Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Friday, September 26, 2008
Sports Media Ethics (or lack thereof), Part III

Steve Donohue of SportsBusiness Journal has an interesting piece this week in which he discusses the recent trend of news outlets cutting costs on sports coverage, for example by reducing headcount in recent years, slashing travel budgets and not allowing beat reporters to cover as many away games (Newspaper Cutbacks Slice into Sports Coverage, 9/22/08). Donohue writes:

The trend has sports properties looking for ways to maintain their coverage and exposure, even with steps such as offering discounted hotel rooms to help lower travel expenses for journalists. Local newspapers are relying more on wire services to cover away games, and Tribune Co., Gannett and other newspaper groups often assign one local reporter to cover a game for their entire chains. Several major daily newspapers didn’t send reporters to the MLB All-Star Game in July, including The Dallas Morning News and The Cincinnati Enquirer. “The days of midsized metro papers sending their columnist to the Masters, the NCAA Final Four and the World Series every year are long gone and won’t be coming back,” said John Moriello, president of the New York State Sportswriters Association. “Maybe he still gets to cover the Super Bowl, but you’d better believe the boss expects a dozen stories or columns from him that week.”
Helping news outlets shave travel expenses is the goal of Major League Soccer, which is working with the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza to offer discounted room rates of less than $100 per night to reporters wanting to cover the Nov. 23 MLS Cup outside Los Angeles. “We’re trying to assist the print journalists with lowering their costs,” said Dan Courtemanche, MLS senior vice president of marketing and communications. MLS also subsidizes air travel costs for journalists from Latin America, whose employers, unlike American newspapers, allow reporters to accept free or discounted travel from the teams they cover, Courtemanche said.

Journalism ethics in sports coverage are eroding at a rapid pace. There are a couple of ethics issues raised by Donohue's article. First, what was once considered unethical and completely unacceptable -- journalists' receipt of benefits from teams and leagues -- is apparently now going to be tested.

The second ethics issue I see from this article is that news outlets are cutting costs in the form of reduced headcount, the elimination of travel expenses and reliance on wire services as the basis for coverage, but at the same time demanding more stories and columns from journalists. While it makes sense from a purely business standpoint, it is a formula for disaster from a journalism ethics standpoint. In essence, there are fewer journalists writing more stories and columns, and those journalists are principally relying on other sources (e.g. wire services) for their reports instead of relying on their own investigations. How can the journalist know or verify that the information in the original report is accurate? Where is the source verification?

The business objectives and incentives in the current journalism marketplace are overshadowing journalism ethics.


LOL, that made me have a good one thanks!

Anonymous -- 9/26/2008 4:18 PM  

Post a Comment