Shirley Povich Symposium Recap


Shirley Povich Symposium Recap
Nov 8, 2017

By Nate Harold

A panel of distinguished sports journalists discussed the influence of social media on modern sports reporting among other topics Tuesday night during the twelfth annual Shirley Povich Symposium.

The panel discussion, titled “Changing Winds in Sports,” was located in Orem Hall at the University of Maryland’s Riggs Alumni Center and moderated by Povich’s son and talk show host Maury Povich.

The panel members included: NBC Sports broadcaster Bob Costas, USA Today Sports columnist and CNN and ABC News commentator Christine Brennan, ESPN reporter and Pardon the Interruption co-host Michael Wilbon, and The Tony Kornheiser Show host and fellow Pardon the Interruption co-host Tony Kornheiser.

“In 2003, there was no such thing as Barstool, Deadspin, Bleacher Report,” Povich said.

After Wilbon’s fashionably late entrance, which drew thunderous applause from the crowd, Povich posed a question to the panel: What has changed in the last 14 years?

“Social media and the speed with which things happen,” Brennan said. “The news cycle used to be 12 hours. We would all wait for the newspaper to hit our doorstep in the morning. Now the news cycle is 15 minutes, maybe 10.”

The panel’s discussion focused primarily on the ways in which social media platforms have made information more easily accessible and how social media has affected contemporary sports reporting.

“[There are] a lot of aspects we enjoy with these platforms,” Brennan said. “Athletes tell their own stories now. Anything you look at is moving at warp speed because of social media.”

Costas highlighted some of the challenges that social media poses to sports journalism.

“I think on balance it’s negative, although there are many positives,” Costas said. “With all the information out there, I don’t think the average person recognizes what is false.”

According to Costas, online media platforms have given rise to “trolls” and other anonymous sources that have damaged journalism’s credibility by spreading misinformation.

“It’s easier for people to be a——s anonymously,” Costas said. “But truth matters. Accountability matters. Fairness matters.”

Social media has also made it easier for readers to connect and directly communicate with journalists. However, according to Wilbon, this makes it easier for people to verbally attack those who they disagree with.

Kornheiser noted that while criticism now may be more prevalent, today’s journalists are “tougher” because of it.

The panel also discussed several problems facing the NFL, both today and in the future, with Costas as the most vocal.

“One issue … is the nature of football,” Costas said. “We cannot change the nature of the game. … It destroys people’s brains. That’s the biggest story in American sports.”

Kornheiser likened the NFL’s popularity and its future to the demise of both horse racing and boxing, which were once the leading American sports, over the last century.

“Football is headed towards extinction,” Kornheiser said.

Wilbon agreed that the NFL will soon be on its way out, adding that the NBA will soon overtake the NFL in popularity because of its appeal outside of the U.S.

“The stars of basketball are international stars. Football players are not,” Wilbon said. “NBA personalities connect with an international fan base, as do soccer stars, through social media.”

Near the end of the panel discussion, Costas painted a bleak picture of the NFL’s future.

“The more information [about CTE] that comes out, the worse it looks for football,” Costas said.

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