COLLEGE PARK (10/4/18) — Sports journalists have a duty to write more than game stories, a panel of five reporters said Wednesday during a program hosted by The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
The panelists — Christine Brennan (USA Today), James Crabtree-Hannigan (The Diamondback), Rick Maese (The Washington Post), David Steele (Sporting News) and Dave Zirin (The Nation) — were on campus to discuss coverage of Jordan McNair, 19, who died two weeks after suffering heatstroke during a May football practice.
Part of the discussion focused on the lack of public information about college athletics. Many team practices are closed to journalists and access to student-athletes is limited, making it more difficult for reporters to accurately and comprehensively inform the public.
Maese said it’s a beat reporter’s job to go beyond box scores and gather what information they can.
“A lot of times the reporter thinks his job is to write about the game … it’s got to be bigger than that,” Maese said. “Sometimes we leave the accountability part of it to the other part of the newsroom. It can’t be like that.”
Steele, a 1985 Merrill College alumnus, said sports reporters need to give the public enough information so the treatment of student-athletes matters more than their position on the team’s depth chart.
“The more we make sure we focus on that … the more we get to the heart of what we’re talking about,” Steele said. We need to“get the public acclimated to knowing these guys as people and caring about their lives.”
For more coverage of the panel discussion, “Crisis at Maryland: Covering A Tragedy & The Fallout,” visit The Povich Center’s website.