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Vol. 47, No. 1 • November 2009 • .pdf version
Those last media guides – perhaps – begin to arrive
By JOHN AKERS / Basketball Times
Six months from now, we might face tough choices.
Toss the past year's media guides and the worthless, outdated information they contain? Or allow them their favored place on your desk, knowing there will never be another to replace them?
Will we squeeze every last paragraph of pertinent information before placing them in a box with the old Radio Shack TRS-80? Do they become collector's items? Or will they just be taking up space?
As we all by now, the printed media guide is going the way of the Walkman. While there is still a chance that the elimination of printed media guides will not be legislated next season by the NCAA, that day appears to be coming. The idea became a reality when Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin announced in late may that they not only would print no media guides this season, but that they were encouraging other schools to follow suit.
"With Ohio State and Michigan together making this statement, I hope our decision will be a catalyst for other schools to follow suit,” Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said in a written statement.
Which probably eliminates Mr. Smith from any consideration for this year's Katha Quinn Award, given annually to a friend of the college-basketball media.
I sat in on a CoSIDA conference call about a week after the announcement by the three Big Ten schools. It was enlightening. A few schools were very proud of themselves – perhaps a bit too proud – for their roles in the move toward digital media guides. Others showed genuine concern about how the absence of printed guides would affect reporters' abilities to cover their teams.
Concerns over the elimination of media guides might be too little, too late, but they were raised during the CoSIDA call. How will broadcasters look up information in press-row seating too tight to allow a laptop among their other equipment? Will network researchers who need immediate information be able to find and navigate through a school's Web site with the speed of flicking through a media guide? these are all concerns raised by the SIDs.
And for what it's worth, CoSIDA executive director John Humenik acknowledged organization's role in the printed media guide's demise, for failing to step up when NCAA legislation allowed the guides to grow to the size of phone books about 20 years ago and then when coaches were allowed to turn the guides into recruiting materials. We are, in other words, losing a valuable resource through no fault of our own.
Last summer, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin were merely the most visible of about 50 Division I schools that announced they would immediately cease printing media guides. There is also a proposal by the Pacific-10 Conference to do away with printed media guides, in favor of providing guides in .pdf form. some schools would make Kinko's style printouts for the local media, and some conferences have provided thumb drives of all their schools' .pdf-version media guides at media days.
Humenik and Bloom expect the NCAA to rule on the proposals at their meeting in January.
Humenik recently said he believes that about a third of the schools side with the Pac-10 proposal, believing it is the financially and environmentally responsible stance and, as both the media and university athletic departments become younger, simply the way of a changing world.
Indeed, this seems a generational debate, with the greatest opposition coming from the oldest of dinosaurs. even those among us in that category must grudgingly concede that it will be easier to carry around a thumb drive containing several media guides than a bagful of printed guides. A word search can be faster than page-turning. Eventually, schools and conferences might be able to produce "living" media guides with updated statistics, results and records, and that would be nice.
While it is difficult to accept the cost-containment argument from the money-making BCS crowd, the savings are no doubt necessary for Division I's majority.
There is a proposal by the southeastern Conference that would allow 208-page guides to be printed but not be distributed to recruits. in theory, that would eliminate promotional material from guides and return to them to their original role as – get this – guides for the media.
Humenik believes there are two other groups of thirds that are rooting for the SEC proposal. One group supports the guides at all costs. another views them as at least a necessary transitional phase. Folks from these groups might argue that the elimination of printed media guides was never a "green" issue before the economy tanked. they might even argue that, as long as there are still arms races over facilities and coaches' salaries, the elimination of printed guides is more about spending priorities than it is actual cost-containment. already, an arms race is developing among schools' Web sites.
Even if the SEC proposal wins – and SEC author Charles Bloom concedes that he is hopeful but not as optimistic as Humenik – the long-term prognosis for printed media guides is not so good.
"If I had to put money, at this time next year, there will be no printed guides – period," Humenik said. "I think the cost-containment group will win out. I hope not. i personally would like to see them continue to be printed and that it would be a media-friendly position for the first time in a long time. maybe we'll get lucky and get the SEC rule for a year or two. But clearly, clearly, in three years at the max, we're not going to have printed guides. it just isn't going to happen."
This season, please be on the lookout for the outstanding under-30 segment of this organization. it could be that person who has already landed a job at a major news organization or who covers a major beat for a newspaper. It could be a young reporter who is finding his or her own way on a smaller newspaper or through a blog or some other creative means of expression. it could be that aggressive college writer who is scooping the veterans daily. the USBWA will recognize the best of them with our first Rising Star Award. Send nominations to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Nicole Vargas at email@example.com.
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