) are those adept at multi-tasking and have a firm grasp of all aspects of media production.  The pad and pen days are over.  Even the voice recorder and Microsoft Word days may soon be over.  Young reporters today are getting skilled in the art of writing, shooting and editing photos and videos, producing podcasts, and speaking in 140 characters or less.  I’m excited by that.  I’m not excited by the prospect that the cost of this well-rounded media education could come at the expense of quality reporting.

Maybe It’s Time to Come Back

Since I announced my intention to take time away from Sports Media Journal to deal with more pressing personal issues, I’ve been itching to get back into the fray.  As we prepare to celebrate our fourth year, now is as good a time as any to return, at least on a limited basis.

I wrote this column when I launched SMJ back in March of 2007 about what I liked and didn’t like about sports media.  As much as there have been some ground breaking changes in the last four years, surprisingly much has stayed the same.  So I thought it would be good for me to take a fresh look at what I feel is the best and worst of how sports is being covered in 2011.  Instead of posting one long column of my likes and dislikes, I’m going to produce individual columns focusing on one aspect of sports media.

Look for them to begin popping up sometime next week.  Thanks!


Changes at SMJ for 2010

The beginning of a new year brings with it a chance to evaluate what you’ve accomplished in the past and plan for what will come ahead.  That’s the case here at Sports Media Journal (SMJ).

I started SMJ in 2007 because I had an interest in the sports media industry and wanted to provide some insight into the people and organizations that make it up.

At first I took to blogging as a hobby but soon sought more.  Those of you who blog on a regular basis know that as satisfying as it is to share your thoughts with the online world, to make money off that effort takes hours of hard work.

I would spend many a day getting up at 4:30am to assemble links to sports media stories or work late at night catching up on the latest sports media news.  That’s not a complaint, it’s the reality of being a part-time blogger.

All this work, however, has not led to the outcome I had envisioned, at least not yet.  I have a demanding full-time job and a wife and daughter I adore.  Those interests always came first.  And they still do.

I expect some added work commitments coming my way in 2010. That, combined with the responsibilities I have to my family,  means something needs to take a back seat.  That something is Sports Media Journal.

Let me make it clear that I’m not shutting down the site.  I’m just significantly cutting back on how often I blog.  The only commitment I am making is to continue to produce the weekly Sports Media Weekly Podcast with my blogging buddy Ken Fang at Fang’s Bites.

Daily links to sports media stories will be suspended, as will other posts featuring news from the leagues and networks.  Please visit Fang’s Bites for that information.  Ken does it better than anyone else.

I may still post from time to time but there may also be stretches that the only post you’ll see will be the weekly podcast.

I wish this were not the case.   I would love to make SMJ my full time job.  If I am able to resurrect the site to where I can commit more time to it, I will do so.  If any of you would like to lend a hand and write for me, drop me a line.

I would not have been able to accomplish what I have here at SMJ without the understanding and support of my family.  They’ve put up with a lot from me and gave me the space to pursue my blogging interests.

I’ve  made many new friends and contacts along the way.  Being able to converse with those in the industry and getting the cooperation from the sports networks on stories I’ve written have lent this site some credibility.  Colleagues at other blogs have also been extremely supportive.

I also want to thank you, the loyal readers of SMJ.  I have tried my best to keep the site on the straight and narrow, sticking to issues and not straying toward innuendo and scandal.  I really do appreciate your support.

So for now it’s not goodbye, just see you later.  Happy New Year!

Good News For Ray

Those of you who have read SMJ for the last few months have noted the contributions of Ray Frager.  Ray joined us in early May after he was let go as Assistant Editor and Sports Media Columnist for the Baltimore Sun.

Ray’s addition to our staff came quite coincidentally.  I was reading his last blog post over at the Sun where he mentioned his lay-off and his interest in starting his own sports media blog.  I e-mailed Ray, introduced him to SMJ, and invited home to join us to write on the topics of his choosing and for as long as he wished.

To my surprise Ray took me up on the offer and began writing for us on May 5th.   Our agreement was Ray would write for us until he was fortunate enough to once again attain gainful employment.   Thankfully for him that day has come.

Ray is now back in business of writing sports professionally and I could not be more happier for him.  Even though I never met Ray personally, in our conversations it was apparent to me that he is one of the good guys.

So on this day we celebrate work, I’m glad that Ray is back among us working stiffs.  We wish him all the best.

Vacation Time!

vacation-2As of this post, I am officially on vacation.  It gives me a chance to recharge the batteries and enjoy some quality time with my family.

I have scheduled one post to run next week which will feature another SMJ video.  Ray Frager will still contribute to the site while I’m away.

I will be separated from e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and all my other tehnological tethers until the end of the month.  You should too.  See you all then!  Thanks for your support!

SMJ Welcomes Ray Frager

I am pleased to announce that former Baltimore Sun Sports Media Columnist Ray Frager is now writing for Sports Media Journal.  Here’s the official press release…


Sports Media Journal (SMJ), a website dedicated to examining and commenting on the people and organizations that make up the sports media industry, is pleased to announce that former Baltimore Sun Sports Media Columnist Ray Frager is now writing for the site.

“We’re are excited to welcome Ray’s expertise and experience to our field of writers” said Sports Media Journal founder Keith Thibault, “The quality of Ray’s work speaks for itself.  He has been a leading regional and national sports media voice for many years.  His contributions will greatly enhance the credibility our site has achieved since it launched in March of 2007.”

Frager was recently released from his role as sports media columnist and assistant editor at The Sun, roles which he has held since 1985.  He indicated upon his release a desire to continue to report and comment on the sports media industry.  SMJ approached Frager about writing for the site and he enthusiastically agreed.

“I’m grateful to Keith for giving me a forum to continue blogging.” Frager said, “I hope those who read my columns and blogs at The Sun follow me to Sports Media Journal and enjoy the other writers at the site. I’m also glad for the chance to be exposed to a new audience.”

“Ray will be given the freedom to write as little or as much as he likes and on the topics of his choosing.” said Thibault, “He’s earned that level of respect.”

Frager filed his initial post on Sports Media Journal on May 3rd.

Ray’s first post is below.

More soon…

Playing in the Yard

What does Greg Oden, Donovan McNabb, and Sports Media Journal have in common? We are all now part of the same network.

Sports Media Journal is now a proud member of the Yardbarker network of sports blogs. If you look at their roster, some of the most popular and influential sports blogs on the web are part of the network. We are pleased to be affiliated with such great work. We hope to hold up our share of the bargain..

You will notice a Yardbaker headline panel in the right sidebar that provides the latest news from the network. You can also get directly to Yardbarker from the banner also located in the right sidebar.

Here’s hoping that our affiliation with Yardbarker will be beneficial to our mutual interests and to all our readers as well.