Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Day before All Saints Day

A couple of things to clean out of my box before the weekend ...

The University of Tennessee has an opening for an Assistant/Associate Professor in its Sports Management program starting August 2009. You can get more details about qualifications and deadlines on the university website. Contact Dr. Rob Hardin (PH: 865-974-1281; E-mail: for more information.

The Sports Division of BEA is ready to enact formal by-laws, which need to be ratified by division members and presented to the BEA Board of Directors for approval. If you are interested in helping with this process you can follow this link to the BEA Sports survey site.

A follow-up on the Danyelle Sargent post from the other day--it appears FOX is now considering reassigning her after the disastrous sideline interview with Mike Singletary.

Finally, don't forget to set you clocks back one hour on Saturday night as Daylight Savings Time ends. An extra hour of sleep ... and college football!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Should Reporters be Sidelined?

Having already blogged a bit about the continuing uselessness of sideline sports reporting, I thought that would be enough on the subject. But that was before I saw maybe the most brutal instance of sideline reporting ... ever.

Luckily for Danyelle Sargent, now of FOX and formerly of ESPN, this moment (update: it appears YouTube has removed the video clip for copyright reasons; FOX was extremely upset that other outlets got hold of the unaired footage and distributed it across the Internet) from last Sunday was taped and not live, so producers had a chance to kill it before it ever went on the air. (By way of explanation, Sargent asked new 49ers coach Mike Singletary whether his mentor Bill Walsh called to congratulate him on getting the job. Walsh died in 2007 and was never a coach or mentor to Singletary). For her part, Sargent has been appropriately apologetic and genuinely upset over what happened. And much of the media has also been sympathetic, generally sticking to the 'it-could-happen-to-anyone' line.

Sorry, but I don't agree. Sargent had a similarly embarrassing moment while working for ESPN, so this is nothing new. (Whether it had anything to do her leaving ESPN for a less visible role with FOX remains unknown). More importantly, Sargent's history indicates a disturbing lack of professionalism. As a sideline reporter she is supposed to work on behalf of the audience; to be their eyes and ears on the sideline. Yet, she didn't even know she misspoke until a producer told her through her earpiece.

It would be easy to turn this into another "get women off the sidelines" issue, but that's not the point. If we have to suffer through sideline reporters they had better be professional and know what they are doing.

A total embarrassment to sideline reporting, which is saying a lot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Would Fox bail on MLB?

Continuing on Brad's theme of ratings problems for FOX and the World Series, I stumbled across this innocuous little post on The Big Lead regarding what Colin Cowherd said on ESPN. Here's the quote:

“Baseball fans better pray the Rays win tonight, or FOX could bail on them. [Network TV channels] and NBC all bailed on baseball. Too expensive. You might see the World Series on TBS. Great sport, poorly run. Can you imagine the AFC Championship ending at 1:45 in the morning? If you don’t think it [Ed. ratings?] matters, go ask hockey.”
While I don't particularly like Cowherd, he raises an interesting point regarding baseball and network television. Costs are up, ratings are down, advertisers are flat. Is FOX better served focusing on the NFL and the BCS?

Keep in mind, MLB starts its own network on Jan. 1, 2009. I suppose it is possible at some point down the line we could see baseball only on cable. Do we need to prepare another chapter for the excellent book featured on the right?
Photo from the University of Nebraska press website.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ratings (cont.)

The World Series could end quickly now that the Phillies own a 3-1 lead over Tampa. Bad news for baseball and especially FOX, which had a rough weekend. On Saturday, a rain delay pushed the start of Game 3 to 10pm Eastern time, which meant the game (although exciting) didn't end until almost 2 in the morning. Baseball executives had a tough decision waiting out the 2-hour rain delay: postpone or try to get the game in, even if it goes on late. While most felt the decision was a bad one, John Harper of the New York Daily News had more appreciation for the tough spot commissioner Bud Selig found himself in. Then on Sunday, the first blowout in the series further depressed ratings numbers.

Nothing new or shocking here. FOX desperately needs the series to get back to Tampa, but that now seems unlikely. As much as people say they hate the Yankees, Dodgers and/or Red Sox, baseball needs them in the series to get people to tune in.

And hey, here's an idea ... how about World Series games during the DAY time?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Finding its Niche

Steve Dittmore blogged here yesterday about the opening of the World Series on FOX Wednesday night and the opening featuring Barack Obama and John McCain. But if McCain or Obama do for our country what they did for television ratings, we're in a heap o' trouble.

There has been a definite trend among recent World Series'--the 2006 WS had the worst television ratings of all time, followed closely by the 2007 WS and the 2002 WS. And at this rate, the current Series is headed to another ratings disaster. There are all kinds of reasons people aren't watching: smaller market teams, short series, games that end after midnight, etc.

FOX is the (un)lucky network stuck with putting the games in prime time and paying millions for the privilege of having hardly anyone watch. FOX executives will tell you that everything will be fine if the series goes 6 or 7 games, but that's hardly reassuring to a network spending $2 billion to televise baseball and has the WS rights until 2013. (Just ask CBS about spending megabucks for baseball rights).

The trend has a couple of important ramifications. Primarily, it may eventually force the Series to niche status on a cable network. Baseball hasn't been the "National Pastime" for decades and the World Series is anything but "must see TV." Some divisional playoff games have already appeared on TBS, and the lower numbers combined with an embarrassing power outage incident suggest the game is not quite ready for prime time anymore. Sad to say, but baseball appears headed for a place somewhere between the Do It Yourself Network and Lifetime.

Secondly, if people aren't going to watch the games then FOX has to recoup its investment in other ways, like product placement. The cheesy (pardon the pun) giveaway by Taco Bell (free tacos for America!) during the game prompted CNBC reporter Darren Rovell (as quoted by the Boston Globe) to complain that "a World Series game broke out in the middle of a Taco Bell commercial." The estimated value of the free advertising for Taco Bell? Around $8 million over two games.

A true Catch-22 here. Fewer viewers means more product placement, but the likelihood of getting more viewers is slim because people don't want to watch a game and be bombarded by constant commercial placements. End result? The people who really want to watch, the true baseball fans, are the ones who have to suffer. Here's hoping they find a dedicated cable channel (like the soon-to-be-launched MLB Network) that will give them the game the way they really want it.

Fox's Opening to World Series

I thought the opening to last night's World Series on Fox was pretty good. I'm not sold on the mix of politics with sports (Sens. Obama and McCain alternated reading historical quotes about baseball's significance), but I thought it was well done. Some of the "morning after" comments in the blogosphere got me thinking.

Neil Best of Newsday notes the Series is a between two "swing states"; Awful Announcing got goosebumps.

What struck me was the intentional (or unintentional) attempt by Fox to equate today's economic/political situation in the United States to some of the most significant points in our nation's history - the Civil War, the Depression, Pearl Harbor, MLK's march on Washington, and 9-11.

Will we look back on the current situation 20 years from now and rank it along with the ones Fox did? Given the real or perceived political orientation of Fox News, was Fox Sports (or more correctly, News Corp.) setting an agenda with this?

What does anyone else think about this confluence of sport, politics and media?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Odds and Ends

Some mid-week information that you might find interesting ...

*Andy Billings at Clemson says there's nothing new on the move to create a sport division within NCA. According to Andy, "They will not consider any new divisions in San Diego next month and are still exploring the impact of new divisions (and criteria for old ones). Chicago in 2009…at the earliest."

*Andy and the staff at Clemson did a great job hosting the 2nd Sport Communication Summit last year. Several people have inquired about 2009, but the Summit happens every two years (at least for the time being). The next one will be in 2010 in Cleveland. More info will be posted about that in the weeks to come from the organizers at Kent State and Youngstown State.

*And congratulations to Bradley University, which has approved a new program in sports communication. Dept. of Communication Chair Paul Guillifor has been instrumental in moving the program through the faculty senate; the new program will begin in fall 2009.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Hitler Effect

In today's environment you can say and do a lot of dumb, embarrassing things in the sports media, but one thing you apparently cannot do is reference Adolf Hitler; at least, not on ESPN. This summer, ESPN's Jemele Hill was suspended from her duties for a rather innocuous Hitler comment. More recently, ESPN college football broadcaster Lou Holtz made a Hitler reference regarding Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. Holtz was forced to apologize, but was not suspended. (Interestingly, the popular cartoon show Family Guy has done several shows featuring Hitler, but is even now starting to draw some criticism).

Two points here: one, there seems to be a double standard at ESPN concerning Hitler-related offenses. Why did Holtz get the slapped wrist while Hill got a public flogging?

Second, even in a politically correct world some of these knee-jerk reactions have gotten way out of hand. Sure, it's probably dumb to compare anyone or any group to Hitler, but the sports media and the people who occasionally appear on them have often said dumb things. Exactly when did saying something offensive or stupid put your career or your paycheck in jeopardy? Are we that thin-skinned?

We live in a media world where anyone can say or write anything about anyone at any time and have an instant audience of millions of people. It only stands to reason that someone, somewhere is going to be offended at something. I only wish that someone would give us the rulebook on what's offensive and what's not. Hitler is apparently offensive, but what about Kim Jong Il? Pol Pot? "Big Daddy" Idi Amin?

When ESPN suspended Hill, company spokesman Paul Melvin explained that "Jemele has been relieved of her writing and on-air responsibilities for a period of time to reflect on the impact of her words." Perhaps ESPN should take some time to reflect on the impact of the words of John Stuart Mill, written in his treatise On Liberty: "If the opinion is right, [censors] are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Request for help: East coast media bias

Just got this email from a student at King's College who is doing some sports research. If you can help out Matt contact him directly at his email address.
My name is Matt Van Stone and I'm a senior at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I am currently working on my senior thesis paper on whether or not there is an east coast bias in the sports media. I am conducting a two-month study of and USA Today front page stories but I have run into a bit of a wall with my research. Unfortunately, King's does not subscribe to any journals that are relevant to my study and I am in dire need to find previous research on this topic. I was wondering if there was any research done about this topic in your journal and, if so, would you be able to pass it along to me. I understand if you cannot without a subscription and that is fine, I am just exhausting all my options.
Thanks so much,
Matt Van Stone

Sports Comm Instructor Opening

The following comes from Don Rybacki at Northern Michigan regarding a sports comm position there.


If you've got someone who might be interested in this opportunity, or you are interested yourself, note that responses should not come to me but to the department head.

Dr. Donald Rybacki
Communication and Performance Studies
Northern Michigan University
Marquette, MI 49855

Public Relations/Communication Studies

Instructor, 3 year term appointment

Northern Michigan University anticipates hiring an Instructor to teach introductory course in public relations/entertainment and sports promotion (e.g. principles, research, message design) and communication studies (e.g. public speaking, interpersonal communication, small group
process). Ability to teach other courses in public relations/communication studies (e.g. case studies, argumentation) is desirable. Other responsibilities include advising majors, and the
successful candidate will have the opportunity to work with our very active chapter of PRSSA.

Appointment at the Instructor level requires an MA in Public Relations, Speech, Communication or a related field. Teaching experience is desirable. This position offers a competitive salary and excellent fringe benefits.

For further information or to apply, send letter of application, resume, and contact information for at least three references to: Dr. James Cantrill, Head, Department of Communication and Performance Studies (CAPS), Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue,
Marquette, MI 49855. Review of applicants will commence November 24, 2008 and the search will continue until the position is filled. NMU is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and is strongly committed to increasing the diversity of its faculty.

NMU is located in an environment unrivaled by any other, on the south shore of Lake Superior
in Marquette, Michigan, a town with breathtaking vistas and over 20,000 residents. Public relations/communication studies is a sub-area within the CAPS Department with six full-time faculty. The department also includes curricula in broadcasting and theatre.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jacked up with LiveCast

The latest evolution for sports media consumption seems only natural--letting the audience member personalize the viewing experience.

Sports Video Insider reports on a collaboration between the Big 10 Network and Jacked Inc. Jacked's technology allows viewers to "create their own online companion to complement a TV broadcast, synchronizing personalized online content with the live TV programming to define their own fan experience." (The New York Giants also began working with Jacked this season).

Once the game starts, fans build a 'dashboard' of their preferences, dropping and dragging choices from a menu that includes scoreboards, play-by-play, player profiles, news and photos, just to name a few. There's also the choice to incorporate video from YouTube as well as team-related products from Amazon.

This is a logical step in a media environment with hundreds of sports channels and fragmented viewing audiences. Apparently, it's also a successful one. Big 10 fans have spent an average of 40 minutes on the LiveCast platform--an incredible figure in an Internet world where the average time per page view is around :48 seconds. So look for more development in this growing area. In fact, according to Jacked, there are experiments underway to enable live streaming video and announcer interaction. ("Hey, Thom Brennaman ... why did Wisconsin go for it there on 4th and 3?").

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Little Horn Tooting ...

... to announce the publication of the latest issue of the Journal of Sports Media. As previously noted, JSM now publishes biannually, with issues out in the spring and fall.

If you are interested in subscription information you can contact the publisher, University of Nebraska Press. Parts of the latest issue (and all of previous issues) are also available online through Project Muse.

Lots of good stuff in this issue, including an essay from Marie Hardin at the Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. Marie and Thomas Horrigan look at the growth of high school sports and the its implication for sports media.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Omnipresent media, Part II

Former Cowboys running back (and noted dancer) Emmitt Smith has taken a lot of flak for his work as a television commentator. Smith's poor grammar, malaprops and a general unease in front of the camera have made O.J. Simpson's days as a broadcaster look like the golden age of television.

But Smith's latest flap comes over a short snippet currently making the rounds on YouTube. Smith was caught unaware coming back from a commercial break on Monday Night Football. He appears to be mouthing the words to Young Jeezy's "Still Owe Me Sex."

This isn't a major meltdown, but it adds to the growing list of commentators who keep getting caught unaware on national television. I've been out of television quite awhile now, but I do know one of the cardinal rules is: if you've got a microphone on, don't say anything you wouldn't want someone to hear.

Hard to believe that in this day and age of omnipresent media so many people could forget that.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The New Sports Journalism?

In case you've been asleep for the past week, we hosted the first presidential debate here at Ole Miss. (Our motto: "The Debate Starts Here ... We Hope"). Since the hundreds of visiting journalists couldn't interview the people they really wanted to (namely, Obama and McCain) they turned to what has become a disturbing trend in journalism--interviewing each other. This is what passes for political journalism these days: you interview another journalist and get his/her opinion on what's going on. (The entire cable news system seems based on this premise, including Bill O'Reilly, Hannity and Colmes, etc.).

I make this comment because I see the same things going on in sports journalism. Reporters are now quoting other reporters, who got their information from other reporters, ad nausea. I read an article in today's New York Daily News written by John Harper. The article was clearly speculative--what Harper would do if he were the Mets general manager, which would include possibly dealing team stars Jose Reyes or David Wright.

A few minutes later I was over on the Sports Illustrated site when this headline caught my attention: "Mets Open to Trading Wright, Reyes?" The story was under the "Truth and Rumors" section, but it clearly suggested that the Mets were considering trading either or both players. (Interestingly, other New York papers, including the Post, wrote that trading either player would be a huge mistake).

The point here is that if you read just the SI story you would get the idea that the Mets were seriously considering a trade, when in fact, the entire story was based on pure speculation and may be completely groundless. As a columnist, it's Harper's job to speculate. The problem is that by picking up the story (and linking to it), SI gives it credibility. And that only adds more fuel to the growing fire surrounding the credibility of Internet journalism, where the credo seems to be, "If you throw enough dung against the wall, some of it will stick." (And if Reyes or Wright do ended up getting traded, defenders of this kind of journalism will invariably say, "See ... we were right!").

I suppose this kind of journalism in inevitable given the increased demand for content across growing numbers of media platforms. But I'm old fashioned enough to believe that journalists only report the news, they shouldn't and don't make it. Harper's readers clearly understand that his writing is opinion (and many were more than disturbed at his suggestions); passing it through cyberspace makes it more difficult to figure that out.