Tuesday, October 31, 2006


This headline made me think of how difficult it is to teach objective sports journalism. We've always had sports homers (and I'm not picking on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; plenty of other outlets get into the "we" and "us" mentality), but it seems to really have grown in recent years. Part of it is the growth in the number of sports media outlets. With so many channels and web sites available, there seems to be a niche for every opinion. Media outlets need audience, and playing it straight doesn't necessarily drive ratings (just ask radio sports-talk stations). I also think there are more students getting into sports journalism as fans instead of journalists. They want to ride on the bandwagon without doing all the hard, behind-the-scenes work.

I wonder if this is a bad thing. If you don't like the way the St. Louis media report on the World Series, it's certainly easy enough to access the Detroit Free Press or Detroit News. If we are witnessing the end of objective sports journalism, I wonder if hard news will be far behind ...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Academic Sports Journalism

Just got off the phone with Marc Krein of Oklahoma State, who told me that the department there now offers an emphasis in sports media. The list of courses includes Sportswriting, Sports Production, Sports in the Newsroom and two courses in Sports PR. Penn State has a Center for Sports Journalism, thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Knight Foundation.

Let's hope this constitutes a growing trend at schools across the country. For too long sports journalism has been derided as a "toy" department, and it's gratifying to see recognition within the academic community. If your school is doing something along these lines, let me know. I'd like to start building a list of who's doing what.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ad mania

I glanced at my September 15 “The Sporting News” magazine and—between the other mail resting on top of it—could catch glimpses of a silver and black face. I could definitely see the distinctive red Gothic Sporting News logo. I thought they must be doing a cover story on football fans, possibly just the Raiders renowned fans. I scanned the only blurb on the cover and thought it read “Get Closer to Football with ...” something that started with a capital C. I thought it must be someone’s name.

A little later I returned to read the magazine and noticed the word I hadn’t made out was Cingular. Cingular?!? On the cover?!? Then I noticed the Cingular logo and slogan in the lower right-hand corner. To my horror, I turned the page and realized this was a wraparound cover. There was the repeat of the logo in the magazine’s regular style and the magazine’s “real” cover.

The Cingular ad was carried on both inside covers of the fake cover, with Head & Shoulders being run on the back of both the fake and real covers. Only when I went back to the fake cover one more time did I see in small black caps across the top: ADVERTISEMENT. But still...

The American Society of Magazine Editors, the professional organization of editors of consumer and business publications that’s part of Magazine Publishers Association, asks its members to abide by a code of ethics that calls for the strict separation of editorial and advertising, especially associated with covers and logos. ASME has published letters admonishing “Seventeen” for its April 2005 MTV issue and “The New Yorker” for suggesting Target’s logo into its cover. But ASME has no real leverage, and most publishers pocket the money, sometimes even without an apology, and go on.

This is just an extension of what TSN has been doing on its inside pages, with sponsored columns and features. In this same issue, there was the GMC Blog Like the Pros column and “The NFL’s 101 Best,” sponsored by Build Ford Tough Bold Moves with the Ford logo next to the title. Did Ford help the editors, who we count on to be experts, decide who was part of that 101 best? Did they try to get more Detroit players named? Probably not, but the question is raised.

TSN struggles for ad dollars with SI and ESPN magazines and is now up for sale by Paul Allen, the Microsoft founder, who bought it several years ago from Times Mirror Co. Maybe offering prime space and lending its brand to companies seem the only way to compete. But, really, at what cost to the magazine’s credibility and integrity?

I suppose an ad cover like this should be no surprise in the sports world, where almost every square inch of real estate associated with our games is up for sale, including sidelines, walls behind home plate and elsewhere, all over stadiums, on some uniforms, even—almost—on the bases for MLB games. And is it any different than radio and TV spots that are sponsored by one product or another? For me, it feels different and so much worse. TSN was started in 1886 and bills itself as “the first newsweekly in sports,” so the connection, even the implied endorsement, between the venerable TSN brand and Cingular seems to me to threaten the magazine’s status as sports bible of facts and analysis. It now seems willing to bebillboard space, selling its pages and readers--if not its soul.

Race and Gender

Just to give everyone a heads up on our next issue (which will come out in March), Gina Daddario of Shenandoah University has a paper on gender marking and racial stereotyping in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Charlie Tuggle of North Carolina also looked at the 2004 games, comparing network coverage of men's events and women's events. Max Utsler and Jennifer Byrd of Kansas analyzed how Sports Illustrated covers Black NFL quarterbacks, and I did a paper with Mary Lou Sheffer of Texas-Arlington on why women find it so difficult to get a job in local sports broadcasting. Ric Jensen of Texas A&M contributes our essay on the public relations lessons learned by the Houston Astros in naming their stadium after Enron, and Liz Matson of Northeastern University has our book review.

That's four out of four research papers (all blind reviewed) that deal with race and gender. Given the myriad ways of studying sports media (economics, historical, management, etc.) are gender and race the most important current issues related to sports media?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Welcome to a blog hosted by the Journal of Sports Media. JSM is an academic journal published annually by the University of Nebraska Press and the University of Mississippi Department of Journalism. It focuses on sports media in terms of specific media (print, broadcast, Internet, advertising, etc.) or a specific area of interest related to sports media (history, law, ethics, effects, etc.). JSM publishes academic research which adds to the understanding of sports media in terms of their practice, value and effect on the culture as a whole.

All are invited to participate in this discussion, but please keep in mind that it is intended for academic discussion of sports media issues. Postings should be thoughtful and intelligent, and above all, clean. If you want to rant about your favorite team, please take it somewhere else!

For more information about the Journal of Sports media, you can go to our website. There is also more information available at the University of Nebraska press website, including information on subscriptions.