Tag Archives: Povich Center

Povich Panel: The Athletic’s Innovation Is Technological

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism convened a panel to discuss The Athletic on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Left to right: George Solomon, Marty Kaiser, Josh Land, Greg Lee, Ben Strauss and Rhiannon Walker.

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism convened a panel to discuss The Athletic on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Left to right: George Solomon, Marty Kaiser, Josh Land, Greg Lee, Ben Strauss and Rhiannon Walker.

By Kaitlyn Wilson
Povich Center

COLLEGE PARK (2/14/19) — The Athletic may be the hottest new website around, but what the subscription-based sports website is embarking on isn’t all that new, at least journalistically.

“I think that their innovation isn’t journalistic; their innovation is technological,” Washington Post sports and media reporter Ben Strauss said at a panel hosted by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism Wednesday evening.

“A lot of the reporting is very good, but they have not broken the mold on some way to report about sports. What is different about The Athletic is the way that it is presented. And I think what The Athletic does really, really well is cover teams.”

Members of The Athletic staff, as well as other local reporters and editors, gathered at the University of Maryland’s Knight Hall to discuss The Athletic’s role in the ever-changing journalism landscape.

Strauss was joined by Marty Kaiser, the Philip Merrill College of Journalism’s Howard Distinguished Visiting Fellow, alumnus Josh Land, sports editor of The Baltimore Sun, Greg Lee, senior managing editor of The Athletic D.C., and alumna Rhiannon Walker, a feature writer for The Athletic D.C. The panel was moderated by Povich Center director George Solomon and Professor Kevin Blackistone.

While all of the panel members agreed that The Athletic provides quality writing, they also rely on subscribers, not advertisers, which isn’t a novel concept.

“Advertising is gone,” Kaiser said. “You’re now going to serve subscribers, and, actually, I think that’s better for the whole industry. I’d rather be in debt to the readers than” advertisers.

One thing The Athletic has excelled at is landing top-notch writers. The site has been known for poaching local newspapers’ top talent, and has even tapped into the national market with high-profile writers like Ken Rosenthal, Jayson Stark and Seth Davis.

Walker, who previously worked at ESPN’s The Undefeated, said the high-caliber editors is what caught her attention.

“The reason I left The Undefeated, to be polite, was because I wanted to work under my mentors at The Athletic,” Walker said.

When you get down to the bottom-line, The Athletic capitalizes on the same thing sports publications across the country do, and that’s the public’s obsession with sports and their stars.

“Everyone likes sports,” Lee said. “… Sports are such an escape for people that people are willing to pay for it — just like people are willing to pay for an escape to watch Netflix. … Everything else could go to whatever in the world, but people still tune in to sports, and that’s my biggest faith in my company.”

If anything, The Athletic has forced other sites to hone in and focus on what they already know they excel at: local sports.

“I think it’s a lot about what you do locally,” Land said. “I think we strive to be the best on Orioles, Ravens, Terps, and then on top of that we try to provide some things that we know The Athletic is not working on, including a pretty heavy focus lately on quality storytelling about the faces of Baltimore and the stories you’re not going to see anywhere else.”

Adapting to the changes in the industry is nothing new. Publications have been doing it for centuries — from the emergence of TV, to the internet, and now The Athletic. It’s all part of the transformation.

“Journalism is in a transformational stage,” Blackistone said. “That’s happened before and it’s happening now. We’re in the second phase of a transformational stage in digital journalism, which The Athletic is a part of.”

Povich Panel: Baseball Writers Predict MLB Strike

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism hosts a panel on baseball writing — featuring Tim Kurkjian, Jon Meoli and Jane Leavy — and moderated by Professor George Solomon (left).

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism hosts a panel on baseball writing — featuring Tim Kurkjian, Jon Meoli and Jane Leavy — and moderated by Professor George Solomon (left).

COLLEGE PARK (2/5/19) — With advanced analytics increasingly driving decisions made by baseball executives and veteran players seeing their market value plummet, a trio of sportswriters said Monday that Major League Baseball is probably headed for a work stoppage.

In a wide-ranging discussion about baseball writing hosted by The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism — moderated by Povich Center Director George Solomon — the reporters talked about covering the game, its personalities and its future.

They kept coming back to the data revolution and what they see as its inevitable consequence.

“What I think is happening is that we have a new breed of general manager who is young, Ivy League educated, brilliant … and they don’t care about anything other than the value system that they have in place,” said Tim Kurkjian (‘78), an ESPN baseball analyst. “And if you don’t fit into the number of years and the amount of money that they think you’re worth, you are not going to get signed.”

Kurkjian, along with Baltimore Sun Orioles beat reporter Jon Meoli and author Jane Leavy, agreed that veteran players — in other words, the ones who run the Major League Baseball Players Association — are making less money and have less job security than in recent years.

“I had a G.M. tell me last year ‘the days of a 32-year-old average player getting a four-year deal paying him through age 36, those days are over,’” Kurkjian said. “‘They are never coming back.’ And if that’s indeed true, that’s going to lead even more to a work stoppage in a few years.”

Leavy, who like Kurkjian covered the last strike of MLB players in 1994 — it lasted so long the World Series was canceled — said the reliance on analytics and an error by the players’ union will be most responsible for the next strike.

“I think when the major league players’ association decided to have players run it rather than professionals … they made a classic mistake,” said Leavy, author of Babe Ruth biography “The Big Fella.”

“I think they were snookered a little bit in the last” collective bargaining agreement, she said.

Meoli said the market correction on veteran players can have an on-field effect. Last season, the Orioles signed free-agent pitcher Alex Cobb late in spring training. When the veteran finally joined the major league club a few weeks into the season, he struggled mightily before rounding into form late in the season — too late for the Orioles, who had already fallen out of contention.

This season, longtime Orioles center fielder Adam Jones — who is 33 — remains unsigned despite being recognized as a strong veteran presence and consistent hitter. Four years ago, 31-year-old former Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis signed a four-year contract with the Atlanta Braves that paid him $44 million.

“The value system is flipped on its head,” Meoli said. “There’s really not jobs out there for these people because you can get that production for $600,000.”

Kurkjian said he saw some of this coming, but is surprised that superstar ballplayers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned. Spring training begins next week.

He’s amused when teams talk themselves out of signing such premium players — who may still command more than $20 million annually — by deciding those players aren’t the right fit for their team.

“Bryce Harper is the right fit every day for any team,” Kurkjian said. “If you don’t want to pay him $400 million, I understand. But to say we don’t have a place for him is ridiculous.”

Despite labor uncertainty and the need for MLB to attract younger fans, the three baseball writers agreed interest in the game remains high. Amid the turbulence, they said there are more jobs in baseball and baseball writing than there have ever been.

“There’s so much space for innovation,” Meoli said. “If you can find a niche for yourself that isn’t already filled, I think that’s going to be the key. Because no one really knows what it’s supposed to look like going forward, so someone has to do it and kind of be that example.”

For more information, contact:
Alexander A. Pyles
aapyles@umd.edu
301-405-1321

Povich Panel: With Less Access, Sports Journalists Face Greater Challenge

Left to right: George Solomon, Pepper Rodgers, Christy Winters Scott, Leonard Downie Jr., Liz Clarke, Greg Aiello, David Aldridge and Gene Policinski at the Newseum.

Left to right: George Solomon, Pepper Rodgers, Christy Winters Scott, Leonard Downie Jr., Liz Clarke, Greg Aiello, David Aldridge and Gene Policinski at the Newseum.

WASHINGTON (12/3/18) — It used to be that a small group of writers covered a college or professional sports team, enjoying relatively easy access to coaches, players and practices.

“There were relationships and some level of trust,” said Greg Aiello, who for nearly 40 years was an NFL communications executive.

As press corps grew, coaches struggled to keep control and clamped down on access.

Aiello said the NFL created rules to mandate journalists have some access, but the landscape across the sporting world had already been permanently changed.

Sports writers may not be seen as the enemy of the teams they cover, but journalists’ access to coaches and players has dwindled over time, according to a panel of sports media pros gathered at the Newseum on Saturday.

The discussion — “Sports Writers: Are We Also The Enemy?” — was hosted by the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism’s Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and the Freedom Forum Institute. Povich Center Director George Solomon and Gene Policinski, president and chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum Institute, were the moderators.

The panel was convened amid President Donald Trump’s frequent assertion that journalists are “the enemy” of the American people — an attack Washington Post columnist Liz Clarke said isn’t being levied against sports journalists the way it is against others.

“Our landscape has changed,” Clarke said, but “we are not the enemy in the way very courageous journalists” — like slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi — are.

That doesn’t mean sports journalists don’t face hostility, Clarke said.

David Aldridge, now editor in chief of The Athletic D.C. but once a reporter for Turner Sports, was tasked with conducting in-game televised interviews with often reticent NBA coaches. None were apparently more reluctant than the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich — famous for his often terse responses to reporters’ questions.

“‘This is 45-70 seconds of your day,’” Aldridge recalled thinking. “‘Can we get along?’”

Instead of rancorous, Aldridge’s interactions with Popovich were often humorous. He said he managed to work with the coach by learning the right way to ask certain questions — a lesson college basketball analyst Christy Winters Scott (’90) took from her playing days at the University of Maryland.

Sports writers often must ask tough questions, but “you have to temper it with the emotion of the athlete,” she said.

Former college football player and coach Pepper Rodgers, who last coached in 1995, said the change in relationship between teams and journalists has been caused by changes in technology.

“Football is a totally different game today with the Internet,” Rodgers said.

But even with the Internet and what it brings — more coverage despite less access — are sports writers the enemy?

“The answer is no,” Aiello said.

For more information, contact:
Alexander A. Pyles
aapyles@umd.edu
301-405-1321

Povich Center Asks: Are Sports Writers The Enemy?

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism and the Freedom Forum Institute are co-hosting a panel discussion at the Newseum.

COLLEGE PARK (11/28/18) — Journalists are frequently called the “enemy of the people” by President Donald Trump.

Would some coaches like to say the same thing about sports reporters?

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism will pose that question during a panel discussion Saturday at the Newseum in Washington.

Co-hosted with the Freedom Forum Institute, “Sports Writers: Are We Also the Enemy?” examines the increasingly tension-filled relationship between coaches and the journalists who cover their teams at the college and professional level.

The 2 p.m. discussion — which is free and open to the public, but requires registration — will be co-moderated by Povich Center Director George Solomon and Gene Policinski, president and chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum Institute.

They’ll be joined by a group of distinguished journalists:

  • David Aldridge, editor-in-chief of The Athletic D.C.
  • Greg Aiello, a former NFL communications executive
  • Liz Clarke, a sports columnist at The Washington Post
  • Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor & vice president of The Washington Post
  • Pepper Rodgers, a former football player and coach
  • Christy Winters Scott, a sports analyst for ESPN and other networks and former University of Maryland basketball player
  • Rhiannon Walker (’15), a sports writer for The Athletic

Live video will be available on the Newseum’s website.

For more information, contact:
Alexander A. Pyles
aapyles@umd.edu
301-405-1321

DeMaurice Smith Headlines Povich Symposium on Race in Sports

COLLEGE PARK (10/12/18) — NFL Players’ Association executive director DeMaurice Smith headlines the 13th annual Shirley Povich Symposium at the University of Maryland on Nov. 13.

Race in Sports: The Challenge Continues” starts at 7 p.m. in Orem Hall of the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center on the University of Maryland campus. Doors open at 6 p.m. It is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

Joining Smith are Chelsea Janes (Nationals beat writer, The Washington Post), Tom McMillen ’74 (president and chief executive officer, Lead1 Association), Kevin Merida (senior VP and editor-in-chief, ESPN’s The Undefeated, and member of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism‘s Board of Visitors) and Scott Van Pelt ’16 (Sportscaster and Sports Talk Show Host, ESPN).

Television host Maury Povich, son of the late Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich for whom the symposium is named, will moderate the panel.

“The topic of race in sports continues to be on the front burner, as it has for more than 50 years,” said George Solomon, director of The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism. “We’ve assembled a group of panelists who have the experience, knowledge and interest in the subject to provide both a worthwhile and exciting evening for all.”

About The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism:

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism is a resource for journalists, academics and the public who want to explore the complex role of sports in society. The Center is led by its director, George Solomon, who was the assistant managing editor for sports at The Washington Post from 1975-2003.

Contact:
Kaitlyn Wilson, Assistant Director, Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism, kcwilson@umd.edu; 301-405-4605