Skipping Through Sports Media’s Murky Waters

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Skipping Through Sports Media’s Murky Waters
Jul 14, 2013

Skipping not-so-spritely through sports media’s murky waters:

UPBEAT was the theme at last month’s Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) conference in Detroit, as well as the Association for Women in Sports Media’s (AWSM) convention in Phoenix, even with many signs pointing towards digital overtaking print, much to the dismay of many friends who grew up and loving the feel of reading a newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee.

At APSE’s featured general session on “The Future of Newspapers,” Gene Myers, executive sports director of the Detroit Free Press and his boss, editor and publisher Paul Anger, both emphasized the importance of a digital product being the future of the industry.

“There is a life for us, even if you don’t deliver a paper seven days a week,” said Myers, whose newspaper is published daily but delivered to homes only three days a week (you can still buy the Free Press at stores and newsstands seven days a week).

“We saved a ton of money (by not delivering four days a week) and did not lose ad revenue,” said Anger. “There’s still a market for quality content.  But there is a generation gap that looks for their quality online.

“Our lifeblood is traffic.”

That means digital.

In Phoenix, the key theme at the AWSM convention, according to Povich Center coordinator Beth Mechum, was paying homage to the organization’s founders, including Nancy Cooney, Susan Fornoff, Michelle Himmelberg and Kristen Huckshorn.

Mechum added: “Christine Brennan (another AWSM pioneer) moderated a panel of veterans Leslie Visser, Melissa Ludke and Robin Herman.

“The 2013 convention was the first to host AWSM student chapters, and more students participated in the event than ever before.  The mix between students and pioneers of the industry created an invigorating experience where both groups inspired each other.

“Energized by that first session and the events throughout, the students and young professionals left the desert inspired to accomplish what the founders had throughout their careers. The more experienced women left Arizona knowing there were strong, motivated women to carry on the tradition they started.”

If AWSM members were inspired, APSE conference attendees were steadfast in their belief that they have a future – regardless of the doomsayers. The problem for all of us is to figure out the future.  Print is no longer likely to be the dominant transmitter of news and information, not with computers, phones, tablets, goggles, you name it, at the gates.

“The newspaper business is dead,” one smart friend in the business told me recently.

I hope he’s wrong; the obituary will not be fun to read or write.

 

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For all the hand-wringing, the 2013 Red Smith award winner, Dan Jenkins,  told his Detroit luncheon audience that readers still want quality  writing.  Now in his 65th year of writing sports, Jenkins said the Red Smith award meant so much to him because of the man the award was named for. “Red Smith was great,” said Jenkins, “and I’m proud to receive the award named for him.”

Jenkins was introduced by his daughter, Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins, who said her father’s greatest lesson to her was “learn your craft.”

“Dan Jenkins is the best sportswriter who ever lived,” said Sally Jenkins.

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Suggested reading: ESPN’s new ombudsman, former New York Times columnist Robert Lipsyte, is off to a fabulous start, critiquing the worldwide leader in sports. Some previous ESPN ombudsmen, especially the first one, pale in comparison.

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Congratulations to previous Red Smith award winner Frank Deford  on  receiving the National Humanities medal this month from President Obama at a White House ceremony.

 

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