Thursday, November 30, 2006

Research of the Week

In the interest of helping get sports media research published, here's an opportunity for a special issue to be published by the Western Journal of Communication. I was at a conference with Bob Krizek in the spring and he presented his work on the oral history of the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis--very interesting stuff.

Call for Papers: Special Issue on Communication and the Community of Sport
Guest Editor: Robert L. Krizek, Saint Louis University
Submission Deadline: May 1, 2007

The Western Journal of Communication is publishing a special issue on Communication and the Community of Sport in 2008 (Vol 72). For this special issue, colleagues are invited to submit manuscripts that explore the individuals and collectives that comprise this pervasive and culturally significant community. Authors are encouraged to take fresh perspectives regarding the intersection of communication (whether mediated or face-to-face) and sport, and to submit manuscripts that deepen our understanding of the area that has become known as “sport communication” or variously “communication and sport.”

When submitting your work please remember that all manuscripts should conform to the guidelines of Western Journal of Communication and must be received via email by May 1, 2007 at In the subject line of the email message, authors should specify “Western submission.” In the text of this email message the submitting author should provide:(a) complete contact information (address, telephone, fax, and email); (b) brief biographical summaries (full name, highest earned academic degree, institution granting that degree, and present academic or professional position) for each author; (c) the title of the manuscript; and (d) a statement that the manuscript is the author(s)’s original work, that it is submitted for consideration for this special issue of Western Journal of Communication, that it is not presently under consideration at any other journal nor published elsewhere; and that the reference list is complete and in appropriate form. Attached to the message should be an electronic copy of the manuscript. Authors should take special care to format their documents in MS-Word (.doc format) or in a Rich Text format (.rtf).

In regard to the manuscript itself, to facilitate the blind, peer review process, no material identifying the author(s) of submitted manuscripts should appear anywhere other than the title page. The title page should include: (a) the title of the paper; (b) the author’s name, position, institutional affiliation, address, telephone and fax numbers, and email address; (c) any acknowledgments, including the history of the manuscript if any part of it has been presented at a conference or is derived from a thesis or dissertation; (d) a close word count. The first page of the manuscript itself should include the title of the paper, an abstract of not more than 200 words, and up to six key words for indexing. Manuscripts should not exceed 30 pages, including text, references, notes, tables, and figures, and must conform to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th edition). If electronic submission poses a hardship, please contact the editor (Bob Krizek) by email ( or by phone (314-977-3179) to arrange an alternative submission format.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No Call for Academic Awareness

Colleague Max Utsler of Kansas alerted us to an interesting story. It seems the NCAA wanted to host a conference of leading sports academicians to present research papers related to the NCAA and college athletics. But the conference was cancelled. Myles Brand of the NCAA said it was because the research papers were not of "sufficient quality." However, several academicians say the real problem was that the research papers were critical of the NCAA.

Make up your own mind by checking out the story at the Inside Higher Education website. Keep on reading down to the bottom for some of the comments submitted by researchers. Richard Southall of the University of Memphis (and a JSM contributor/reviewer) says he might try to organize and host a similar conference, if anyone is interested in helping.

And by the way, did anyone out there know about this conference or the call for papers? I really feel in the dark because this is the first I had heard of it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Welcome back ...

.. and happy post-Thanksgiving wishes to all. There certainly was enough sports in the media over the long weekend, especially football. While most of the country got the Bears-Patriots as the late FOX game, down south we got the Giants-Titans. I came in from yard work and picked it up at 21-0 Giants in the fourth quarter. F0r some reason I stayed with it and saw one of the all-time NFL meltdowns, as the Titans scored 24 points in only 10 minutes to win the game. Much maligned quarterback Eli Manning (pictured) threw two terrible interceptions to help seal the loss.

There were several comments after the game that Eli is too soft-spoken and fragile to handle the New York media (I must admit, he didn't get any criticism here at Ole Miss, where he is still highly admired). Whether or not that's true, it does raise some interesting issues. Can we blame the media for poor athletic performance? If Eli had gone to San Diego instead of New York, would he be flourishing in a less media-hostile environment? Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams had a stormy relationship with the Boston media, but it didn't seem to hurt his play. On the other hand, former major league pitcher Ed Whitson was practically run out of New York by the press.

I'm not sure the media outlets in New York are any more vitriolic and vindictive than media in other big cities--there are just more of them. The bigger problem is that too many sports media journalists are fans. They cheer loud when the home team wins, and rip it when it loses (if the Giants had won Sunday's game in overtime, imagine how different the tone would have been). If sports journalists could start practicing some objectivity, a lot of these issues would simply disappear.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Failing the steroids test

Across the profession, it is acknowledged that sports journalists failed in their profesional responbilities in reporting the steroid scandal. During the highly publicized home run record chase of 1998, rumors persisted of steroid use by Mark McGwire and (to a lesser degree) Sammy Sosa. But reporters who asked the tough questions were silenced by the athletes, team officials, and even their colleagues.

Now, with the steroids hearings and the BALCO scandal behind us, sportswriters have come forward with the obligatory introspective mea culpa. The October 2006 Editor & Publisher featured a scathing article, "Caught (Not) Looking," by Joe Strupp, is an instructive read.

But even now, sportswriters need to keep ethically sensitive on such matters. Sports today still are not steroid-free. That's not the only problem -- the list would start Walter Camp spinning in his grave. Sports stars arrested, violent athletes, violent fans, violent parents of athletes, gambling, teams extorting cities for new stadiums, that dang new NBA basketball. For the sports journalist with an appetite for investigation, the cafeteria is wide open.

The problem is that sports journalists are fans and friends.

When a sports journalist cannot set the pom-pom aside, it affects objectivity. Most of the baseball writers who covered the 1998 home run chase admit that they got caught up in the excitement too. Sports writers need the moral courage to go against the flow and report the situations that anger their fellow fans.

For many sports journalists, especially at the higher level, fanship slides toward friendship. Their professional relationship with athletes can morph from journalist-source to friend-friend. Although pro athlete superstars might not be looking for new friends, they also know how treating sports journalists as friends can be useful in promoting themselves.

Of course, the professionally ethical journalist knows how to separate friendship from work. When a journalist's friend becomes the object of media scrutiny, for whatever reason, that journalist takes steps to preserve his or her professional objectivity. Often that involves withdrawing from the journalistic project to preserve the friendship.

But to the journalist eager to retain his or her seat on the press table, and the buddy-buddy with the sports celeb, the situation can get complicated. Important issues (like steroids) go unreported, because sports journalists would rather "play ball" then lose a high-profile friend.

The situation can only get worse in today's sports media environment. The question is, What is more important to sports journalists? Is it more important to uncover the negatives of sports, to ensure that the billions spent by fans are not pouring down an ethical sewer pipe? Or is it more important to hang on to their share of the spotlight?

John Carvalho

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Research of the Week

Several scholars have published research related to gender and sports media representation. One of the more recent is--

Passing it On: The Reinforcement of Male Hegemony in Sports Journalism Textbooks. By: Hardin, Marie; Dodd, Julie E.; Lauffer, Kimberly. Mass Communication & Society, Fall2006, 9, (4), 429-446.

Abstract: "As sports media have grown, so have collegiate programs and classes to train sports journalists. Sports media have traditionally marginalized women and women's sports; whether college courses and textbooks have reinforced male hegemony has not been explored. Overall, the eight books of the study do not encourage aspiring journalists to address gender inequities in sports journalism."

As someone who has written a sports journalism textbook, I hope mine wasn't one of the ones considered to have marginalized women and women's sports, and I certainly have never taught students to do that. But this also raises an interesting issue. I don't think anyone could argue that the growth in sports media has come from coverage of male events and athletes, and that male events and athletes generate more audience interest and higher ratings compared to female events and athletes. So if networks spend more time and money showcasing NCAA Football at the expense of women's soccer, is that reinforcement of male hegemony or a practical business decision? A related issue is that males are in the management positions to enforce male hegemony. But even if women were making the decisions, from a business standpoint, wouldn't it still make sense to show men's football over women's soccer?

Our Sports Media Turkey wants to wish everyone a happy holiday. I'll try to keep posting during Thanksgiving week, if I can shake myself from the effects of excessive football and tryptophan.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sports Business Journal

If you're looking for a good place to find information for your sports media research, you might try the Sports Business Journal. The site focuses primarily on economics and media; it also has a wealth of statistical information. The site also offers a College and University program, which offers discounts to educators, especially in the sports marketing field.

You do have to pay to get access, but you can get a free 30-day trial. It's also a potential publication outlet. The site's editorial department will occasionally publish layman versions of academic research.

Sorry if this sounds like an ad, but it is a pretty good site.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sports Media Review Blog

Heard from another sports media junkie, Jonathan Weiler at North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He also has a blog on sports media, and says that his site "examines sports from a larger social and political perspective." The blog is called Sports Media Review and can be found here. Dr. Weiler also wrote an interesting piece on race and sports media, which focused on Barry Bonds.

The more people we have talking about sports media the better. I hope you take some time to investigate the blog, which most recently talks about the big Ohio State-Michigan game this Saturday (although the college season really ended last Saturday with Texas' brutal loss to Kansas State).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Research of the Week

We had 25 submissions for the latest issue of the Journal of Sports Media, which is quite a lot for an annual publication. We accepted four, which means we turned away 21 papers--some of them of exceptional quality. Our hope is that the journal will eventually become a semi-annual or quarterly publiation, which would allow us to publish more research.

We're trying to stress two things in the research we publish. Primarily, it should have practical application for sports media practitioners. That is, we believe that the research should be of practical value to those in the sports media field--editors, public relations specialists, news directors, etc.

The research should also be primarily concerned with media. It can use a variety of different foci to examine the media issue--such as history, advertising, economics, and the like--but the paper should be first and foremost about media.

For example, here's a listing of some of the research papers from the most recent AEJMC conference in San Francisco. All of them would be acceptable for submission to JSM:

Are You Ready for Some… Sex, Violence and Gender Stereotypes? A Content Analysis of Monday Night Football Commercials and Programming Promotions •

Pete Rozelle: How The Commissioner Used Public Relations To Promote The NFL •

Children and Sports: Just Do It… or Not? An Investigation of the Relationship Among Children’s Media Use, Sports Participation, Physical Activity, and Obesity •

Beyond the Games: A Study of the Effects of Life Issues and Burnout on Newspaper Sports Editors •

Skating on Thin Ice: Promotional Strategies for a Fourth-Place Network in the 2006 Winter Olympics •

“I may decide it’s not worth it to balance it all”: The experiences and values of young women in sports journalism careers •

But there were other AEJMC papers did do not really fit the focus of JSM. These are the ones that have media as a subcontext and emphasize research in a different area--

Playing Online: Motivations for Fantasy Sports Use •

A lightning rod in sport: The reproduction of patriarchal ideology in Title IX discourse •

This Is Next Year: Myth and Ritual in Four Films about the Boston Red Sox •

Tour de Lance: An Investigation of Lance Armstrong as a Celebrity Endorser of the ‘LiveStrong’ Campaign •

A Comparison of the Logical and Emotional Impacts of the Citizens’ of Houston and Dallas Toward Their City’s NFL Teams

We welcome all sports media-related research, but in terms of our primary focus, it's like what George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm: "All (research papers) are equal, but some are more equal than others."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Media Impact

For those who don't think the media impacts the results of sporting events, think again.

The 1-6 Miami Dolphins came to Chicago this past weekend proclaiming how the media here in Chicago, and in Miami, gave them no chance of beating the unbeaten Bears.

No chance.

But that's why they play the game.

The Dolphins professed afterward to any media-type who would listen how the disrespect they got from the media helped motivate them to win the game. Yet, ironically, when you ask an athlete if he or she reads the papers, they generally say no.

Yeah, right.

Of course, this doesn't mean that to guarantee your hometown team wins a game that you, the sports writer, should show them disrespect in your coverage. Of course not.

Just because most major-metro hometown newspapers sell more copies, by the thousands, when their hometown teams win, doesn't mean that reverse psychology in coverage should be applied regularly. So the next time an athlete tells you he or she doesn't read the papers, don't believe it for one minute. Especially at the two-minute warning.


I'd be remiss here if I didn't say how much my father motivated me to be a sports fan. Not just a sports fan, but one who critically analyzed and observed a game and therefore played it the same when I had the chance.

Now that I'm a working sports writer as well as journalism educator, I take those lessons to heart. I make sure my students know to capture information beyond the games, as I try to do in my coverages to this day, my 29th year in the business.

My father and I never had a catch, but I sure caught his drift. My father died Oct. 30. He was 94 and stricken with deep-seated Alzheimer's. He no longer recognized most anything or anyone and he'd forgotten virtually everything. But I sure won't, Dad. I sure won't.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Research of the Week

There's a lot of research out there that paints a very dim picture for local television sports. The latest comes from Penn State, which says local sports segments will continue to get devalued. That means less time and resources allotted to a segment that's already been shrinking for several years. It may be that one day the sports segment simply disappears from local television news.

Obviously, this isn't a simple issue and there are several explanations. But I believe much of what's going on is directly related to television consultants. I've never seen or met a consultant who thought local sports had any value, and admittedly, most industry research supports that. The bigger question--if local sports does go away, will anyone miss it?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ad Mania II

More support for Angela Renkoski's post about the relationship of media and money in sports from USA Today's Michael Hiestand. And given the terrible television ratings for the recent World Series, we'll only see more of this. No wonder that major league baseball signed its next television deal before the Series even started.