Tag Archives: sports journalism

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

New Scholarship for Aspiring Sports Journalists Honors Alum John McNamara

Lucy A. Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, and Andrew Chamblee ('83) sign an agreement to establish a scholarship in honor of John McNamara ('83).

Lucy A. Dalglish (left), dean of the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism, and Andrea Chamblee (’83) sign an agreement to establish a scholarship in honor of John McNamara (’83).

COLLEGE PARK (11/2/18) — Longtime sportswriter John McNamara (’83) was a stealth mentor, often agreeing in his low-key way to meet over lunch or chat on the phone with student journalists or fledgling sports reporters.

It was a familiar role: “Johnny Mac,” as he was known, had been elevating the prose and professionalism of his peers since he was a reporter and editor at The Diamondback.

McNamara’s loss as a mentor and authority on Terps sports, which he covered for more than 20 years, is keenly felt since he and four colleagues were killed in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis on June 28.

But he’ll continue to inspire sports journalists at the University of Maryland through a new scholarship established Thursday for undergraduate students in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

McNamara’s widow, Andrea Chamblee (’83), whom he met at The Diamondback, and several of his friends created the scholarship in his memory.

“I’m so delighted,” she said Thursday at a signing ceremony. “It would have meant the world to John to be remembered as a sportswriter and a mentor to students. He often told me how much he enjoyed meeting with his colleagues, and helping them, but I am struck that he didn’t think of those meetings as mentoring anyone, but clearly the people he met with, did.”

Merrill College Dean Lucy A. Dalglish said she was grateful for the opportunity to help students who might otherwise struggle to pay tuition, while also honoring McNamara.

“Walking around campus, I’m struck by how many people remember John,” Dalglish said. “Teachers, students, journalists and staff in the athletics department remember John very, very fondly.”

The scholarship fund is accepting contributions. The first recipient will be selected next year.

McNamara’s fourth book, with the working title “The Capital of Basketball,” a history of the sport in Washington, is expected out in early 2019.

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

‘It’s Got To Be Bigger’ Than The Game, Povich Center Panelists Say

Sports journalists on The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism's panel. Left to right: James Crabtree-Hannigan, Rick Maese, Christine Brennan, David Steele and Dave Zirin.

Sports journalists on The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism’s panel. Left to right: James Crabtree-Hannigan, Rick Maese, Christine Brennan, David Steele and Dave Zirin.

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.

Povich Center Director George Solomon and Professor Kevin Blackistone moderated the wide-ranging discussion in the packed Eaton Theater in Knight Hall.

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.

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

Winning Lacy-Smith Award ‘Puts Me In The Company Of My Idols,’ Michael Wilbon Says

Left to right: George Solomon, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. (Photo: Steven Dilsizian)

Left to right: George Solomon, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. (Photo: Steven Dilsizian)

By Steven Dilsizian
For The Povich Center
May 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — Michael Wilbon, a sportswriter and co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” was filled with emotion after becoming the fourth winner of the Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award at a luncheon Sunday at Nationals Park in Washington.

“Overwhelming. It’s overwhelming to me,” Wilbon said of winning the award.

Many of Wilbon’s family members, colleagues, and friends gathered at the stadium to watch the longtime sports columnist graciously accept an award named after the two late African American journalists who were Wilbon’s role models.

“It puts me in the company of my idols,” Wilbon said. “These guys [Lacy and Smith] didn’t want to hear about what couldn’t be done … they helped integrate baseball.”

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism presents the Lacy-Smith Award annually to a journalist who utilizes their platform to focus on improving racial and gender equality in sports. Throughout his career, Wilbon has never shied from shedding light on inequalities in sports and improving the social discourse.

While Wilbon has won numerous other awards, this one, he said, was different.

“I’m proud of other awards I’ve gotten, but when you are put in a certain company, your behavior ought to be scrutinized,” Wilbon said. “Does he live up to the bar that they [Lacy and Smith] set? The accountability that is involved is overwhelming.”

Lacy and Smith were pioneers in the sports journalism field. Lacy was the first African American accepted into the Baseball Writers Association of America, while Smith was writing for a major daily newspaper during a time when African Americans rarely had such opportunities. Both Lacy and Smith were recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors with the Red Smith Award for their distinguished careers in sports journalism.

Lacy and Smith were able to make strides during their time in the field of sports journalism and spent their entire careers campaigning for racial equality in sports, including pushing for years for the integration of Major League Baseball and covering Jackie Robinson’s first year in the major leagues in 1947.

Wilbon, who has worked in sports journalism for almost 40 years, said there are still societal changes that need to be made.

“I think there are some tough times on the horizon because we now have a world in which exclusion is becoming trendy,” Wilbon explained.

Wilbon grew up in Chicago and attended Northwestern University. He had two summer internships at The Washington Post before being hired full-time in 1980. He currently works for ESPN and ABC — he co-hosts “Pardon the Interruption,” covers the NBA and writes columns for The Undefeated.

His longtime colleague at The Post and ESPN, Tony Kornheiser, presented the award to Wilbon.

“If you’re quicker, if you’re sharper, if you’re smarter … you’re going to get the job, that’s how it works,” Kornheiser said. “That leads me to presenting this award to my friend Mike Wilbon of almost 40 years now, who’s quicker and smarter and sharper than the other guy.”

Kevin Blackistone, a sports columnist at The Post and Merrill College professor, has known Wilbon since 1977, when they tattended Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

“Mike deserves [the award] because like Smith and Lacy, he’s very much been a pioneer in terms of the way we cover sports and the way we think about sports,” Blackistone said. “He’s not afraid to talk about the importance of race and sports.”

Blackistone also spoke at the luncheon, as did Lynn and David Povich, children of the late Shirley Povich; Lucy A. Dalglish, dean of Merrill College; Jackie Lewis, vice president for university relations for the University of Maryland; and Damion Thomas, curator of sports at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Another one of Wilbon’s Northwestern classmates, USA TODAY sports columnist Christine Brennan, said Wilbon is more than deserving of the award.

“To see this today, this is a culmination of everything that Mike lives and breathes,” Brennan said. “For him, this has never been a job.”

It was difficult for Brennan to distill Wilbon and his accomplishments into one word, but she described her friend and colleague as simply “spectacular.”

Wilbon joins Claire Smith, James Brown and William Rhoden as a winner of the Lacy-Smith Award. Wilbon has a simple message to the future winners: “We have a responsibility to live up to the behavior, the conduct, the passion, the intellect, the ability to discern … we have to live up to the bar [Lacy and Smith] set.”

“Michael Wilbon is cut from the same mold as Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith,” said George Solomon, director of the Povich Center. “They spoke up for what they perceived was right for sports and the country. So does Mike Wilbon.”