Friday, February 29, 2008

How do profs teach sports & media classes?

So I've taught Sports and the Media twice now, a class that was developed, initially, to give students a general history and cursory overview of sports and journalism. I quickly became dissatisfied with the class materials, believing the content was too superficial. Without sufficient time to revise, I was forced to use more than half the prescribed materials that first semester, which did include a few good books -- like the one by Red Barber and another on Grantland Rice. I also added chapters from Unforgivable Blackness, which chronicled Jack Johnson's struggles to become the world's first black heavyweight boxing champion. That semester, students learned a little about trends (like the press's role in the integration of baseball and writing styles during the Golden Age of sports), but they learned very little about the business of sports media. Since then, I have been reading sports syllabi, perusing sports media texts, and seeking papers published in journals like American Journalism Review, Journalism History, and Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, looking for articles that offer compelling information but are accessible for sophomores, juniors and seniors not seeking a career in academia. I've narrowed the class into several categories that reveals the symbiotic relationship between sports and media (although I plan to do much more research). As of the moment, the class will focus on the following areas:

■ the role of sports and the media
■ history of sports and media (from the Greeks to the present)
■ journalism pioneers in the 'Golden Age' of sports
■ an overview of print journalism
■ the economics of sports and media
■ the sociology of sports and media
■ the media's role in discrimination/integration
■ boosterism in sports
■ sports and TV
■ sports and radio
■ celebrity in sport and media
■ sports media ethics

I will use a few articles posted on our library's digital eReserve system and chapters from books placed in the regular reserve section. Clearly, my list is not exhaustive, but at least it offers more than a cursory look at some people who have worked in the field. So many academicians unfairly dismiss studies in this field as superficial despite considerable evidence to the contrary. As we know, studies in sports and the media can reveal a great deal about history, sociology, psychiatry and business, to name a few academic areas. I'd like to hear how others approach teaching similar classes. Please, offer your suggestions below, or drop a note about a favorite book or article on a related topic.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Off to Tigerland

I'm off to the Third Sport Communication Summit at Clemson and will likely be unable to post until next week. For those of you interested here's a look at the conference schedule.

In an unrelated note, Kelly Shultz-Poniatowski of Penn State has attached the following request. She's looking for someone to take her place on an AEJMC panel this summer in Chicago. Her contact information is included:
I am looking for someone to take my place who can do a paper related to nationalism and sports. This isn’t a sports panel but they want someone on the panel who studies sports. I have posted some of the panel information below. Please email me if you are interested and I can give you more details.

Kelly Shultz-Poniatowski

International Intercultural Interconnected:
How journalism practices shape perspectives and perceptions on a global scale

The frames through which media audiences see the world are shaped by the journalism professionals who construct them. Differences in journalism practices, cultural norms and nationalistic attitudes give shape to these frames. This panel will discuss the various ideological frames that both international and American news media imposes on its audiences to explain and explore international and intercultural issues.

This panel plans to "make a difference" by understanding the differences in media practices and media coverage on an international scope. By studying international/intercultural news environments and the perceptions created by those environments, media ecologists and teachers of media literacy can better teach their students the nuances of news practices that inform the construction

Monday, February 25, 2008

Help needed: Sports books

The following comes from John Hussey at the University of Kentucky Press. He's looking for sports books and asked to pass along the following. Contact him if you have any questions.


The University Press of Kentucky is actively acquiring sports books to build upon its already nationally known lists of military history and film. As the acquisition editor, I am primarily interested in acquiring books in the following areas:

1) Biographies of underrepresented well known figures that will appeal to a general trade audience, this can include all sports—anything from Carlton Fisk to Tony Stewart. There is, of course, a preference to figures sharing proximity to the Kentucky and the Midwest, but because of our press’ reputation in launching titles nationally, any saleable topic is fine.

2) Solid, well-written histories, including possible revised dissertations. This area can be more academic (I understand how the tenure process works and the limitations it sometimes entails).

3) Sociological/Theoretical looks at sports. This area should be of the highest academic quality and should be capable of withstand multiple revisions if necessary. I encourage you to submit your project after researching our press. My contact information follows below, and please contact me if you have any questions:

John P. Hussey
Sales Manager/Sports Editor
University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40508-4008
(859) 257-4249
fax: (859) 323-4981

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A matter of access

Below this you'll notice two messages; the first from Julie Freeman, Interim Director of Student Publications at Baylor University. She is responding to an e-mail sent out by the Baylor Sports Information Department.

The messages reflect a common problem at universities--student media access to university coaches and players. I would suspect that the stance taken by the Baylor SID is fairly common at other colleges and universities. They insist on total control of access to coaches and players, which sometimes makes it impossible to get any real reporting done. I do know the situation here at Ole Miss is similar to Baylor. In fact, our reporters seldom even try to contact coaches or players on their own because the players have been told not to talk to any media without SID approval and scheduling.

There is reasonable rationale for this. Unlike pro athletes, college athletes are still students and deserve some measure of protection and privacy. It would be hard to imagine how many interview requests Eli Manning would have had at Ole Miss if reporters could simply call him up and ask. The cynical rationale has to do with image/damage control. SIDs want to be able to control all messages going out from the department, especially in times of crisis (coach fired, players arrested, etc.). For example, we have seen or heard precious little from Indiana University basketball players during the Kelvin Sampson ordeal.

Both rationales make sense, which is why it's such a difficult issue. Read both sides of the story and feel free to comment.
OK, I need some advice before I fire off an ill-advised e-mail or make an ill-advised phone call to our sports information director. My students have a terrible time trying to go through them to get interviews with athletes and coaches. For instance, last week they were told Thursday that they couldn't interview our women's basketball coach about Saturday's game until Friday interviews. As all of you well know, we don't publish on Saturdays! Which means what? The student paper can't preview a weekend game because the sports media people are acting like paranoid gatekeepers? It's in THEIR interest to give us access.

Anyway, we are not governed by their rules, though we follow them when reasonable. The staffers -- at my urging -- have started calling the players and coaches on their own. All are free to decline interviews, but the players have been plenty willing to talk. As a result, the team gets better coverage.

So the assistant athletic director for media relations sent this to the editor and sports editor last night. How would you recommend I respond? I'll bite my tongue and tie my hands behind my back until a cooler head can prevail.

Julie M. Freeman
Interim Director of Student Publications
Baylor University

Please take this opportunity to remind all your staffers of our policy, and please understand that this isn't a recommendation or suggestion, but rather a hard-and-fast rule. It must be adhered to. Thank you.

Having said that, if any of your staff ever encounters problems or delays dealing with the media relations office, please don't hesitate to let me know. We take pride in ensuring that we provide first-rate assistance to all media covering Baylor athletics.

One issue that I've always recognized from student papers is one of organization and working ahead of schedule. We ask for 24 hours notice for interview and credential requests and I know sometimes the student-reporters aren't working that far ahead of time. We'll always try to help out if possible.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sports Media Job Opening

From our good friend Keith Strudler; there is an academic opening at Marist College--

Assistant Professor/Professional Lecturer Sports Communication

The Communication Department at Marist College seeks applicants for a tenure-track Assistant Professor or a Professional Lecturer position to teach courses in sports broadcasting and sports reporting. Candidates with ability to also teach courses in sports public relations, sports sociology, sports media and society, and other foundation courses in communication is desirable.

Professional experience is preferred. A PhD or other terminal degree in a relevant field is required for tenure-track candidates. Applicants with a non-terminal degree and substantial
professional experience will be considered at a Professional Lecturer level.

The review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until a candidate is selected. Please send applications, including current curriculum vitae, list of references, and a letter of intent addressing the objectives and qualifications listed above via email to: Please indicate position title in subject line.

More information can be found at our website:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Athletes to Blog in Beijing

The International Olympic Committee announced on Friday that athletes will be permitted to blog during the Beijing Olympic Games this August. An unattributed quote from the IOC states, "The IOC considers blogging ... as a legitimate form of personal expression and not a form of journalism."

Is the IOC is correct in narrowly defining who is and who is not a journalist?

Scott Gant, a constitutional and media lawyer, wrote an excellent argument for extending government access privileges normally afforded only to mainstream media to bloggers as well. He distinguishes between the function of journalism and the profession of journalism. Among his arguments is the notion that a profession denotes licensure (i.e. lawyer, doctor) and today's mainstream journalists, as well as advocates of the First Amendment, would not advocate a system where the government decides who, and who is not, is a journalist.

Obviously, the IOC is a private organization and not a national government, so the comparison may not be entirely appropriate. However, all of this gets to the fundamental question of whether or not a blogger is a journalist.

By subscribing to the traditional definition of journalism (and the IOC's point of view), clearly bloggers are not. But in a new media age, bloggers are functioning as journalists. Athletes posting pictures taken inside the Olympic Village or in the athlete-only areas of a competition venue are showcasing areas not available to officially accredited members of the media at an Olympic Games. That certainly makes those pictures newsworthy and, dare I say, makes the individuals who publish them quasi-journalists.

Sex and Gender Diversity in Sport

The following is from George Cunningham at Texas A&M. His contact information is at the end.

For all who have an interest in gender and diversity, I wanted to alert you to a recently published special issue focusing on sex and gender diversity in sport organizations. The articles were published in Sex Roles: A Journal of Research and can be seen here: The Table of Contents is provided below:

Special Issue: Gender and Sex Diversity in Sport Organizations

Gender and sex diversity in sport organizations: Introduction to the special issue
George B. Cunningham and Michael Sagas

Situating work-family negotiations within a life course perspective: Insights on the gendered experiences of NCAA Division I head coaching mothers
Jennifer E. Bruening and Marlene A. Dixon

Standards and separatism: The discursive construction of gender in English soccer coach education
Beth Fielding-Lloyd and Lindsey J. Meân

Perspectives of women college athletes on sport and gender
Sally R. Ross and Kimberly J. Shinew

Gender equity for athletes: Multiple understandings of an organizational value
Larena Hoeber

Similarity on sports sidelines: How mentor-protégé sex similarity affects mentoring
Derek R. Avery, Scott Tonidandel, and McKensy G. Phillips

Doing and undoing gender in sport governance
Inge Claringbould and Annelies Knoppers

Gendered managerial discourses in sport organizations: Multiplicity and complexity
Annelies Knoppers and Anton Anthonissen

“Being Masculine is not about who you Sleep with…:” Heterosexual athletes contesting masculinity and the one-time rule of homosexuality
Eric Anderson

The effect of sport commentator framing on consumer attitudes
Heidi M. Parker and Janet S. Fink

How did sport make you feel? Looking at the three dimensions of emotion through a gender lens
James R. Angelini

Creating and sustaining gender diversity in sport organizations
George B. Cunningham

Gender and sex diversity in sport organizations: Concluding comments
Janet S. Fink

George B. Cunningham, PhD
Laboratory for Diversity in Sport
Department of Health and Kinesiology
Texas A&M University
4243 TAMU
College Station, Texas 77843-4243
Phone: 979.458.8006
FAX: 979.847.8987
Lab Site:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blaming the Bloggers

The Washington Reskins recently hired Seattle assistant Jim Zorn as their new head coach. Nothing new there, especially for Washington owner Daniel Snyder, because Zorn has absolutely no experience as an NFL head coach or coodinator.

What makes the story interesting is that before Zorn's hiring former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel was considered the favorite for the job. But something happened in the last week that pushed Snyder away from Fassel and toward Zorn. Can you believe it's the sports bloggers?

That's what Fassel thinks. He told the Washington Post that sports bloggers cost him the Redskins job. According to Fassel, "When I got the New York Giants job I remember telling my family that, 'You know, you cannot hold the lead in these jobs in major markets.' Because you've got bloggers, and they're saying, 'No, this isn't the right guy, and that ain't the right guy,' and you can't hold the lead, because you are going to take the hit."

It sounds like Fassel has jumped into the deep end of the conspiracy theory pool, but don't be too quick to judge. When Mike Sando, then writing sports in Tacoma, criticized Seahawks special teams coach Bruce Casullo, Casullo took the time to respond on the blog. So we know NFL coaches (and probably administrators) are paying attention. More than a few sportwriters and columnists around the country are also buying in to the "blame the blog" arguments.

At present, blogging may not be as important in sports media discourse as the traditional media, but we all know that things eventually change. The recognition of the importance of blogging and bloggers is an important step forward for this emerging sports media enterprise.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Signing Daze

Football signing day has come and gone, and every year it only seems to get bigger. Last Wednesday was the first day high school seniors could sign letters of intent to play at the collegiate level, and the day has become almost another national holiday. In some ways, the interest surrounding signing day has surpassed the Super Bowl.

The reason is simple: new technologies that have made sports discussion a 365/24/7 proposition. Internet sites like and are making millions selling subscriptions to their services, which mainly focus on which high school athletes are going to what schools. Fans spend countless hours discussing and debating the latest recruiting rankings and rumors, which isn't necessarily a good thing. These kids already come to college with huge expectations and the pressue has increased dramatically. Consider what happened last week in one of the most bizarre recruiting stories ever.

But more importantly, signing day is a great example of how these new technologies are giving consumers the power to shape content and take the agenda-setting function away from the traditional media. In years gone by signing day might get a few lines in the paper. Now, newspaper and television have to make it a big deal because it's already so big on Internet sites and fan forums. The same thing is happening with all high school sports ... the Internet is forcing the traditional media to pay more attention. It's a fascinating evolution shaped by the growth of media technology.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Help needed: Sports Media and Race textbook

If anyone can help out Dr. Carvalho, please feel free to contact him ...
I teach a class in sports, media, and culture, and I am looking for a book that discusses race-related issues, whether related to sports media or sports communication. I have found books that are anthologies, but I am more looking for a single-topic book by a scholar or a team of scholars. Any ideas?

John Carvalho
Assistant Professor of Journalism
Auburn University
217 Tichenor Hall
Auburn University, AL 36849
334-844-4454 (office)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Good Knight?

One of the most polarizing and controversial figures in American sports history has apparently decided to retire. Basketball coach Bob Knight announced his resignation Monday night at Texas Tech saying that he was "tired" and didn't have the desire to coach any more. Thus ends a 40+ year career that saw Knight win 902 games, but also leave a trail of angry fans, parents and college administrators in his wake.

There's no point in going over Knight's good and bad points, but what's interesting about his leaving is almost the universal condemnation from sportwriters and broadcasters. You can read more about it from Pat Forde of ESPN, Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News, and Mike LoPresti's column in the Indianapolis Star. Instead of a pat on the back on his way out the door, Knight got spit in the eye.

If it's true you reap what you sow, then it's payback time for sportswriters all across the country. Knight hated the media, at one point calling sportwriting "two steps above prostitution," and with the exception of his few close friends in the media (such as Bob Hamel of the Bloomington Herald-Times) treated them all with contempt. Now, it's a scene reminiscent of the fall of Baghdad, except this time it's the sports media pulling down the giant statue of Knight that resides in the nation's consciousness. It reminds me of the old line about coaches getting into arguments with sportswriters: "Never argue with a guy who buys his ink by the gallon."

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super (Bowl) Ratings

Sunday's Super Bowl delivered the perfect formula for the NFL: Close game + compelling stories = monster ratings.

The Nielsen numbers are in on the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl and they are huge. With more than 97 million viewers, it's the most-watched Super Bowl ever and the second-most-watched show in TV history, trailing only the last episode of M*A*S*H*. The game also had a strong 37.6 rating in the adult demographic.

The dramatic ending, with the Giants scoring the winning touchdown with less than a minute to play, obviously helped. The lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter, which had never happened in a Super Bowl before. But don't underestimate the strong storylines, including the Patriots going for a perfect season, the Giants Eli Manning trying to carry on the family tradition, and the last minute (re)controversy over "Spygate." The game also got a boost in that most competitors went with fairly bland counterprogramming.

To be honest, I didn't think the game would pull those kinds of numbers, especially given the Super Bowl ratings for the past decade. In fact, you could describe the game as rather dull after three quarters of play. But as we've said in this forum several times over the months, the NFL has the Midas touch.