The Future of Sports Journalism?

We discover every day how the onslaught of Covid-19 has created the new “not normal”. Almost all business entities and professions have had to alter the way they provide goods and services. Last week a guest was nice enough to offer up his perspective on issues with the pandemic and college football. This week I am thankful that Doug stepped up to provide an insightful perspective with his profession and how the pandemic has changed the way he works. While I we be back with my random takes next week, I do think it is important to understand the challenges we all face until a vaccine is in play.

Hi, my name is Doug Roberson. I’ve known Gary for a long time. He and my dad played soccer together in Atlanta. Little did either of us know then, but 30-plus years later he would graciously host me a few times at his wonderful condo in downtown Orlando when I was in town for business.

I am a sports journalist. I cover Atlanta United. I’ve traveled everywhere from Costa Rica to Vancouver to Montreal. Because of COVID-19, I’m not sure if I’ll ever travel again. It’s not because of the risk of catching the virus. It’s because of the sea-change that COVID-19 has brought to my segment of news gathering and reporting.

Instead of face-to-face interviews before or after training sessions and games, we talk by Zoom. Instead of watching games in person, I watch them from our living room in Carrollton, Ga. on our 70-inch TV. It’s a very odd experience. I have always been proud of the paper’s ethical and financial decision to have boots on the ground when we cover teams. It’s expensive but hopefully the coverage merits the expenditure. Before COVID-19, I was one of perhaps no more than five Major League Soccer reporters in the entire country who traveled and covered games home and away. I joke I’ve watched more games live than any other Atlanta United employee. When you are at venues live, you typically are able to provide better coverage. You can see things that the TV cameras aren’t focusing on. You can ask a player something as they are leaving or standing around that won’t be possible through a single-lens medium. I don’t know if we will get that chance any more.

Some professional teams and colleges value media coverage. Some used to, grew frustrated and don’t. Some never have and never will. I can easily see owners of professional teams or college athletic directors taking a look at their stadiums and asking themselves, “Why do we need that press box when everything can be done by Zoom? Let’s turn that valuable space into suites and make some money.” If I were an owner or athletic director, I know I would consider the possibility of at least shrinking the size of my press areas. If I were a sports editor or publisher, particularly at a smaller paper, I know I would at least consider asking if Zoom is the future.

I hope that a vaccine is soon developed and that we can all return to what our lives were six months ago. I do miss the travel. I miss exploring. I miss meeting new people in press boxes. I miss trying new food at different restaurants and seeing cathedrals. The driving back and forth to the training center and airport…I don’t miss that but would give anything to do it again.

Adios, pay it forward, stay safe, and have a Sunday Funday!

One thought on “The Future of Sports Journalism?”

  1. Doug….thanks for this insight. I do hope we get back to some sense of normal soon as there is nothing that can as you say replace in person coverage of the game especially away from the camera!

    JP

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