Tuesday, July 27, 2010

AEJMC Panel Reminder

As we approach the AEJMC Convention in Denver, I wanted to remind everyone about our sport interest group panel. Woody Paige of ESPN will headline the panel, titled "Ahead of the Curve: Multimedia and the Future of Sports Journalism." The panel will also include former ESPN'er Graham Watson and former NFL player and now broadcaster Reggie Rivers. If you're in the Denver area, the panel will take place August 5 at 5pm at the downtown Sheraton.

I also wanted to pass along that Sage needs authors for its upcoming Encyclopedia of Sports Management and Marketing. The final submission date is September 15, but Sage says it still has 40% of its articles unassigned. You can find more information here. If you are interesting in contributing, contact Sue Moskowitz at sports@golsonmedia.com

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hot Topics Replay

If you missed the AEJMC Hot Topics discussion today on "Sports & Social Media," you can view a replay of the chat here. It was an interesting hour of discussion featuring dozens of panelists, contributors and those interested in the sports media. I'm not sure we came to any conclusions, but at this point the important thing is to keep asking the questions.

Also wanted to pass along something from JSM board member John Carvalho of Auburn. John graciously passed along a link to this story from former NBC sports boss Don Ohlmeyer, who is an an ombudsman for ESPN. (Does everyone now work for ESPN?) It's another response to the LeBron James "Decision" that aired a couple of weeks ago. But Ohlmeyer does not take the company line and raises some interesting points about sports journalism ethics. A worthwhile read, and something that could have application in the classroom.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Online Forum: Sports & Social Media

I'm going to be out of pocket for a couple of days, so I wanted to give everyone a heads-up about an event on Thursday.

In one of its Hot Topic forums, AEJMC will host an online panel discussion called, "Sports & Social Media." There's more information on the panel here.

If you want to join in the conversation, it takes place July 22 at 12:30 pm Eastern time. Just go here and follow the prompts to the discussion.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Horn Blowing

Time for some horn-blowing and self promotion.

The third edition of Media Relations in Sport is now in print and available for fall course adoption. I worked with Phil Caskey and former Georgetown basketball coach Craig Esherick on this, and it does have some good and relevant information.

For more information, or to order an exam copy, contact the publishers, Fitness Information Technology at the University of West Virginia. One side note--the FIT staff was terrific and great to work with.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"The Boss," 1930-2010

He was suspended twice by major league baseball, parodied on Seinfeld, and often loathed by those who played and worked for him. But there is no denying George Steinbrenner's impact on baseball and in a larger sense, our entire sports culture.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died early today at the age of 80. Ill health had forced him to the sidelines in recent years, seemingly the only way to get Steinbrenner out of the limelight. He was the most visible of sports owners, and his brash personality came to define the Yankees. You can argue with the methods but not the success--in his 37 years owning the Yankees the team won 7 World Series and 11 American League pennants.

Besides winning, and his habit of constantly hiring and firing managers, "The Boss" will also be remembered as a man who understood how to use the sports media. Steinbrenner was behind the launch of the YES (Yankees Entertainment and Sports) Network in 2002; the network became the model for other teams seeking to increase their media revenue. He was also a pioneer in sports television mega-deals, negotiating a landmark $486 million, 12-year cable television contract with Madison Square Garden Network in 1988.

For all his faults, and there were certainly many, George Steinbrenner matured in his later ownership years. As a result, he will largely be remembered as the consummate modern-day sports owner--a man who used his extensive business knowledge, including in the sports media, to build an empire.

Friday, July 09, 2010

LeBron-athon followup

Just a quick followup to last night's "Decision" where LeBron James announced his intention to play for the Miami Heat in a made-for-ESPN hour-long interview program.

On the subject of heat, LeBron, ESPN and hand-picked interviewer Jim Gray are all getting plenty today. LeBron for ditching his home town for promises of an "easy" title in Miami; ESPN for hosting the cheesy affair and turning it into a bad reality show; and Gray for wasting 16 questions on LeBron before he finally asked the only one anyone cared about--where James was going to play.

Depending on your point of view, last night's show was either an exciting moment in sports television, or as TV producer Eric Stangel called it, "The exact moment our society hit rock bottom." The show certainly had important lessons for students of the sports media. In particular--

1) LeBron James and other star athletes don't think of themselves as athletes so much as brands. They use the media to cultivate, shape and grow their brand through handlers and agents. When rumors were swirling Wednesday that LeBron might choose to play in New York, stock of Madison Square Garden, which owns the Knicks, rose 6.8%, then fell 4% when it became clear James was headed to Miami. Even the location of last night's show, a Boys and Girls Club in Connecticut, was meant to accentuate LeBron's "charitable" brand.

2) Athletes are very aware of media pressure and still find the glaring spotlight uncomfortable. If James had gone to New York he would have become a mega-star and likely fulfilled one of his wishes of becoming a billionaire. But he also would have had to play day-in and day-out in the relentless and vicious New York media market which has destroyed more than its share of athletes. Many today are speculating that LeBron didn't want that kind of "heat" and figured it would be much easier to deal with the media in sunny Florida.

3) There is, or at least appears to be, a limit on how much people can take. Reaction to the whole thing--LeBron, ESPN, Jim Gray--has been almost universally negative. It seems like there is a line we don't want crossed, although it's hard to know exactly where that line is. In any case, the "LeBron-athon" apparently not only crossed the line of overexposure, it obliterated it.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

On Vacation ... with LeBron

It's amazing how things get away from you on vacation. I'm in Indiana with family and friends, and have thought very little about this blog (or work in general, for that matter). When I saw how long it had been since I posted here I felt more than a slight twinge of embarrassment.

One person who has not been out of touch is NBA star LeBron James. Tonight on ESPN, LeBron turns a simple free agent signing into the mega-reality/awards show of all time. Before a national TV audience James will announce what NBA team he will play for next season.

Among the many interesting things about this made-for-sports media event is that James and his handlers approached ESPN with the idea; not the other way around. This is truly a young man savvy in the ways of sports media and how to promote/position himself to the highest level. (But to be fair, much of the money made in the program will go to charity). How savvy? In an excellent article, Bill Simmons of ESPN notes, "You're a brand as much as an athlete. In the past 72 hours, LeBron ... created a Twitter account, launched his own website and agreed with ESPN on a selection show." (Simmons said it should be called the "LeBratchelor," with teams whittled down from 8 to 6 to four, etc.). And it's not just LeBron. Chris Bosh, who just signed to play in Miami, purportedly hired a documentary crew to follow him around to capture the supposed drama of his decision.

Simmons' point about NBA players (and all athletes, really) becoming brands is well taken and at least so far, James has used the media to his benefit. But now the danger is over exposure, especially if he signs with a team in a large media market such as New York or Chicago. If that happens, we really will find out if there can be too much of a good thing. It seems hard to believe, but James has been relatively shielded living in a small media market and near his hometown. There has been little serious criticism of him. That could all change quickly going to a place like New York.

It would be an interesting test of LJ's (so far) canny use of the sports media to his advantage.