April 15, 2010

Panel discussions to focus on sports coverage

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A series of panel discussions at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will look at racism, gender issues, and how large media corporations impact trends in today’s sports coverage.

“Sports Coverage: Where Next?” is sponsored by the Global Media Research Center. The panel discussions begin at 10 a.m., Friday, April 16, in Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium.

The event is free and open to the public.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the panel discussion. For more information about the symposium or to arrange interviews, contact Laura Germann at SIUC’s Global Media Research Center at 618/453-6876 or by email atfelix@siu.edu.

The symposium will bring together “three issues which very often are dealt with separately to their mutual disadvantage,” said John Downing, a professor in radio-television and GMRC director.

The morning session includes panelists with experience in Olympics coverage. William Kunz, an associate professor at the University of Washington-Tacoma, has worked in network television for 25 years. A recipient of five sports Emmy Awards, Kunz was a producer for NBC Sports in the last four Olympics. Kenny Irby, the visual journalism group leader and diversity director for the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Poynter Institute, was photo manager for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

New visual technologies and larger media corporations are governing trends in sports coverage, Downing said. Women’s sports, and “the extent to which they do not get covered or taken seriously” is another concern, he said.

A third concern is with coverage, Downing said.

“Very often, at present, if black athletes are covered, it has much more to do with what some of them are doing out of the tournament than actually their sporting activities,” he said.

“Sports coverage and media are changing by the minute. We need to have some idea how that is, particularly people who want to work in that field,” Downing said. “This event brings together what happens at SIUC, what is going on nationally, technology, gender and race … and lets us look at the interconnections and the contradictions.”

The explosion in televised sports in the last three decades is due in part to the high cost of attending professional sporting events, Downing said.

“One of the reasons it has expanded enormously is not just because sport is popular but because you have a few television corporations that own so many outlets. They are going to fill them,” Downing said.

NBC provided about 80 hours of coverage of the Goodwill Games 20 years ago. In February NBC provided approximately 835 hours of coverage during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver on its family of networks, Downing said.

“Some firms have been allowed to grow enormously and accumulate all these channels so they are going to fill them with something,” he said. “Since people like sports they will fill them with sports. Whether it’s good sports coverage or not, that is a further issue.”

Downing, who retires at the end of this semester, said he hopes the audience takes “a realistic sense of how the sports media scene is moving, and the directions it should move in terms of coverage of athletes of color and female athletes.”

Jan Thompson, an associate professor in radio-television, was one of two female sports television producers about 20 years ago in Chicago and will share her insights on technological changes in sports coverage. Kathy Jones, the associate athletics director at SIUC, will discuss how Title IX “pans out on campus,” Downing said.

Uche T. Onyebadi, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism, is a former sports journalist from Nigeria. He later moved to Kenya and worked in the country’s national sports administration, Downing said.

He will discuss how “knowing how journalistic routines work really enabled him to be a much more effective director,” Downing said.

Established in 2004, the Global Media Research Center’s mission includes assembling a core group of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students to research global media issues, establish national and international partnerships to promote research and play host to visiting scholars and artists as it seeks to develop new courses addressing global media issues.

The Global Media Research Center is within the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts.

The symposium schedule is:

  • 10 a.m. -- Morning session: Moderated by Novotny Lawrence, assistant professor, radio-television, SIUC.
  • “Sports Television & Media Giants: The Olympic Winter Games on the NBC Networks,” William Kunz, associate professor, University of Washington-Tacoma. “The Race & Gender Lineup in Sports Coverage,” Kenny Irby, visual journalism group leader and diversity director, Poynter Institute.
  • 11:15 a.m. -- Kathy Jones, associate athletics director, SIUC; Jan Thompson, associate professor, radio-television, SIUC.
  • 12:30 p.m. -- Lunch
  • 1:30 p.m. -- Afternoon Session I: Moderated by John L. Hochheimer, professor, radio-television, SIUC.
  • “Guarding Michael Jordan: Sports Coverage Then and Now,” Jan Thompson, associate professor, radio-television, SIUC; “On the Bubble: An Agenda-Setting Study of ESPN’s SportsCenter and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament,” Scott Lambert, doctoral student, College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, SIUC; “Using Journalism to Make a Living in Sports: A Personal Experience,” Uche T. Onyebadi, assistant professor, School of Journalism, SIUC; “European Soccer and the Power of Media,” Fwaz R. Radwan, junior, management, SIUC.
  • 3 p.m. – Afternoon Session II: Moderated by Lisa Brooten, associate professor, interim chair, radio-television, SIUC.
  • “Media Coverage of Women’s Tackle Football,” Bobbi A. Knapp, assistant professor, kinesiology, SIUC; “Media Coverage of Female Athletes in the Vancouver Winter Olympics: Falling short of the Gold Standard,” Robyn K. Phelan, senior, marketing, SIUC; Kristina K. Lopez, senior, speech communication, SIUC; Steven L. Awe, senior, marketing, SIUC; “Beyond the Ball: Past Players on Race, Racism, and Representation in the NBA,” Rachel Griffin, assistant professor, speech communication, SIUC.