Question about the Changing Landscape of Sports Journalism

By Wes Williams

Disruptive innovation is a term used by economists to describe how an existing market is disrupted by a new market.

Think about Kodak. One day it was an invincible company since it was the standard of film.  Quickly the film market was disrupted by digital cameras leading to Kodak filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2012.

Cable sports channels like ESPN are becoming victims of disruptive innovation due to chord cutters dropping their $200 cable bills for on demand web platforms and bunny ears. ESPN-Red-Logo-large

Hundreds of extremely talented sports journalists at ESPN were laid off this week because viewership is down on television leading to lower than expected profits.

ESPN once feasted on television profits for years as cable companies bundled ESPN into packages. Many consumers had to pay for ESPN in order to watch the channels they wanted, even if they never watched ESPN.  With chord cutters dropping their cable subscriptions for on demand platforms like Netflix and free live TV through bunny ears, ESPN is making less money from cable companies.

Less money equals cost cutting measures like laying off talented sports journalists.

Questions about Current Sports Journalists

So what happens to the sports journalists laid off by ESPN? Do they go to local news?  Do they sign on with a team as a reporter or a play by play announcer? Do they sign at Fox Sports or NBC Sports? Do they try to make it with a blog or podcast? Do they go into a separate industry?

According to the public memo posted online, “Dynamic change demands an increased focus on versatility and value, and as a result, we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent—anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play—necessary to meet those demands.”

Versatility in sports journalism means talent must be able to appear on television, write articles for the website, utilize social media, announce live sporting events, and share opinions on radio.

Will these laid off journalists develop new skills at a different media outlet to make themselves more versatile and valuable?

Questions about potential Sports Journalists

Up until recently, potential sports journalists were evaluated on the quality of their resume tape or examples of newspaper clippings.  Going forward, potential sports journalists will probably be evaluated by their number of Twitter followers, play by play abilities, examples of radio work, web capabilities, and more on top of their traditional resume tape or newspaper clippings.

Imagine two students from a top journalism school entering the workforce after they graduate in a few weeks.

Student one excelled at the school newspaper for four years eventually rising to sports editor. This student does not do much social media because they are focused on putting out the top college newspaper nationwide. This person sends in three examples of quality newspaper work.

Student two wrote a few above average blog posts, has 500 followers on Twitter account, and once anchored a newscast for a class. This person sends in links to all of his content via his own website, which has had 2000 hits in the past few years.

Which student would a local news outlet hire? While the first seems to have the potential to be a high quality investigative journalist for a media outlet, student two might seem to be more versatile.

What is more valuable, numbers of social media followers or quality traditional journalism?

Does a sports journalist need to work for multiple companies or businesses in order to make a salary that supports a spouse and two kids?

For example, should an aspiring sports journalist work for a radio station in the morning doing a two hour show and then do play by play for a local team at night?

Does a sports journalist need to do marketing or sales for their media outlet during the day on top of their main on air position to add value to the company in the eyes of their bosses?

Content Questions

With fewer sports journalists on their payroll, it will most likely be harder for ESPN to cover sports with smaller ratings like baseball and hockey. Live events will most likely be relegated to NBA basketball, NFL football, and college football.

ESPN radio hosts will discuss these sports at length. In studio television shows will most likely have opinionated personalities break down games.

ESPN has already outsourced their nightly baseball shows to the MLB Network except on Sundays preceding the nationally televised Sunday Night Baseball game, which will now probably only feature games involving big market teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs.

Will a fan of a small market team even be able to watch their local team play nightly if a regional sports network cuts back on how many games they cover?

If a fan wants news on their local baseball or hockey team, where will that person turn?

Will the person turn to team reporters on the team’s website, who might be biased since they are on the team’s payroll?

Will Fox Sports or NBC Sports fill in the gaps for fans of baseball, hockey, and college sports? FloSoftball-logo

Will other web companies like FloSports enter the market by charging a fee to watch content from sports cut by ESPN?

Bottom Line

Sports journalism changed this week leaving lots of questions for sports journalists and fans. It will be fascinating how all of this shakes out.


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Power Eliminated in Semifinals

In an offensive battle, the New York Colonials eliminated the top seed Palm Springs Power today nine to six.

The Colonials jumped out to a five nothing lead in the bottom of the first. Kalani Brackenridge singled in two runs in the inning and finished with three RBIs.cwl-logo-black-text-thumbnail

The Power erased the lead in the next two innings with one in the first and four in the second. Nicholas Buckner led off the second with a mammoth solo shot to center.

Pitching took over the next few innings as the teams were tied at six going into the final inning. Martin Windisch threw six innings for the Power only allowing one earned run.

Errors in the top of the sixth by the Power allowed three Colonials to score.

Kyano Cummings shut down the Power 1-2-3 in the seventh as the Colonials won nine to six.

The Colonials will move onto play the Palm Springs Chill in the California Winter League finals at noon on Sunday.


National Bobblehead Day Should be Moved

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When the Dodgers promotional schedule comes out in the winter, I always circle bobblehead nights as games I must attend. Bobbleheads are awesome for man caves or offices. When people walk into my office, the most common thing they do is touch the #bobbleheads on my desk and watch the head nod up and down.
Celebrating these awesome toys is a great idea, but the organizers screwed up by making National Bobblehead Day in January. Bobbleheads are associated with baseball and baseball season starts in spring. The celebration should occur in April in association with the start of the baseball season. Baseball Antiques Bobbleheads Figures Vintage
I understand that not all bobbleheads are baseball related. I have Los Angeles Kings and Lakers bobbleheads along with my dozens of Dodgers bobbleheads. But I think the general public associates bobbleheads with baseball more than any other sport or activity.
Every team MLB team celebrates opening day, but why couldn’t the second or third day of the season be NationalBobbleheadDay?

Fake News is Disturbing

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Apologies for the rant, but as a person who studied journalism at the prestigious Ernie Pyle School of Journalism at Indiana University, I am disturbed by the rash of fake news posted online and the number of people who believe the stories.

That being said, I’m surprised it has taken this long for people to start publishing such outrageous stories in bulk to influence people because of the fake publisher’s bias.

Anybody who has a computer can publish via blogs, websites, podcasts, social media sites, amongst other avenues without any oversight to make sure they are reporting facts.land_on_the_moon_7_21_1969-repair

These people are not journalists, yet they are lumped into that category by an unknowing public who has trouble deciphering what is true.

Not too long ago, a person needed to work at a newspaper, magazine, radio station, or television to publish content.  Reporters made sure they stuck to the facts partly out of fear of getting fired but mostly out of duty as a professional to tell the truth to the readers/viewers so they can form their own opinion.

A second set of eyes in the form of an editor or producer checked the story a second time to make sure the stories were factual and reported with the best interest of the public in mind.

Investigative journalism is still vital to our country.  It holds politicians and other public figures accountable by informing, via facts and not opinions, the public of their actions. Viewers can then decide for themselves if they are going to continue to support a public person or issue based on the facts.

For instance, let’s say an athlete is taking money to throw games.  Without journalists investigating the claims, how would the public know if they are paying to attend a sporting event where the outcome is already decided?

Now imagine a person who loves the player with a podcast influences fans into thinking the information is part of a conspiracy perpetrated by other teams to hurt this player’s reputation without any regards to facts or by inventing fake facts.

Would the average person be able to tell who is telling the truth?

Let’s say a group of politicians are receiving kickbacks to approve a project that affects citizens and the environment.  Without journalists, how would the public know their apartment complex is being torn down and a vital species in the food chain is now going to be extinct?

Meanwhile, what happens if a blogger publishes fake facts that influences the public to allow this project to go forward because the blogger has a bias towards the political party of those politicians?

Could the average person decipher which person is telling the truth?

It is vital for the public to look at the source of information in stories that are going viral and call out fake journalists for trying to influence an outcome based on their bias.

Before posting an article or video from the internet, think about the source. Look at the facts to see if they are substantiated in a reputable manner.

Please let friends and family know the difference between a talking head like Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow and a quality news source like NPR, the BBC, or the New York Times.

If you care about good investigative journalism, please support a reputable outlet that is not influenced by bias.

Rant over.

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Old Cam Cameron Package


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LSU Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron is widely known as an offensive genius and a good man loved by his players.

He has had lots of success in college and pro football as an offensive coordinator.

Unfortunately, he has not had as much success as a head coach going 1-15 with the Miami Dolphins and 18-37 with the Indiana Hoosiers.

In 2001, Cam Cameron was fired by Indiana Athletics Director Michael McNeely.

This package aired on PBS News Forum that day.