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Should sportswriters "stick to sports"?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by ifilus, Aug 6, 2014.

  1. ifilus

    ifilus Active Member

  2. Morris816

    Morris816 Member

    The Sports and News thread would certainly suggest that sportswriters are willing to discuss such subjects. ;)

    Seriously, I don't think a sportswriter should ever be afraid to express his or her opinion about a non-sports topic because the writer is worried about what people will say.

    There have always been these types who want to tell writers to stick to sports or whatever it is they usually write about. The difference is that they now have a larger platform on which to say it, a platform on which the writers are frequenting and often expected to use it every day, even if the writer doesn't really have anything he or she wants to say.
  3. albert77

    albert77 Well-Known Member

    If I'm being paid to cover and write about high school sports, then I'm doing my readers and my employer a disservice when I use the paper's time and space to write about political issues, unless they directly connect to high school sports. Now, if I have a personal Facebook account or some other personal media, I can and will write about any subject I choose, but even then I should be careful that I don't post anything offensive, because it reflects on my employer and my job.
  4. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Sportswriters shouldn't throw political opinion into sports stories, any more than newsside reporters should do so in news stories.

    Now, if they are writing opinion columns in which their personal opinion is supposed to be part of the material, then of course they should. They should also gauge the reactions of both their readership and employers before doing so.

    If you want to haul off and write a fiery jeremiad ripping the hell out of some political party or individual candidate/officeholder that you think/are pretty sure your readership and/or your publisher loves, (or cheerleading for something you know they'll hate) make sure you think twice before you hit the 'send' button. If you wanna hit 'send' anyway, god be with you.

    As far as political opinons on Facebook, etc etc., proceed at your own risk. Unless you have a contract expressly forbidding it, i.e. if you are an at-will employee, be aware you can probably be fired simply because somebody higher up on the food chain simply doesn't like what you posted online. More people than you think are reading.

    I hardly EVER post anything even remotely political on Facebook. Unfortunately, many others appear to be under no such compunctions.
  5. 3_Octave_Fart

    3_Octave_Fart Well-Known Member

    I consider political talk on "social" media the height of ill manners. Religion, too.
  6. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    Everybody should stick to sports.
  7. Matt Stephens

    Matt Stephens Well-Known Member

    I've often been told this by readers on the "negative" side of data pieces I've written. If it's favorable to sports fans, those against sports think I should stick to sports. If it's not favorable data for sports fans, then I should also stick to sports.

    So no, sports reporters shouldn't stick to sports. Also, I just said "sports" a lot.
  8. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    There's so much off the field news now, whether it be a school district trying to get a new stadium built or a player/coach in some legal trouble or whatever. A reporter needs to be versatile enough to cover what happens off the field as well.
  9. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Well, of course sports reporters should report on political decisions which affect the teams they cover, such as getting new stadiums built, or legal proceedings involving coaches or players, but unless they are expressly writing opinion columns, they shouldn't dig into the pros and cons of these issues.

    If the head football coach of your area high school is indicted for embezzling school funds for his own use, he could claim he was forced into it by confiscatory high taxes and use the "government has no right to steal my money" anti-tax argument as a defense, and a sports reporter might well personally believe that was complete bullshit (I would), but that shouldn't make its way into coverage -- again, unless he is writing columns.

    Some years ago a school district where I was SE of the local paper was fighting for a millage issue to build a new high school. The previous HS dated to the 1940s and was pretty decrepit. The designs for the new HS were state-of-the-art, featuring an Olympic-size swimming pool (the old school had no pool at all).

    One of the BIG BIG ISSUES the proponents of the new school really banged like a drum was the fact that the new school building would allow them to break into competitive varsity HS swimming. They went into extensive detail about how great it was to have a dominant swim team, it would provide a rallying point for the whole community, car caravans to away meets, the student body would get behind it, and they also threw in lengthy and tedious statistical analyses indicating that athletes for schools traditionally in the top 10 in state swimming (there are really about a dozen statewide in the four competition classes) had amazing astronomical GPAs.

    These people just went on and on about it; they showed up at school board meetings for months and distributed flyers and leaflets for weeks before the election.

    I reported all these assertions deadpan in stories outlining the new athletic facilities included in the new school blueprints.

    A week or so before the vote, I wrote a column strongly in favor of the millage issue overall -- the high school was nearly 50 years old and obviously obsolete in many different regards -- but I added the observation that anyone who voted for the millage issue simply on the basis that they wanted a juggernaut swim team was out of their minds, for many reasons:

    1. State-dominant swim teams are the result of long-established youth feeder programs with kids advancing through the ranks from grade school level (and even younger). If you build the new high school now, you POSSIBLY could see results in six or eight years, although more likely it will be 15-20.

    2. State-dominant swim teams are heavily weighted toward university-town country-club communities with median incomes and parental education levels astronomically higher than old farm-oriented Hooterville High. The idea a swim program is going to magically create stellar GPAs is preposterous.

    3. The only area leagues offering prep swimming also include several of those perennial statewide swimming powers. If you think you are going to jump into competition with those people and build an instant powerhouse which is going to roll up wins and become the talk of the county you are crazy, much more likely you are going to spend a couple decades becoming the personal dunk-a-clown victims of the existing powerhouses.

    4. If in fact the swimming program does take off, it is going to siphon athletes out of existing programs in (boys) basketball and wrestling. This place was not exactly Hickory High but like many rural midwestern towns in the 1980s, prep basketball was a pretty big deal. The wrestling program at the time was also pretty good.

    5. The most important reason to vote for a school millage including a pool was so that a unit of swimming instruction could be added to the PE requirements for the student body overall, so that Hooterville High graduates would reasonably be expected to know how to swim and as a result, not drown if they should someday fall in the water.

    The pro-swimming crowd, which I sleuthed out amounted to about six fairly well-connected parents, was not happy with my column at all and fired off a load of nasty letters to the publisher accusing me of being 'biased' and attempting to derail the millage issue.

    The millage issue passed anyway and the beautiful new school was built. I haven't really gone back there much in 20-plus years since but I have noticed Hooterville High has not been sweeping to victories in the state swimming meets every year.
  10. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    Great post, Starman.
  11. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    Lupica frequently catches grief in this area from his hard-right readers who resent his non-yahoo-righty views. I have little use for Mike, but if you read his Sunday columns and don't want to see any political asides in the bargain, you're going to wind up unhappy.
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