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The Death of Sportswriting?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by for_the_hunt, Aug 9, 2007.

  1. for_the_hunt

    for_the_hunt Member

    Really enjoyed this guy's take --- especially on gamers --- and thought you might, too:


    I think game articles are increasingly bordering on the irrelevant --- when the score's already reported on TV, radio and online, who needs it the day after?

    Sure, prep gamers are different. But for major sports and major beats, pinpointing the turning points of the game and touching it up with some color doesn't seem to be cutting it. Maybe this is just a generalization, but I would wager that most Phillies fans who would read the articles in the paper already know what happened and who won ... so what audience are we trying to reach with these day-after gamers?

    I know you might be saying, "Well, that's our job --- make it interesting. Offer a unique angle." But how often does that happen on a baseball beat, for instance? Most gamers, especially when you're strapped with deadline, offer just the facts.

    I work for a college paper. Football games take place Saturday, and we don't publish until Monday. There's barely any play-by-play, but I wonder how many people we're reaching with this ... and I wonder if anybody feels the same way, whether it be a five-day-a-week college paper or a seven-day-a-week major market paper.
  2. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    I feel that the role of the day-after gamer is turning more away from play-by-play (what happened and when) to analysis (why did it happen and what difference did it make). I think that is the advantage newspapers have to TV and radio. Writers can go in depth instead of just hitting the highlights. Instead of saying that Pitcher X went 7 innings and gave up three hits, talk about how well his slider was working and how he dominated the left-hand side of the plate. Instead of just saying Hitter X went 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs, talk about how he hit two of his three hits to opposite field, how he has changed his swing to cover the plate and what he saw that he liked from the pitcher.

    I don't think it is any longer our job to get the scores and stats out there (OBVIOUSLY). When I write a gamer, I try to get the reader inside the batter's box, on the mound and in the dugout.
  3. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    Read Roger Kahn's "The Boys of Summer." There's a chapter where Dick Young sits down with the rookie Kahn in the bar and tells him how to cover a team. One of the first things he tells him is he can't just do play-by-play in a game story because the real fan already knows whether the team or won or lost, and has some idea of the basics.

    Paraphrasing now, Young says something like, "You don't say, the Dodgers beat the Phillies 5-2. You say, the most interesting thing that happened in the Dodgers' 5-2 win over the Phillies was...."

    The conversation took place at least 50 years ago.
  4. Wonderlic

    Wonderlic Member

    This thought process kinda scares me, because it promulgates the mistaken idea that anyone with a keyboard can do this job.

    First of all, many of those talented young writers who can't get a break at a large metro because of the industry-wide cutbacks the Daily News editor spoke about in this story are actually at smaller papers right now, gaining valuable real world journalism experience. And there ARE some smaller papers where run-of-the-mill just isn't good enough, papers that are being plenty creative with both their coverage and presentation. Maybe not around Philadelphia, where most of the small papers are owned by JRC, but that's another story entirely.

    And as far as the "push-the-envelope bloggers" are concerned, it's a lot easier to swing your dick around from behind the monitor in your parents' basement than it is to actually walk up to a muscle-bound millionaire in the locker room and pry information by asking tough questions. Especially after you've already written something they're not happy about. I'm not saying that it's not our job to do so, I'm just saying that it takes real-world experience and fortitude that I would venture, when push comes to shove, many of these bloggers don't have.
  5. Somebdoy writes this piece every 20 years.
    Alan Richman wrote it for GQ back in the 1990's.
  6. tapintoamerica

    tapintoamerica Well-Known Member

    A very disturbing piece. Has the author ever covered a beat? While we don't need to write gamers anymore, we do need to cultivate relationships for daily news, features and other stories. You have to be careful about when and why you're willing to toss aside a source. Is it really worth it to examine the GM's persona life, for example, when you need that person during trade-deadline time?
  7. How old is that kid? 15?
    (Not that it matters. Just observing.)

    Even if gamers are en route to extinction - which I do not believe - the title "Death of Sportswriting" is a bit overly grandiose. Gamers are (or at least should be) such a small, small piece of what we do.

    People will always want good storytelling. Always.
    There will always be sports.

    Thus, there will always be sportswriting.

    Some of the doom-and-gloom topics/stories/discussions about our business are fair and worth probing. This is not one of those stories.
  8. dargan

    dargan Active Member

    I think TyWebb's right on.
  9. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    Generally bad ideas in this piece, as noted above. Columnists from other sections of the paper, turned loose in sports (and, I presume, vice versa)? Yeah. Fascinating.

    I do think that papers could rotate beats more often, to avoid the "too nice" pitfall where professionalism and common human decency start to turn into quasi-friendship with sources. But I'd only support more frequent rotation with this requirement: Columnists have to rotate through, too, and other writers rotate into the columns. No one gets tenure in this business and it would do some of the opinion folks good to flex their reporting skills at the most basic beat levels. Might require an evening-out of paychecks over time. But at most places, it isn't like the designated star columnist really sells that many papers. More teamwork in a more creative section, however, might.
  10. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    Actually, Richman's piece was from the late '80-s. While I find much suggested somewhat naive and uninformed, what I would like to see is a much lighter editorial touch and more confidence expressed toward writers.

    See the Kram post, and note the latitude within which he was allowed to write. How many editors - anywhere, anyhow - would allow a writer today to do what he did?
    You get what you ask for.
  11. MartinEnigmatica

    MartinEnigmatica Active Member

    This piece seems to be the kind the kind where he - or someone on the staff - read the Inquirer/Daily News daily, without much interest...and then tried to provide a reason for that problem.

    Should a sports section have strong voices? Certainly. Should they be writing about how a team hangs around in a certain game like the US hangs around in Iraq? Probably not.
    I don't really get a clear picture on what he thinks a sports section should include for coverage of pro sports. Strictly columns of mere opinion? Quasi gamers-columns ala Jeff Passan, that involve a hefty amount of reporting? You still need the analysis, as people here have said. Even if people see what happened, it's our job to provide what else happened that they couldn't have seen, and the why - all in a nice, concise, compelling fashion.
  12. formulacola

    formulacola Member

    Is it just me, or does this passage seem to firmly intimate what Jasner said off the record? Seems a little unethical.

    That aside, I agree with the comments of everyone else. The guy doesn't really seem to understand a whole lot about working a beat. Nor, for that matter, about what gamers can bring the reader. Writing 100, 120 gamers a year, you can really start to weave a story that's deeper than just a one-off. And maybe this is just because I'm in the business, but I would have to think the newspaper reader who reads most every game story picks up on the fact that the gamer fits into the context of all the other game stories, features, news, etc. from that season.
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