Sports Matters: alumni tackle sports journalism
October 21, 2014
John Nicholson ’68, director of the Newhouse Sports Media Center and professor of broadcast and digital journalism, moderated the evening, focusing on the importance of sports reporting, diversity, and how the practice of sports journalism is changing today.
“It’s a wonderful vehicle to experience what athletes are going through, driving success on and off the field,” remarked Horton, anchor of “Sports Final” on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. However, “games are not the big show, but rather the character surrounding the game is the big show,” because these athletes are what captures viewers’ attention. Horton emphasized that “what’s going on behind the scenes -- that’s where the business is headed.”
Minimal discussion was had regarding athletic scandals that have made headlines in the recent months, but panelists focused on the way these stories are being reported.
“TMZ is a game changer” due to its “lack of affiliation and lots of money.” While leagues, teams, and networks often have moneyed interest in covering up negative stories, TMZ is not linked to any one team. Rubin, an editor at Grantland.com, the Huffington Post of the sports world, added that the “means of TMZ are nefarious,” which makes the role of sports journalists that much more important today. When scandals arise, the way to handle the separation between athlete and game is a delicate issue. Mowins, a play-by-play commentator at ESPN, noted “there are a lot of discussions between networks, editors, and analysts on how to approach the situation.”
Goren, a consultant and former vice chairman at FOX Sports Media Group, added that there are no secrets today. “Everybody is a reporter, these secrets get out.”
“Due to salaries and stardom, a lot of athletes have been spoiled and some think they’re bulletproof, but they’re not.”
Issues of race and gender were also important topics of the panel discussion. When Mowins was starting out in the business, she was often the only woman in the room, but now she figures that over half the anchors on “Sports Center” are female.
The industry still has to make strides toward finding diverse reporters. Goren believes “the industry has done a better job bringing women into sports than it has for African-Americans and other minorities.” Rubin advocated that “different perspectives would help diversify coverage.”
Mowins has a positive outlook on the way the landscape of sports journalism is changing. “You don’t necessarily have to go small market to get a job anymore because nowadays you can shoot everything on iPads.”
When asked what advice they have for aspiring journalists, Rubin advised students to “focus on building relationships and treating people fairly.”
In addition to the Q&A session, a pre-event reception was held allowing SULA Semester students, alumni, featured panelists and other Los Angeles-based sports media professionals the opportunity to network.
Written by Maggie Applegate, a senior television, radio, and film and French studies duel major currently participating in the SULA Semester program.
Photo by Steve Cohn Photography