In Internet Age, Sports Teams are Increasingly in the News Business

By: Paul Farhi | Washington Post

When the University of Iowa named a new basketball coach last year, reporters around the state scrambled to get the story. Several staked out a local airport and hung around campus hoping to snag an interview with the new man, Fran McCaffery. No dice, university officials said – McCaffery and his team weren’t giving interviews.

At least, they weren’t giving interviews to traditional news outlets, such as the Des Moines Register, the state’s largest paper. Instead, McCaffery’s first comments as Iowa coach came on the Big Ten Network, a cable network partially owned by the school. Iowa’s players, meanwhile, spoke exclusively to the university’s Web site, slamming the door on reporters. “We used to compete against other news organizations,” says Bryce Miller, the Register’s executive sports editor, of the episode. “Now it seems like we’re competing against the university.”

For sports journalists these days, the playing field isn’t always level. As the Iowa incident suggests, teams and leagues can break their own news, over and around the independent news media that cover them. Professional and big-time college teams aren’t just news sources now; they’re in the news business, too, with their own radio, TV and Internet operations.

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