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Sports teams are entering the news business. Good. Let them have it.

Mar 15, 2011, 1:08 PM EDT

Press

There’s an illuminating story over at the Washington Post today about how sports leagues and clubs are, ever so slowly, trying to squeeze out the traditional media when it comes to breaking news about them:

For sports journalists these days, the playing field isn’t always level. As the Iowa incident suggests, teams and leagues can break their own news, over and around the independent news media that cover them. Professional and big-time college teams aren’t just news sources now; they’re in the news business, too, with their own radio, TV and Internet operations.

Meanwhile, the Post notes, the leagues and teams are getting increasingly strict with unaffiliated media outlets in terms of how many pictures they can use, how much game footage, and how much one can tweet or blog while events are in progress.

To which I say: good. Let them monopolize the propaganda business. Because that’s what we’re really talking about here.

For the most part, the content the teams and leagues are moving is the sort of “commodity news” we’ve discussed here in the past. Things that everyone was going to get anyway and, as such, provide no real value to the reporters who pass it along nor any unique value to the readers and viewers who consume it.  That day’s lineup.  The player’s “I’m just happy to be here” press conference after joining the team. The coach’s appearance at the local YMCA.

The stuff they do that isn’t pure commodity news — team-sanctioned coach and player press availabilities and the like — are so controlled to begin with and the subjects so conditioned to say nothing interesting anyway, they’re quickly approaching the realm of the worthless too. At least, worthless beyond drumming up generalized buzz, excitement and season ticket sales which shouldn’t be the business of the sporting press.

Indeed, the faster newspapers and other unaffiliated media get out of the shallow-quote-snagging, photo-op creating and press-release distributing business the better.  And it’s actually not that hard for them to get out of it.  There’s a pretty broad swath of content in which to traffic that avoids those areas in their entirety.

Specifically, there are three main areas where the content is simultaneously interesting to the fans and valuable and unique to the media organization that disseminates it:  opinion writing, in-depth and/or investigative reporting and gossip.  There may be a couple of others — suggestions requested — but those are the areas where I think the sports media can still make money and still make a difference. These are also the areas the teams and leagues will never get into because being credible in these arenas require that actual criticism be made or negative information come to light, and teams hate that.

If you’re in the sports writing business and you’re not either (a) helping your readers put the day’s news and/or game action in some kind of intelligent context; (b) digging deep to tell them things about the personalities or the events they’re not going to get from reading the team’s website; or (c) spilling information from inside sources that the teams would prefer not get out into the open, you’re basically competing against the team’s PR department,not other journalists. And you will lose that competition, because the PR department has access to everything and everyone.

The best work out there doesn’t require official access to official events. It requires a brain and an angle for the opinion stuff. It requires some good reporting chops for the investigative/in-depth stuff. It requires Daulerioan-sized cajones for the gossip. If you have one of those things you have a niche.  If you have two of those things you’re going to be a superstar. If you have three, you’re a media empire.

  1. heyblueyoustink - Mar 15, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    Nice to see professional sports taking a page out of the Chinese government’s playbook when it comes to media and the public……

    What’s next, a ban on Yahoo in clubhouses, Chairman Mao bobbleheads, foot binding for all cheerleaders and ball girls

  2. yankeesgameday - Mar 15, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    Craig,

    That is a perfecty worded assessment of the situation. Thank you.

    Yesterday, you put up a post about Ron Gardenhire being upset reporters tweeted the news that Nick Blackburn was named the 4th starter within seconds of him telling them. The news made it all the way around to the players out on the field via the internet in seconds. And they got upset because they were competing for that spot leading Gardenhire to get ruffled at the speed with which his conversation was spread.

    I jokingly posted a comment in that thread that Gardenhire should just start his own Twitter account and/or blog so he could cut out the media entirely, which accorindg to you is actually happening.

    If you follow the media for a team, as I do for the Yankees, you can run down your news reader for the NY Times, NY Post, Daily News, LoHud Yankee Blog, River Ave. Blues, NJ.com, The Star Ledger, Newsday, and ESPN New York and you’ll see that they are all writing the exact same articles because those reporters are only allowed to speak with the players and coaches at the same time. so only have the exact same quotes to publish. And you’re right, just what purpose does the media serve if the team could issue the same statements in one press release from the manager and players about the game?

    The PR Department could come up with the top fifteen questions baseball reporters ask every day, and ask the coaches and players to answer them in front of a microphone and camera with one personal annecdote each and the news organizations can do a summary for their particular audience.

    What you do here at Hardball Talk is to give a bit of personal opinion, spin, flavor, and insight into the news events around baseball, and that is why I think you are successful. But you do not find this from writers who cover teams every day.

    My interests lie in on the field strategy and how player & manager actions affect wins and losses, so the pieces that I try to write at my Yankee blog are analysis of the events within the games themselves and how off the field coaching and front office moves affect what happens between the lines.

    I don’t have access to the players so I don’t have the same cookie cutter quotes that the mainstream media (god i hate sounding like fox news) gives us. I’m a fan who yells at the TV: slide! hit the cut off! bunt already! and why isn’t Girardi letting Gardner steal?!?! And my favorite from back in the day, ‘Why didn’t Rivera throw over to keep Dave Roberts close?!’

    So instead of yelling at my screen, I put it on the internet and hopefully do it in some fashion that is wrapped in the theories of the game with hopefully well thought out analysis behind it. (if anyone made it this far in a rambling post, you can click my screenname above for the link to my tiny site).

    And yet, in two or three years of following the media that follows the Yankees on a day to day basis, I have never once seen the team brought to task by an in depth article about a failed strategy or season long approach. All you find are the same quotes disseminated in slightly different ways across the spectrum of beat writers.

    So, ultimately, you’ve nailed it. The sports media are nothing more than mouthpieces for the highly controlled PR departments for their respective teams and until they start to give us insight into the games and why things happen, how much do we really need them?

    • yankeesgameday - Mar 15, 2011 at 2:02 PM

      ugh sorry for the tome. /rant off

    • yankeesfanlen - Mar 15, 2011 at 2:13 PM

      Your blogs pretty cool too.

      • yankeesgameday - Mar 15, 2011 at 2:33 PM

        Thanks Len! You get +1 in the awesome guy category.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 15, 2011 at 6:27 PM

      Well written; however,

      NY Post, Daily News, LoHud Yankee Blog, RiverAveBlues.com, NJ.com, The Star Ledger, Newsday, and ESPN New York

      Don’t equate the bolded one with the rest. They aren’t reporters, and they do a far better job than the others (save maybe the Star Ledger). The others are absolute trash and usually have the same stories from the AP.

  3. sportsdrenched - Mar 15, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    Right on. This is the reason I do not watch/listen to press conferences from teams or organizations. Everything is canned and I won’t get anything useful that isn’t already been reported. If anything new or interesting is said…everyone else will regurgitate it rather quickly.

    You are correct with A.B,C. I can’t/won’t get that from a team.

  4. cur68 - Mar 15, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    I agree, your role is to present an analysis of PR dept reports and to read between the lines to get at truth or alternative views on what’s been put forth. Also, the humor helps keep reader interest. This combination is a winner and I don’t care what dirtyharry1971 or chrisny3 have to say; those guys have an agenda that has nothing to do with good reporting, humor or any version of the facts that puts things in a light they don’t want them seen in. However their seems be a gap in the sports reporting on this site. Many injuries seem to be being reported exactly as the teams put them out when even from a casual read of the injury report its obvious that there is way more too it than what is being put forth. Take the ongoing saga of Utley’s knee (not to be confused with his hair of course; that is 22/7). Think how clever you’d have been if you’d seen runner’s knee as an alternative to when they first diagnosed jumper’s knee. Anyone familiar with these sorts of injuries would know how hard they are to tell apart but how different the treatment can be. Same with Podsednick’s plantar fasciitis; it’s not as simple as tears in the fascia of the sole of the foot. Anyhow, I’m probably in the minority with all this, since the common comment is ‘have the surgery’ which seems to be the answer for everything from hang nails to hernias. I see you put up a hat for this story. Made of spun candy is it?

  5. yankeesgameday - Mar 15, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    And get this: http://www.tnspsportsnet.com/new-on-tnsp-sportsnet/banned-from-using-redskins/ The Washington Redskins have banned non liscenced outlets from even using the name of their team unless you have paid the organization and entered into a contract with them. So a reporter cannot even refer to the name of the team if he is writing about them.

    Oh damn, Craig, should I have called them “the football team in Washington DC that I hate because I am a Cowboy fan” so you don’t get charged by Dan Snyder?

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