LA Times editor: Independent sports voice critical
Friday, November 08, 2013
Posted by: Laura Sellers-Earl
By Mitchell Paul
Indiana University APME Coverage Team
Newspapers increasingly have to fight for access with sports
organizations that have their own agendas concerning money and control of their
messaging, an APME panel said today (Oct. 28).
John Cherwa, deputy
sports editor at the Los Angeles Times, shared a story about how his reporter
covering the Lakers was given less access than Time Warner Cable on the NBA
team’s trip to China this month.
"The reason you
take these trips is to gain more access to the players,” Cherwa said.
He said that when the Times wanted access to Kobe Bryant,
however, the Lakers declined to make their star as available to the newspaper
as they did for Time Warner Cable.
Cherwa said Lakers spokesman John Black told him, " I can
give you five billion reasons why we did it that way,’ ” referring to the $5
billion, 25-year television contract between the Lakers and Time Warner Cable.
The panel, "Staying in the Game: Sports coverage and access
in the digital era,” was the opening session in the Associated Press Media
Editors 2013 National Conference in Indianapolis on Monday.
The panel was moderated by Gerry Ahern, director of news
content for USA Today Sports Media Group, and included Cherwa, David Worlock of
the NCAA and Barry Arthur of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The "five billion” reasons aside, Cherwa said teams have
other motivations for controlling access besides money.
"I think now it’s all about controlling the message because
we’ve all sort of figured out that the monetization of the Web is just not that
easy,” Cherwa said.
Worlock, director of media coordination and statistics for
the NCAA Championships and Alliances, was asked about major cuts in the number
of courtside seats available to the media for the 2013 men’s basketball
The NCAA said the change was necessary to improve television
sightlines for the broadcasts.
Worlock admitted that although this reason was considered,
there were other factors.
"We were following the lead of what we have seen in other
sporting events, specifically basketball in terms of the Olympic games and the
college model. Court-side seats have been used as fan seats.”
The Associated Press Sports Editors complained, and Worlock
said the NCAA has decided to add 168 more seats for writers on the floor level
for next year’s Final Four.
"We are happy to announce that we will have more writers
Panel members said the independence of newspaper newsrooms –
including the willingness to write critical stories about teams - was a
distinct service for readers.
"They know that
if a coach needs to be fired, we’ll say that,” Cherwa said. "As long as we remain that independent
voice, the people will always come to us.”
In July, Ahern helped form a media advisory committee to
improve communication between sports editors and the NCAA.
"We’re at the stage right now of setting up those meetings
with the conference commissioners and our staffs through the NCAA with the help
of David (Worlock) and Erik Christianson,” Ahern said.
"For the first
time we are starting to make some incremental progress.”