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The problem with sports journalism by Roy MacGregor

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JR, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. JR

    JR Active Member

    Most Americans don't know Roy from squat but he is arguably one of the best journalists in Canada and the US.

    He covered hockey for the Ottawa Citizen, went to the National Post and now writes on national issues for the Globe & Mail. He's also the author of numerous books including the incredibly successful "Screech Owl" series of young adult hockey novels.

    In short, people should listen to him.

    This is not the raging of a Luddite contrarian. In 1983, I was The Toronto Star’s guinea pig for the Tandy TRS-80 (“Trash 80”) computer that transformed sports filing and had no small part to do in killing off afternoon newspapers. I love what the Internet makes possible, admire those who use social media effectively and even appreciate the power of Twitter.

  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Twitter and crappy video will save the industry.
  3. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    The TRS-80 killed afternoon newspapers?
  4. Simon

    Simon Active Member

    To me, there's an obvious battle between the NOW crowd and the story telling crowd. It's interesting when the NOW crowd interacts with the story-telling crowd in the YOU HAVE TO READ THIS NOW. A good example of this was when Wright Thompson's story on Les Miles was published last week. Almost everyone on twitter, even competition, said something about it even though twitter is the NOW medium.

    Mobile devices will become to the go-to reading devices of the future. My girlfriend sits in bed in the morning and reads news sites on her cell phone. I find myself doing this more and more. If I had an iPad, I'd be reading 95 percent of what I read either through that or on websites connected to that.
  5. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    <i>Koppett, the brilliant New York Times and Oakland Tribune sportswriter who died shortly after his book appeared in 2003, was particularly prescient, seeing that the overload of media in dressing rooms was killing thoughtful exchange.

    But Koppett also wrote, “The secret of good reporting is simply being around.”

    Hanging out, he said, is “how a writer learns to know what he needs, what and how to write about it, to evaluate relevance and fairness, and how to distinguish the important from the trivial.”</i>

    Two points:

    1. So the key to good coverage is being in the locker room. But there are too many people in the locker room.

    2. Too many people wasn't a problem when NY had seven daily papers?

    This piece wants to be profound, but it really doesn't make a lot of sense.
  6. henryhenry

    henryhenry Member

    this graf is dead on:

    "Today’s sports reporters are not to blame. The various “platforms” they work for treat them like hamsters stuck in an endless wheel, spinning nowhere. They must set up games, tweet from morning skates, transcribe tape, blog from the rink, upload video that no one watches, and file, file, file …"

    response from the hamsters?
  7. Huggy

    Huggy Well-Known Member

    To me, this is spot on, particularly as it relates to hockey:

    It is called, derogatorily, “BlackBerry Journalism.” Television, ironically, is the worst offender, with the most visual of tools reducing so much of sports journalism to talking heads reading off rumours or various crumbs of minutiae handed off to them by those in a position to control such information. Having a number of excellent “hockey insiders” is critical to good hockey reporting in this country – think of TSN’s Bob McKenzie and a small handful of others – but when every new hire is presented as a “hockey insider,” you dangerously approach a situation where when the sports establishment – in this case, the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players Association – controls the information, they also control the message.

    To me, as far as "insiders" go it's McKenzie and then everyone else fighting for distant second place. Just because some former player or front office type knows how to use a Blackberry doesn't make them an "insider".
  8. Joe Lapointe

    Joe Lapointe Member

    I like Roy's work and enjoyed this piece as a good start for a discussion. I cringe when I hear the word ``insider'' to describe a sports reporter. I wonder if he or she is a tool used by agents or general managers with agendas. The best scoops are not the stories someone wants out there. The best stories are the ones they DON'T want out there. Too many sports journalists sell their souls for inside access. So few take a consumer point of view. The rare exception in the New York area is Phil Mushnick of the New York Post. Too many editors over-value leaks that are either slanted or fabricated. And they fill the rest of their pages with ``Local Team Hopes to Win Next Game.''
  9. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member

    I'm in the minority, but I strongly disagree with this column.

    Roy makes some good points. (Henryhenry shows one of them.) But, to say there is not enough storytelling is outrageous. If you can't find it, you're not looking hard enough. There is great storytelling done now. Maybe it's not always "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold", but it's still very good.

    And, Joe, I'm with you on the "insider" stuff. As a reporter, we're not "insiders" because we don't make the decisions. We report what we hear, what we find out, what we dig up. But, Roy is dead wrong about one thing. Our readers/viewers love that stuff. Can't get enough of it. Crave it. Why does Bob have 220,000 followers? Because he gets that stuff first. Eklund, the phony rumour-mongerer, has 80,000 because people love trade rumours, even fake ones.

    There are so many good reporters out there covering sports. They write, they report, they tweet, they do whatever -- and they really seem to like it. I follow almost 900 people on twitter and am constantly amazed by the work they do.
  10. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Pay attention closely enough to top writers covering major sports and you can tell which ones are GMs' writers, agents' writers, players' writers and so on. Clear they offer up their platforms for the info spooned to them. You can also connect the dots on certain stories -- if you know the byline, you can connect back to decipher the leak. Some sources, while remaining "anonymous," go to the well too many times with the same old reporters and the patterns starts to show.

    Wish there was more accountability, where the GMs' writer might take grief from the players or coaches, and so on. But rarely see anyone called out for the crazy spinning.
  11. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Should we have to connect the dots to see where the spin comes from? It's the reporter's job to provide transparency, and not to serve as the PR mouthpiece for their friends.
  12. Joe Lapointe

    Joe Lapointe Member

    Exactly right. But serving as a PR mouthpiece for your best connections often pays off, so that's why the practice continues. Some sports journalists (not all) have built considerable careers by shilling for the right people at the right time. They get paid off with ``exclusive'' leaks that would have come out anyway. But the GM / agent pays them off with the ``beat'' as a reward for ignoring negative columns or stories that should have been written and for spinning routine things in favor of the leaking ``source.'' Mutual back-scratching is the way of the world; we all know this; but sometimes it's more than just the back and more than just a scratch.
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