Archive for the 'Journalistic issues' Category

23
Apr
08

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Press Pass – pt. 3

Some day soon, a book will come out entirely centered around the journalistic phenomenon we now call blogging. Specifically sports blogging. It won’t be written by a blogger, but some Ph.D. at a liberal arts school. The book will analyze all the ways in which this new form of media has effected “traditional sports reporting” and how the landscape of event coverage has changed forever. One of the chapters in this book will be an expansion of this article (or at least the beginning of it), published in the New York Times on Monday, April 21. The chapter will center around access, and who deserves what amount. But before all that happens, we wanted to address this issue in a five-part series. We will view the access question from the perspective of all the major parties involved: owners, players, reporters, bloggers, and we’ll end on Monday with the most important perspective of them all — the fan’s.

PART 3 — THE REPORTERS

Alright, let’s get this out front first. Yes, a lot of reporters write blogs for their given outlets, but it’s not necessarily by our own accord. More often than not, an editor calls us into the office, tells us that management wants to establish more of a “Web presence” because that’s what all the kids are doing these days with their Giggles and Tube Yous, then they tell us to cross our arms and “Oh my god, look at the spider on the ceiling!” then *FLASH*-*SNAP*, we have a blog.

What I’m trying to say is, that’s not entirely by choice. As much as I love being forced to write twice as much as I used to, I’m not the biggest fan of sports blogs. Never really have been.

I look back on how I got to this point, and I see college where I spent countless hours in sweaty rooms writing news leads and memorizing the different between lay and lie. I covered field hockey and volleyball and water polo and track and softball… And what did it all get me? My first job covering all the same shit — except at a high school. My big stories were about a basketball player with down syndrome and a football recruit getting arrested (which I co-bylined with a fat man named Bill who had a burly mustache and a car that smelled like sour hot dogs).

Ten years of that landed me right back at the colleges, and another 15 years after that I finally cracked open the doors to a professional press room. That’s how I got the job I have, how about you bloggers that want a seat next to me? You opened an account at Blogspot and started calling me a shmuck.

I’m not saying all that makes me more or less worthy, I know the world doesn’t work like that. What I’m saying is that you can’t replicate the passion and respect that those 30 years have left me with. I approach these games like a surgeon approaches a patient; like a lawyer approaches a courtroom. These are not some free tickets to me. This is work.

When I look around that press room, I see a bunch of tired faces that carry the same battle scars as my own. And I’m just as dependent on those guys as I am on my recorder and notebook. You see, in the eyes of these athletes, we’re all the same. Lumped into one giant bunch. “The Media.” And the fact of the matter is, if one guy pisses of the coach, he walks out on all of us. I have to tell my editor that my story won’t have quotes tonight, just like the other 20 guys in the room. Around here, there isn’t any room for renegades.

Listen, even though I could go on about “ethics,” and “standards,” and how “I can’t do what you do and get away with it,” I don’t think those are the central issues to this matter. I think journalists have proven they are just as capable of acting unethically. What’s bigger is the history, tradition, and honor that surrounds covering a coach who just won a Super Bowl, or a 22-year-old kid that’s sobbing into your microphone because he just lost the last meaningful game he’ll ever play in his life.

Those are the things that are not to be taken for granted. And unless you’ve seen that same elation on the face of a little league coach or that same anguish in the eyes of a high school softball pitcher, I argue that you’ll never truly understand what a privlege it is to cover these games. So for now, let’s just stick to what we each do best. I’ll keep writing game wraps, and you can keep calling me a shmuck.

View the other perspectives: The Owners and The Players

27
Feb
08

Access denied!

Sarah PavanThe woman furthest to the right in this photo is Sarah Pavan.

She plays volleyball for the University of Nebraska. Well, she did. And was ridiculously good.

So good in fact, she was is the most decorated female athlete in the school’s history. And she had a 4.0 in biochemistry. In other words, your typical jock.

Long story short, Pavan gave an interview with a local Nebraska magazine in which some revealing personal feelings were brought to light:

They judge only what they see from the stands. They don’t understand I don’t like the phony smiles and the phony hugs and the phony high-fives after every point. Four years now and my teammates, the people I thought knew me, don’t understand that I despise the constant attention. And the coaches – they don’t understand what it takes to nail a 4.0 in biochemistry, let alone how much it means to me. Really, it doesn’t seem to matter what I say or what I do anymore because no one truly understands me.

Wow. That’s a hell of an interview. Kudos to the reporter, right?

The coach – and some of Pavan’s teammates – didn’t think so, and started complaining publicly. Eventually, Pavan was banned from practice (even though her career was already done). After some public outcry, the all-wise coach said Pavan could return to practice if she apologized. No go.

As you can imagine, this issue garnered a lot of press – especially for Husker volleyball. The coach didn’t handle it so well:

If you don’t stop doing it(reporting), Cook said, I’m going to call over to the journalism college and get this straightened out.

Watch out, journalism college, he will call and get this straightened out! Oh no he didunt!

The media relations department had even more threats for college reporters:

Shamus McKnight, NU’s volleyball sports information director, asked to know if there would be another story, what it would be about and who would be contacted.

Usually I know ahead of time who is going to be interviewed, so I can prepare them, McKnight said.

And anyone who’s ever written a college newspaper story about volleyball (check), or softball (check) or lacrosse (thank God no check) knows that college athletes already have so much to say.

This is an awful precedent. Reporting on college athletics is tough enough as it is. Stories are becoming increasingly hard to find because of privacy policies and limited access to the players.

The story about Pavan was well-written, it was insightful, and it uncovered a potential problem in college sports.

And as soon as there is a hint of controversy or negative coverage reflected on the team, the SIDs decide to cut back the already limited access they provide.

You could argue that this is the job of the SIDs, to protect the players. But it’s seriously getting out of control.

If I ran a publication around Lincoln, and the SIDs insisted on “prepping” players before any interviews (especially reviewing the questions), I would simply not have a reporter cover that sport.

One thing is for sure – Nebraska women’s volleyball needs the media a lot more than the media needs them.

Oh, and Pavan? She signed a contract to play professionally in Italy. Looks like someone got the last laugh.