Author Topic: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?  (Read 3743 times)

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Online Dick Whitman

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Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« on: January 29, 2013, 08:20:48 AM »
Versatile made this comment on the Boston media thread, and I thought it deserved its own thread. Feel free to reject the premise as part of the discussion, but I think he's onto something.

Is it the ubiquity of ESPN that has brought us to this point?

Is it excusable because of that?

That being the case, what is the value of daily access?

My own observation from my days on the beat - and this was college football - was that the national media was granted, in some ways, more access than us daily grunts. Pete Thamel could probably waltz right into the head coach's office, or get a one-on-one with the starting quarterback, while the day-in, day-out crew was really carefully restricted.

I think that the SID and coaching staff innocently thought of it as crowd control - and fairness to everyone. I'm not sure that it dawned on them that they were putting us at a disadvantage.

Or: Are national guys (and gals) simply better at their jobs than the local hacks, overall? And that's why they are, frankly, national guys (and gals).

Peripheral to the main discussion: When did the national media begin to own sports scoops?
« Last Edit: January 29, 2013, 08:23:25 AM by Dick Whitman »

Offline Justin Biebler

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2013, 08:26:46 AM »
Maybe a little of both. I don't think SIDs or coaches even think about putting the local beat guys at a disadvantage, they just do it. But lets face it, national guys have much more reach than the local guys and gals have,
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Offline Norrin Radd

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2013, 08:28:44 AM »
Resources, prestige, access. In that order.

They've owned scoops for a couple of decades. Regardless of who gets a story first, ESPN can claim ownership through the factors listed above.
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Online Dick Whitman

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2013, 08:31:59 AM »
I also wonder how many scoops originate at schools other than the ones being reported on/exposed.

Adminstrators and coaches are probably much more likely to gossip about places that are not their own. And who talks to administrators and coaches at multiple schools? National guys (and gals). Even if local beatsters do chat up opposing staffs, you have to think that the opposing staffs have to be somewhat cautious thinking of the beat person as essentially an arm of the school he covers. Which is true in some cases.

Offline Small Town Guy

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2013, 08:34:10 AM »
David Brauer tweeted, wondering if agents want a bigger splash for their clients on big stories so would be more likely to chat with national guys and leak info to them. Obviously that's just in the pros. Well, in theory.

Offline bhmccorm

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2013, 08:34:52 AM »
I thought about the same thing reading that Boston story. I covered an SEC football program this past fall and found the exact situation you were talking about with re: to its star player. Despite being his hometown paper, we'd have interview requests turned down when national outlets wouldn't.
Frustrating, but I think the school saw it as preferable to get national attention, while there also seemed to be a lack or respect or regard for the player's hometown paper. I don't really blame them, but they certainly could help out the locals

Offline Drip

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2013, 08:39:14 AM »
National guys are necessarily better. Trust me on that.  They tend to get preferential treatment because they have a larger audience.

Offline Double Down

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2013, 08:43:18 AM »
Do most "scoops" come with any helps from the PR staff though?

Having been on both ends of the equation, local and national, I'll happily acknowledge that PR staffs sometimes bend over backward for you if you're writing for a big outlet, and will treat you with something bordering on annoyance if you're one of the daily beat guys.

But again, those are mostly requests for sit downs so I could do a takeout. I doubt any PR guy is going to say "Hey, who wants to break this 'Cam Newton got paid!' " story. Those are the result of work, contacts, talent and hustle. Passan's scoop about the Red Sox team meeting, which is what kicked off this discussion, certainly wasn't approved/leaked by the Sox PR department.

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Online Dick Whitman

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2013, 08:46:33 AM »
Do most "scoops" come with any helps from the PR staff though?

Having been on both ends of the equation, local and national, I'll happily acknowledge that PR staffs sometimes bend over backward for you if you're writing for a big outlet, and will treat you with something bordering on annoyance if you're one of the daily beat guys.

But again, those are mostly requests for sit downs so I could do a takeout. I doubt any PR guy is going to say "Hey, who wants to break this 'Cam Newton got paid!' " story. Those are the result of work, contacts, talent and hustle. Passan's scoop about the Red Sox team meeting, which is what kicked off this discussion, certainly wasn't approved/leaked by the Sox PR department.

Precisely. That's why I wondered in a subsequent post about how often scoops actually originated from other schools or organizations. Because, like you said, they aren't leaking negative stories to anyone, national or local.

Offline TigerVols

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2013, 08:48:53 AM »
Do scoops even matter any more though? Someone's scoop is copy-and-pasted and reported by a hundred outlets seconds later anyway.

Online Dick Whitman

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2013, 08:50:48 AM »
Do most "scoops" come with any helps from the PR staff though?

Having been on both ends of the equation, local and national, I'll happily acknowledge that PR staffs sometimes bend over backward for you if you're writing for a big outlet, and will treat you with something bordering on annoyance if you're one of the daily beat guys.

But again, those are mostly requests for sit downs so I could do a takeout. I doubt any PR guy is going to say "Hey, who wants to break this 'Cam Newton got paid!' " story. Those are the result of work, contacts, talent and hustle. Passan's scoop about the Red Sox team meeting, which is what kicked off this discussion, certainly wasn't approved/leaked by the Sox PR department.

Another interesting dichotomy is book reporting vs. publication reporting.

I thought that sources would be more helpful when it came to book reporting. I was wrong, mostly. They are more suspicious. Two reasons, I think: First, they think that book these days automatically denotes "expose." I don't know how many times I was asked some variation of, "What's your purpose here?" Second, I think that they think that authors, as opposed to newspaper, Web site, or magazine writers, are getting rich from the endeavor, and they don't like that.

Online Dick Whitman

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2013, 08:51:36 AM »
Do scoops even matter any more though? Someone's scoop is copy-and-pasted and reported by a hundred outlets seconds later anyway.

If you think about it that way, no.

But it's vital that somebody breaks the stories. Or else we basically just cede our work to team and league Web sites.

Offline Double Down

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2013, 08:52:04 AM »
Keep in mind too that if you're working at Yahoo or ESPN or SI, you also have a big network of other writers you're connected with. Not only do you have the time (and typically experience) to pursue something, but you can bounce ideas off other national writers who might say "You should call my guy at [blank]. He might have heard something about this."

I think I've said this before, but I'm always in awe of the stuff Adrian Wojnarowski breaks. He gets people to talk, and is a really sharp writer so he can put it into perspective too.
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Online Dick Whitman

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2013, 08:54:34 AM »
Keep in mind too that if you're working at Yahoo or ESPN or SI, you also have a big network of other writers you're connected with. Not only do you have the time (and typically experience) to pursue something, but you can bounce ideas off other national writers who might say "You should call my guy at [blank]. He might have heard something about this."

I know that Katz and a lot of other national writers are really known to develop relationships with assistant coaches. In a lot of cases, the assistants are flattered to get the attention. That's a case where the writer is actually more famous than the source, and it's an interesting dynamic. Also, I think that assistants with ambition think - probably not incorrectly - that guys like that can help get their name out there into the various pipelines.

Fans are certainly star-struck by big-name writers or TV guys. I remember being in a hotel lobby on the road with my friend on the beat and Joe Schaad. We were gathering down there to go out for the night. A couple fans strolled up to us and started asking Schaad what he thought of the team we covered. He says, "Ask these guys. They cover them every day." The fans, though, didn't even ask us as a courtesy thing. They clearly just wanted to know what Joe thought.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2013, 08:57:12 AM by Dick Whitman »

Offline LongTimeListener

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2013, 08:56:46 AM »
David Brauer tweeted, wondering if agents want a bigger splash for their clients on big stories so would be more likely to chat with national guys and leak info to them. Obviously that's just in the pros. Well, in theory.

This is true and especially when you consider that a very large portion of scoops are about signings and coaching searches, and every power agent has his own guy. Mort is willing to be whipped around and say whatever the agent just told him even if the agent knows it's just a negotiating ploy. Getting it on the ESPN Sunday show is a way bigger deal than any local outlet.

Then you have the cases like Trace Armstrong, who is the agent for both Adam Schefter and many of the coaches Adam Schefter is chasing during searches. Gee, who's going to get that scoop?

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2013, 09:03:12 AM »
Having access on both ends of the story (and at every stop on the pipeline in between) helps. The only major beat I've ever covered was a college team, in which the biggest news is generally a coaching change.

If you're covering State U and Tech coach is about to resign to take State U job, the national guy is going to have a source at Tech he can call for verification. Or someone at a school that plays Tech or State who would know.

The Bielema-to-Arkansas story is a good example. No one in Fayetteville or Madison had a clue about that until Forde broke it. I imagine the tip didn't come from someone at either school, but someone in between, be it an agent, a rival coach or whomever.
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Offline joe king

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2013, 09:14:51 AM »
Someone from the Shitsville Tribune could break a huge story, so huge that the entire coverage area sees it. Let's say 100,000 readers.

ESPN then picks it up, throws it on teevee, and says "ESPN has learned..." for many, many more eyeballs to see. Those many more will now think the "national media" broke the story.

Easy, peasy.

I had that happen to me more than once when I was toiling at suburban papers. Very little pissed me off more than having the major metro or a national outlet take a story I had a few days before and make it sound like their dogged reporting had broken it wide open. The worst was when one of them ran such a story under a headline that read, in part: "Now it can be told." Yeah, now after you read it in my paper last week, you fucker.


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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2013, 09:36:50 AM »
I remember when Nick Saban left LSU for the Dolphins in early 2005, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville in the midst of a 13-0 season was among those being mentioned for the LSU job. Every Auburn beat writer in the state (including our guy) had a story the next day with quotes from Tuberville denying he was interested.

Auburn went to the Sugar Bowl that year, and (then) ESPN's Tony Barnhart interviewed him shortly after his arrival in New Orleans a day or so later. A few hours later, it comes across the crawl: "ESPN's Tony Barnhart reports Auburn's Tommy Tuberville not interested in LSU job."
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Offline Versatile

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2013, 09:48:33 AM »
I think a lot of it in the pro leagues has to do with agents and league officials and team executives being the ones with the knowledge. The daily beat reporters, for whatever reason, rarely tap into those sources properly. The same could be said of many beat reporters and college administrators. Those are the people with the in-depth knowledge.

It's also a bit of self-fulfilling prophesy. One beat reporter I worked alongside while I was in college routinely said he didn't worry about those big scoops, things like recruiting scandals and coach firings, because his readers wanted him to cover the team. He let others do the leg work on the real, worthwhile stories that could have brought him national attention. Meanwhile, he wrote 500 words on a backup tight end's hip flexor.

And there's the issue of being too close. As with Peter Abraham in that Boston sports story, beat reporters often know so much on backgroun that they become unable to see news value properly. I have had conversations, fights even, with reporters about moving key paragraphs up in the story. To them, it's old or unimportant news. To the readers, it's the best part of a long-winded story.

I remember when Nick Saban left LSU for the Dolphins in early 2005, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville in the midst of a 13-0 season was among those being mentioned for the LSU job. Every Auburn beat writer in the state (including our guy) had a story the next day with quotes from Tuberville denying he was interested.

Auburn went to the Sugar Bowl that year, and (then) ESPN's Tony Barnhart interviewed him shortly after his arrival in New Orleans a day or so later. A few hours later, it comes across the crawl: "ESPN's Tony Barnhart reports Auburn's Tommy Tuberville not interested in LSU job."

Twitter largely has killed that bullshit.
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Online Dick Whitman

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2013, 09:50:53 AM »
I remember when Nick Saban left LSU for the Dolphins in early 2005, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville in the midst of a 13-0 season was among those being mentioned for the LSU job. Every Auburn beat writer in the state (including our guy) had a story the next day with quotes from Tuberville denying he was interested.

Auburn went to the Sugar Bowl that year, and (then) ESPN's Tony Barnhart interviewed him shortly after his arrival in New Orleans a day or so later. A few hours later, it comes across the crawl: "ESPN's Tony Barnhart reports Auburn's Tommy Tuberville not interested in LSU job."

Look at how the national news media blew out the Katie Couric interview nugget with Manti Te'o the other day.

"Te'o admits to Couric that he lied."

Tons of headlines to that effect.

Except he had told Schaap exactly the same thing a couple days before.

Offline LongTimeListener

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #20 on: January 29, 2013, 10:24:34 AM »
I think a lot of it in the pro leagues has to do with agents and league officials and team executives being the ones with the knowledge. The daily beat reporters, for whatever reason, rarely tap into those sources properly.

You're acting like it's the local reporters' fault. But it isn't -- it's the way things are set up. The agents and league officials are only talking to people because they want something. The local beat reporters can't give them anything.

Offline Versatile

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2013, 10:32:10 AM »
My phrasing was "for whatever reason." That's one reason.
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Offline joe king

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2013, 10:48:05 AM »
I think a lot of it in the pro leagues has to do with agents and league officials and team executives being the ones with the knowledge. The daily beat reporters, for whatever reason, rarely tap into those sources properly.

You're acting like it's the local reporters' fault. But it isn't -- it's the way things are set up. The agents and league officials are only talking to people because they want something. The local beat reporters can't give them anything.

Years ago, I called an agent to ask about some news about a player, and before he would talk to me, he asked me, "What's your paper's circulation?" If your outlet wasn't big enough, he wouldn't talk to you. He eventually talked to me, but only after I convinced him we were running with the big dogs as far as how we covered the team. It was ridiculous.

Offline RonClements

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2013, 11:05:47 AM »
Versatile made this comment on the Boston media thread, and I thought it deserved its own thread. Feel free to reject the premise as part of the discussion, but I think he's onto something.

Is it the ubiquity of ESPN that has brought us to this point?

Is it excusable because of that?

That being the case, what is the value of daily access?

My own observation from my days on the beat - and this was college football - was that the national media was granted, in some ways, more access than us daily grunts. Pete Thamel could probably waltz right into the head coach's office, or get a one-on-one with the starting quarterback, while the day-in, day-out crew was really carefully restricted.

I think that the SID and coaching staff innocently thought of it as crowd control - and fairness to everyone. I'm not sure that it dawned on them that they were putting us at a disadvantage.

Or: Are national guys (and gals) simply better at their jobs than the local hacks, overall? And that's why they are, frankly, national guys (and gals).

Peripheral to the main discussion: When did the national media begin to own sports scoops?

This is so true and I saw it first-hand covering the St. Louis Rams for three seasons. The USA Today, NFL Network and ESPN folks get the first-class, celebrity treatment from the team's media relations staff while I spent three years not even knowing what the second floor, where the offices are, at Rams Park looked like.
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Offline RonClements

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Re: Why do the national media now own sports scoops?
« Reply #24 on: January 29, 2013, 11:12:06 AM »
I will say this, though, these national writers got to where they are for a reason. They started at local papers and advanced their way up the ranks to a network or other national outlet. Along the way, they make a lot of contacts and create a lot of sources.
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