Tag Archives: sports journalism

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

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