Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sports journalism is not the "toy department"

Sometimes you have to have a little free floating hostility.

Yes, this blog is geared primarily toward University of Nebraska football because it’s my alma mater and I have a passion for it. However, I feel the need to blog about something that has been on my mind for a long time.

I'm a sports reporter/photographer for two weekly newspapers in the Napa Valley (located in Northern California). Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to cover every level of sport from Little League to the NFL. The pay is far from the greatest but I couldn’t imagine myself being happier doing anything else. I also enjoy this recreational blogging about Husker football. For this entry, however, my spirit moves me a little different.

There’s one statement I’ve heard, be it in newsrooms or just in general that is not just my pet peeve but a major psychotic hatred. Within some newspapers, sports has been mockingly called the “toy department.” For starters, I think anyone who has ever used such a description is ignorant at best and an elitist piece of crap at worst. I swear, the value of those statements is about as pointless as testy rhino spit.

True, as sports journalists, we do not concern ourselves with serious problems and nor do we solve all of the worlds problems. And please, don’t come at me with the card of “well, you get to go to games for free.” At which point, I say, “teachers get into their classrooms for free,” and “doctors go into their operating room for free.”

What we cover matters just as much as anyone else in the newsroom. There are people who “only” pick up newspapers because of sports. There are also people who “only” watch a newscast because of sports.

If what we covered was so unimportant, then explain to me why sports coverage has grown in importance as sport has grown in wealth, power and influence.

If you want to say that sports journalists do not concern themselves with “serious” topics, OK fine, but don’t sit there and call us “the toy department.” That statement has about as much value as recycled urine. Every time, I hear someone make that statement, I want to puke.

In fact, I would even beg to differ that sports reporters do not deal with serious topics. Granted, it might not be everyday but look at matters such as Major League Baseball players using performance enhancing drugs.

Sports journalists are like any other reporter in that we must find a story rather than just rely on press releases or information given by the team or school we cover. Our stories also involve verifying facts and that part of the job can be a little murky just like a news reporter encounters in their beat.

My biggest issue with anyone calling sports “the toy department,” well, there are many but I’ll start with the fact that we face more intense deadline pressure than news reporters because sporting events take place much close to deadlines (i.e. covering Friday Night high school football). In the process, we are also expected to uphold the same journalist standards as any other news reporter in the process.

We also work more nights and weekends and sacrifice more time away from our family than anyone in the newsroom if not the entire newspaper.

I do not address this topic looking for anyone to play a violen. Lord knows, no one makes us do what we do. I would not trade it. Just remember, anyone who calls sports “the toy department,” if you punch first, I will punch back.

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