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Vol. 48, No. 5 • August 2011 • .pdf version
USBWA, CoSIDA can help each other in confusing times
By LENOX RAWLINGS / Winston-Salem Journal
These are fragmented times.
The blowup started before the recession, but the recession didn't help. The shards started flying before the financial meltdown, but the meltdown didn't help. The media splintering started before newspapers offered their product free of charge, but supplying a cheaper-than-cheap alternative online didn't help.
Basketball reporters – print, web, TV, radio, grandma's basement – often work amid the rubble and rubbish of an unglued age. The chaos cuts several ways, which became obvious during a recent seminar at the CoSIDA convention in Florida. Gathered beside the Gulf of Mexico, the sports information directors described a gap that could widen into a chasm during this transition.
No. 1: SIDs from different campuses cited the difficulty in deciding which reporters, bloggers and talkers qualify for seats at games and access to participants. Through their lenses, the definition of “accredited reporter” seems murkier every winter.
No. 2: The media relations director for a major conference said that he would like to develop relationships with reporters and share information in source conversations based on trust. While surveying the new landscape, however, he finds it harder and harder to identify reporters with predictable value systems that he can engage in the classic model.
These examples reflect the complexity of basic basketball reporting today, especially on campuses where coaches or others favor controlling athletes and reporters by limiting exposure.
The examples also underscore the value of having an established vehicle for dealing with access issues, which is where the U.S. Basketball Writers Association enters the conversation.
The 900-member USBWA isn't just for newspaper writers. Membership is open to broadcasters, student journalists, SIDs, photographers, retirees and even editors (the ultimate sign of inclusive reflexes).
Someone needs to mediate disputes over access and advocate equal treatment. Someone needs to reiterate the intrinsic value of beautifully detailed reporting, which requires proximity to the action and the athletes without the unnecessary impediments of obstructed views and deflected questions. Without decent seats within earshot of reality and freewheeling locker-room interviews, college basketball runs the risk of deleting the sport's essence from the public record.
Live free or die?
The USBWA can't offer such stark options, despite the enlarged fatalism byte in the sportswriter DNA. The USBWA can offer a moderately reasonable mechanism for protecting access to college basketball at a reasonably moderate price.
There are many other reasons to join the organization or renew memberships now.
For student journalists, the $25 annual dues provide immediate contact with the media network, an extensive membership directory that also includes Division I colleges (with phone numbers and email addresses), voting rights for the USBWA's numerous awards, a Hertz discount card and free subscriptions to Basketball Times and Rivals.com.
Deadline warning: The invaluable published directory is guaranteed only to those who pay dues by Oct. 1.
Dues for regular members are $50 and for retirees, $20. The website – usbwa.com – has an online application form, more details about other benefits (such as writing contests with cash awards) and archived articles from the Tipoff newsletter. The printed Tipoff comes through the mail as a supplement to Basketball Times.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the USBWA's immediate past president, emphasized an organizational youth movement with a compassionate component. No experienced folks get kicked out, but all vets should solicit more reporters beginning to form their careers at campus newspapers and radio stations or just settling into their professional careers.
Previous presidents Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News and Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review- Journal worked quite hard to increase membership. They succeeded in building momentum that the USBWA should sustain, with an immediate goal of 1,000 members.
A larger membership creates a stronger voice and guarantees the solvency of programs such as the Larry Donald Scholarship for aspiring sports journalists. Freshman Sean Lester of Texas A&M, a participant in the USBWA seminar at the Houston Final Four, won the $1,000 scholarship.
That's the right kind of thing for the USBWA to do, with eyes on the future rather than the convulsive recent past.
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