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Vol. 47, No. 1 • November 2009 • .pdf version
Next decade of sports writing will try – yet require – our patience
By LENOX RAWLINGS / Winston-Salem Journal
Maybe sportswriters need a fresh strategy: Complain less and reason more. in college basketball coverage, the old ways really haven't worked out.
The clear view of the court has been blocked by some tense rich guy in a hideous red coat. the clear path to the locker room has been blocked by newly empowered Barney Fifes and overly protective coaches who routinely use the terms "babysit" and "kids" while describing the basic chores of their lavishly compensated work.
The clear phone line has been replaced by fickle wireless systems that function marvelously until the tech guy goes home and deadline shows up screaming for a quick fix. This confounding corollary of technology usually generates more angst and profanity than resolved problems, and the frustration might seem absurdly over-blown if not for another techno monster.
One day soon – like, tomorrow – the simplest records check might require more patience than "babysitting that kid" at a humongous semiprofessional summer prep camp crawling with teen agents.
We're talking about the paperless record book, which may or may not be easily accessible on deadline (See: Tech guy, wireless connection, Internet browser, site map, etc. or dial 800-SID-HELP). Even if the deadline writer makes the connection seamlessly, there's the process of scrolling through a media guide that seldom fits the lap-top screen in any manageable way and eventually locating the subsection that verifies the school's 10 highest-scoring performances.
Prediction: lots of school scoring records will not make lots of deadline stories if schools eliminate familiar printed guides.
For basketball writers, who commonly cover 9 p.m. tipoffs and deal with tighter end-game deadlines, the complaints can add up in a hurry. anyone listening? some SID's listen and respond, especially when they care about information flowing smoothly and residual goodwill. Some don't, because they don't.
Either way, the SID (or the coach dictating aloof policies behind closed doors) will respond to civilized argument and logical reasoning a lot better than the SID buffeted by the verbal assaults of barely rational sportswriters.
SIDs can't decide all the media-guide issues, particularly budgets. in the absence of a formal guide, though, they could provide printed histories full of re-cords, reachable by arm rather than Web.
They can't unilaterally open all locker rooms, but they could find a middle ground, or middle room, suitable for postgame interviews with any requested player, not just the two starters the coach trusts to appear in public.
They can't guarantee perfect wireless service every time, but they could set up a couple of live wires for filing stories if all else fails. They can't prevent a marketing marvel from trying to sell press-row seats to Gucci row wannabes, but they can make an internal argument for rescuing some seats from the money-chasers.
The NCAA has resisted the campus seating trend so far, a sportswriter victory in the scrimmage to remain within eyesight and earshot of tournament games. Often accused of paranoia, NCAA tournament managers actually understand that a reporter can't look an undergraduate in the eye and tell whether someone else took his sat.
When colleges banish reporters to the mezzanine rim or obstructed-view end zones, they suck the human element right out of the story. they make basketball hard to see, hard to hear and hard to report. they create obstacles, thus achieving the opposite of effective public relations. maybe someone needs to point that out, politely.
In an imperfect media world, reporters sometimes must sit in the second row or higher up, in the end zone. This isn't anywhere near an ideal arrangement, but you get a closer look at a different class of folks.
Reporters in the second row at N.C. state became familiar with the hand-wringing stress that Wolfpack misadventures inflicted on McQueen Campbell, the real-estate developer in the red coat and chairman of the school's trustees.
Well, at least he was chairman until the state university system discovered his role in hiring the wife of the previous governor for a high-paying college job. Campbell bragged – in writing – about his political connections speeding up development permits. He flew Gov. Mike Easley to campaign stops on a private plane, now the subject of a federal grand jury.
From the end-zone press section at North Carolina, reporters glanced across the tunnel entrance and followed the sporting proclivities of presidential candidate John Edwards. He lost, and other proclivities made headlines, but Edwards still showed up for the 2009 title run in blue jeans – with his wife and kids (and perhaps, once or twice, a babysitter).
If they had a paperless record book for such things, you could look it up.
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