Thursday, June 09, 2011

Investigative Sports Journalism and Local Media

In a previous post we talked about the role of the media in bringing down Jim Tressell (and now Terrelle Pryor) at Ohio State. Without the good, solid investigative journalism at places like Sports Illustrated, that entire situation might have gone under the radar.

Some interesting comments related to investigative sports journalism appeared in a chat in yesterday's Austin American-Statesman. Columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden made the point that because of a bad economy for newspapers, and corresponding cutbacks in staffing and coverage, such investigative work is much harder to do on the local level. Their comments are below:

Q: Do local journalists have a responsibility to expose NCAA violations? Do you have a responsibility to expose violations by (Texas Longhorns) players & coaches, even though you’d become persona non grata in Bellmont for the rest of your careers?

Kirk Bohls: I'd like to think that all journalists feel it's their responsibility to unearth violations or abuses of any kind. Newspapers have severely cut their staffs across the country, which has made it harder to do long investigations. Hard enough to cover all our beats.

Cedric Golden: We're already persona non grata. We have an obligation to expose corruption and report wrongdoing by whomever. Investigative journalism is a great tool, but newsrooms are much smaller these days, which makes the pieces much more difficult to pursue. Some of the best pieces take weeks, months, years to complete. The staffs aren't as equipped compared to past decades.

Kirk Bohls: Newspapers are declining because young readers--too many of them--just want entertainment, and consequently have lost tons of manpower and have smaller staffs. Investigations take a huge time and manpower commitment. People don't understand how important a role newspapers play in checking abuses of all kinds.

And that's a very important point. We seem very willing to turn over sports coverage to bloggers, fans and citizen journalists, but are any of them willing to go beyond boosterism and do the hard work of sports investigation? Do they have the time, resources and courage to do what the Lexington Herald Leader did in exposing corruption at the University of Kentucky basketball program in the mid-1980s (which won a Pulitzer Prize) or what Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams did with the BALCO investigation?

To be sure, many local sports journalists find it easier and more comfortable to play the role of booster and ignore local problems. (The old mantra--"hey, we have to live in this community, too"--is still alive and well). But as long as journalists are willing to take the time and effort to look under the rocks of big-time sports -- and as long as local newspapers are willing to commit to the effort -- we're all better off.


Blogger rloup said...

12:08 PM  

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