Wednesday, January 7, 2009

on sports journalism

CJR posts this piece on what's gone wrong in sports journalism -- and how to make it right.

I especially like the following passage, which could be applied to journalism in general as newstypes transform themselves, by trial and error, in the digital age:

"... But here is a typical scenario that illustrates the problem for newspaper sports sections. Beat writers covering a baseball game see a player strain a hamstring. Immediately they are all on their BlackBerries posting an item about the injury and how the batting order was just changed. Something must be posted! Any writer who misses the tidbit will be called on it by his or her editor. But everyone has the same information; no one “scoops” anyone. So why not wait and weave that tidbit into the game story? The reporter would have the chance to go to the locker room and ask questions, talk to the manager about the change in strategy after the injury—to add context and nuance and narrative. These days, that sort of insight is too often lost. “If I were the editor,” says ESPN’s Buster Olney, who also blogs, “I would say, ‘Don’t worry about beating the seven other papers on the hamstring story; focus on developing your thousand-word game story. Remember the great writing you loved as a kid? Write it up like that.’”

"Tim McGuire, a former editor and senior vice president of the Minneapolis Star Tribune who now teaches the business of journalism at Arizona State University, says newspaper management is showing a lack of leadership. 'It’s a mission problem. The reporters are doing too much, and they’re confused about their mission,' he says. 'We’re pouring the same news on people that they can get anywhere.' What’s needed, McGuire says, is for newspapers to play to their strengths. Make statistical information readily available on newspaper Web sites, of course, but it’s time for narrative storytelling and vividly written game stories to make a comeback—because journalists know how to weave tales, put events in context, and act as intermediaries to the firehose of information on the Web. Most bloggers don’t have that skill or, more important, that mission.'"

Thanks, Melissa! (BTW, be sure to read to the end to catch a line about the lengths the infamous Hunter Thompson went to in order to cover sports. Gonzo journalism was about a lot more than HST. Which may be something that's lost in the blogosphere...) bk

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