Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Home Cookin'

With Cleveland's overtime loss to Orlando last night it doesn't look so good for a Kobe-LeBron matchup in the NBA Finals (LeBron's Cavs are down 3-1, while Kobe's Lakers are fighting for their lives against Denver). The NBA higher-ups desperately want the Cavs and Lakers in the finals to give the series some star power (and much needed ratings). An Orlando-Denver series would provide some good basketball, but offers little in the way of interesting television.

A lot of people are still talking about the Cavs' one win in the series--a last-second bomb by LeBron James at the buzzer. The game is interesting from a journalism standpoint, because the game winning shot took place while one of the local Cleveland television newscasts was still on the air. Check out the reaction from the Cleveland sportscaster, who caught the end of the game from the news set.

There seem to be two ways to look at this. Old schoolers would tell you to absolutely play it straight and not be a local booster. Most leagues and teams have a rule that forbids cheering in the press box by sports journalists covering the game. The rule is announced and on some occasions violaters have actually been asked to leave. (The late baseball writer Jerome Holtzman, who invented baseball's save rule, titled one of his books No Cheering in the Press Box). The idea is that sports journalism should be objective and obviously boosterism isn't objective. How can you report honestly on a team or a player if you're openly rooting for them?

Younger sports journalists, especially those on television, seem to be a lot less committed to objectivity. To them, sports journalism is really about entertainment, and it's more entertaining to get excited and jump up and down than to be objective. People tune in to see excitement, they argue, so why shouldn't we give it to them?

My personal perspective is that it's impossible to be totally objective about sports. (Tune into any game and see how long it takes before you've picked a favorite). Just like any journalist, sports journalists bring their own established values, ideas and biases into their stories. However, good journalists do their best to recognize these prejudices and keep them out of their coverage. There are a lot of sports media types who have given up any pretense of objectivity and enjoyed successful careers as "homers" (Haray Caray comes to mind). But once you cross the line from objectivity to boosterism it's very difficult to go back. You also lose the one thing all sports journalists work a lifetime to achieve--credibility.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

AEJMC Update

To update our previous post, it looks like there is enough interest to create a sports interest group within AEJMC. Here's the latest from Marie Hardin at Penn State, who is spearheading the efforts. If you want to contact her before the AEJMC convention, or don't plan on going to Boston, she can be reached at

The plan
I'll draft the initial application and petition with the help of a CSJ grad student. Part of the application will involve mining past AEJMC programs to document the number of sports-related papers that have had to be funneled through other IGs and divisions. We'll also look at the mission statements of the other IGs/divisions and use updated research on the number of schools and programs that offer sports-comm programs.

I'll have the document at AEJMC for your feedback. I'll need your signatures on the petition. Both the petition and document will go to the board in October, after we perfect them. If you won't be at AEJ and want to sign the petition, I'll scan it and send it out after Boston so you can add your name.

I'm also glad to coordinate an informal get-together in Boston -- it'll be hard to find a time, but we could shoot for an evening gathering Thursday night around 9:30 p.m.

If you have any questions, let me know. See you in August (I'll be the one with pen and petition in hand!)

-- Mh

Friday, May 15, 2009

AEJMC Interest Group

Sorry it's been so long since the last post here, but it has been a busy week or so. Graduation was last weekend, and intersession started this week. Add that to our ongoing dean search, and I haven't had much time to tend to this blog.

However, I did get an important e-mail that I wanted to pass along. Marie Hardin of Penn State is organizing an effort to start a sports interest group in AEJMC. It's a worthwhile effort and one that I support fully. I know that several other sports scholars have also indicated their support. If you are interested in this effort, Marie's email and contact information are listed below; I know she would appreciate hearing from you.
I've had conversations with some of you over the past several years about starting a sports-focused interest group in AEJMC. I think this might be a good year to move forward with such an initiative if there is sufficient interest. I have spoken with two key people in AEJMC: Kim Bissell, COD chair, and Jennifer McGill, executive director.

To be considered, we need to submit a petition with at least 25 names on it. We also need to present our rationale. These documents will go to the AEJMC board by Nov. 1; the board makes a decision in December, and, if successful, we move from there.

If you're interested, I'm willing to do the leg work. I could get the basic document constructed this summer, and I'd get your feedback on it at the convention. I'd need you to sign the petition and to recruit others to do so.

Please let me know whether you're interested in being involved in such an effort (and in the IG, when it's formed). If there's no interest, it's not worth going forward.

Marie Hardin

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cinco de Mayo musings

Buenos dias (o tardes o noches) y feliz cinco de Mayo.

Back in the English-speaking world for a moment ... as some of you know I do research in several areas outside sports, including broadcast management. I sent a management paper to a journal that refused to even look at it because in the editor's estimation it had practical rather than theoretical implications. (The paper's results and conclusions were theoretically based and derived).

This relates somewhat to the post of last week that included Mark Taylor's op-ed piece in the New York Times. To me, the obsession we have in academia with theoretical value has become almost counter-productive. Yes, theory-driven research is important and I'm not suggesting otherwise. However, shouldn't the main focus of research be on practical results that actually help people? Can you imagine medical research focusing only on theoretical knowledge rather than creating medicines that cure diseases?

I hope this does not come across as a rant by someone who has had a manuscript rejected (which has happened more times that I'd like to admit). I don't have a problem with someone saying the research needs work. I do take issue with someone rejecting potentially valuable or interesting research simply because it doesn't fit a pre-conceived notion of what research should look like.

Enough ranting. ¬°pasarlo bien en cinco de Mayo!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Happy May Day

Happy May Day, which depending on your point of view is a) an outdated secular celebration with pagan roots b) a celebration of worker solidarity with Communist overtones or c) totally irrelevant. But in any event, we do have some things to pass along on this first day of May:

There is a call for papers for the Sport and Religion Forum to be held November 7-10 in Montreal. The topic is Religion and Spirituality in Sports Films. Proposals are due by May 20; for more information contact Eric Bain-Selbo at Western Kentucky--

Sage has just come out with a new book edited by Heather Hundley and Andy Billings. Examining Identity in Sports Media has chapters from JSM contributors Marie Hardin, Lawrence Wenner, Kim Bissell, along with several notable sports media scholars.

And finally, the University of Ottawa and the Research Centre for Sport in Canadian Society are sponsoring a student essay competition. Awards (and $400!) will be given for the best 20-30 page essays that best focus on an issue important to sport in Canadian society. For more information, visit the website or contact research coordinator Marcel Fallu at