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Sunday, March 24, 2013

No Holds Barred: David Rowe on the Lamentable State of Sports Journalism 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman speaks with David Rowe, a professor of cultural research at the University of Western Sydney in Australia.

In February, he wrote an article, first for The Conversation and then republished by Play the Game, which has gained much attention around the world: "On scandal after scandal, sports journalists drop the ball".

In this article, he noted that while sport is rocked by numerous scandals, those who are supposed to be covering them, the sports journalists, "are looking more than a little dishevelled", and that most good investigative sports journalism "happens outside the mainstream institutional media". This should certainly be understood by those who are familiar with what tries to pass as "journalism" in the combat sports.

We spoke with David Rowe by Skype Wednesday (Tuesday New York time) about the many issues facing sports journalists and journalism.

He discussed in this interview what he called "a very basic question".

"What is a sports journalist? What is sports journalists for? What do they do? Now, I have a kind of old-fashioned idea of journalism as being about the Fourth Estate, that is, a watchdog on behalf of the citizenry, speaks truth to power, etc. That's what we expect of people who call themselves journalists. Now I guess if they want to call themselves something else, then that's OK, as long as they don't, I suppose, pretend to be journalists."

We discussed how sports journalists have dealt with such issues as the Lance Armstrong doping scandal and match-fixing. He said about their coverage, "Generally I'd have to say, that it's been pretty lamentable, but on the whole, with some distinguished exceptions", with many of these journalists acting like fans and getting too close to the sports organizations than they should.

We also discussed the many types of difficulties facing freelance sports journalists who do aspire to act as watchdogs on behalf of the public, how the main target of bad sports journalism has to be the big media companies which too often act as unofficial public relations agencies, the training of sports journalists, what fans can do to pressure the media, some positive signs with the emergence of a new generation of sports journalists, and much more.

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