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Talking Shop with the Big Boys
2005-02-03 09:35
by Jon Weisman

Some random remembrances from last night's L.A. Press Club seminar on sports coverage in the initial twentieth of the 21st century:

  • First, thanks to Matt Welch for his role in organizing and moderating the discussion and for inviting me along.

  • On a scale of one to 10, the Dodger Thoughts awareness level of the others on the panel - Dodger public relations director John Olguin, ESPN Radio 710 host Steve Mason, Channel 9 sportscaster Alan Massengale and Times columnist J.A. Adande - peaked at about two. All were familiar with blogs conceptually, but none read Dodger Thoughts regularly, periodically, accidentally or perhaps even at all. By the time the evening was over, however, it seemed that at least Olguin and Mason would check it out, though from a PR standpoint, my sense is that Olguin doesn't want to open the interview and credential request floodgates for bloggers. In any case, even as the No. 5 on the five-man panel, I felt honored to participate. For me, the event was over too quickly.

  • Bill Plaschke's name didn't come up once, but we discussed T.J. Simers for several minutes. Olguin said Simers doesn't bother him because he gets that it's all a joke, and that Simers doesn't even take himself seriously. I replied that this was like excusing the guy spraying graffiti in your neighborhood because he didn't take it seriously. Simers was fine if you figured him out, but there are plenty of people who do take him at face value - and that on that level, he is undermining any useful dialogue. We agreed that Simers clearly favored those athletes who took what he dished out. Overall, though, the evening was more about the roles of the different media in sports and less about anyone's particular performance or talent.

  • Straight Dodger discussion? Not a lot. Everyone agreed that Olguin worked more as a facilitator than a gatekeeper. Olguin stated that he caters to the beat writers who are there day in and day out. Interestingly, he noted that whereas "lifers" once populated the Dodger beat, turnover is now frequent. Today, the senior person on the job has been covering the team for 11 months. (Tony Jackson of the Daily News, if I'm not mistaken.)

  • Roughly 350 nights a year, I will tuck my children into bed. This was one of the nights I didn't, and I was reminded how lucky I feel that those nights are rare. I could never do the Dodger beat for a paper now.

  • Mason was very likable, very unpretentious. Welch asked him if he felt underappreciated, and Mason laughed and basically said that his mission is to stir things up, so he was probably appreciated at the appropriate level. "I don't think we're doing anything great," he said with an easy smile. But his passion for what he does came though.

  • My performance in public speaking is improving since last year's thoughtful but shaky debut on KCRW-FM, but there are still too many pauses and ums. But I'm a little tired of putting myself down, so I'm going to take the bold step and say "I can do this." I truly enjoy it and hope to do more. I might have gotten the biggest laugh of the night with one line. (I know you all are deeply invested in this ...)

  • One of the main points I got across was that blogs are rising in part because of the demand for niche coverage in sports that the newspapers can't fill for budgetary reasons. Further, blogs lend themselves to serious analysis because quick-and-snappy is already covered. Adande echoed how much more he would like to write if he had the space. At the same time, I noted many sports bloggers rely on the mainstream press to do the game story reporting, so we can bypass that and go straight to our idiosyncratic takes. Right now, the different media compliment each other rather than compete.

  • One of the main points others got across is that women are much more accepted in the locker room than they were 10-20 years ago, and that the athletes do value the ones who know their stuff. Massengale said that two of the three sharpest co-anchors he has ever worked with were Gayle Gardner and Suzy Kolber. Mason lamented how bias against women cost Michelle Tafoya a job co-hosting a show with him years ago, but that she was too hard a worker not to overcome the prejudice.

  • On a smaller scale, bloggers are the next group that needs to prove itself, probably on a case-by-case basis. You can see it happening, for example, with Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT - how he's networking with other reporters and people in the game and building up his credibility one encounter at a time.

  • Stanford connection of the night: In the audience was former Cardinal and WNBA player Carolyn Moos. Now 26, her business card reads: Professional Basketball Player Model Wardrobe Consultant Journalist Communications/Sociology, Stanford University Personal Training

  • Audience members introduced themselves before asking their questions, which led to comic moments like these:

    Questioner: "My name's X, and I'm a blogger"
    Audience (in tone of Alcoholics Anonymous meeting): "Hi X."

  • Another funny moment came when Jim Fox of the Kings introduced himself as "unemployed hockey announcer."

  • Olguin told attendee Tommy Naccarato after the event that the Dodgers would be on KFWB for three more seasons. The poor coupling of 24-hour news station and Dodger broadcasts continues. One thing the team has been pursuing is a better signal for listeners in the San Fernando Valley.

  • Attendance was strong if you go by percentage of seats filled, which was about 100. Overall, there might have been, say, 65-75 people? I'd be interested to know from anyone who attended less about me (believe it or not) and more about whether they felt they learned anything of import. Some people did take notes, after all. What did you write down?

    Update: Attendee Rob McMillin has his own report on the event.

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