Sport Journalism and Vincentian athletes
A few weeks ago the National Olympic Committee hosted a two-day seminar in communications. The seminar was intended for senior athletes, coaches, team managers, public relations officers of national sports associations and sports journalists.
The rationale for the seminar was simple. The NOC recognised just how far behind we are, here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, in respect of the way the media handles sport in this country as well as the way in which athletes interact with the media.
Experience here has long since shown that while all media houses seek to address the matter of sport little attention appears to be paid to the way in which this is done.
Over the years sport journalism ahs essentially been left to its own devices.
Qualification and Training
Generally journalism in many parts of the world is a post-graduate engagement. Many journalists would usually have pursued a degree in a specific field before going on to engage in their journalism studies.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines this is not the norm. Many of those who entered the field of journalism began with training directly in the field. One hears this very often these days as our own National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) celebrates its 25th anniversary and several persons who served the institution in one capacity or another makes some brief remarks about their time there.
Several persons from St Vincent and the Grenadines have attended the Summer Programme at CARIMAC, Mona, Jamaica and some have even g one back for the one-year programme offered there.
In respect of sports journalism the matter of training is more often than not left up to the individuals involved.
Occasionally we find the NOC or some other organisations facilitating some training workshops/seminars in one or more aspects of the field.
With sport playing a more important role in societies around the globe greater attention is paid to the quality of the coverage these events receive. This therefore places a much greater burden on the sports journalists.
With the growth of the media there has also been an increase in demands placed on sports journalists to ensure that their respective coverage leaves their particular media houses in the lead, well ahead of their counterparts and competitors in the field.
Unfortunately, here in St Vincent and the Grenadines too little attention is paid to training our sports journalists.
Indeed some may well believe themselves above the common chaff and therefore no longer in need of training given their past involvement in sport and their own perception of their popularity with this or that segment of the Vincentian sporting public.
It is unfortunate that the media houses here do not possess the wherewithal to facilitate continuous training of sports journalists and the latter do not seem anxious to engage themselves in online courses to upgrade their skills through to the professionalism expected in the endeavour.
The reality is that all too often our sports journalist practitioners limit themselves to a mediocrity that bodes no good either for themselves or the Vincentian sporting public. They simply accept that what they deliver is good enough for the Vincentian masses. Excellence is not much of an option.
For several years Lennox Adams has been actively and aggressively involved in sports photography. Since his return from studies he has found time to engage in sports photojournalism and his pictures have assumed a level of importance that was not so readily seen hitherto.
Today we have several others who have become involved in sports photojournalism and who wish to take it to the professional level. We are seeing better equipment being purchased and the individuals are seeking to become truly professional in their operations.
By and large however, our sports photojournalists are self taught in their acquired craft. They have not been the beneficiary of the astute training that is so often accessed by the professionals we see abroad.
One of the problems with sports coverage here in St Vincent and the Grenadines is the difficulty of reaching around the country given the state of the nation’s roads. That being said attempts are made by several media houses here to have reports sent in from individuals in the respective areas who are willing to do the footwork. While this is good it does however require a trained person in sport to make good the reports submitted. This is not always done.
What we get for the most part is a bland reading of scores of this or than encounter, hardly interesting to the average sports fan.
Many of our sporting associations have no statisticians on board. The same can be said of the sports journalists. The sports journalists are not in possession of the statistics nor do their media houses. In this regard therefore one readily understands the problems encountered by anyone listening to coverage of matches played in the different sports hosted here whether local, regional or international.
Statistics are fundamental to sports coverage in any field. It is amazing the extent to which individuals across the world have taken the time to become proficient in the keeping of sports statistics.
One of the major deficits in sports statistics occurs in the field of football. It is difficult to get information dating a few years back on any one of the various competitions played in the country.
One need only ask for the names of the leading goal scorer for St Vincent and the Grenadines in internationals played and we are left in a tailspin. It is simply not readily available.
The same holds for our other sports. The information is neither maintained by the national sports association nor by any of our sports journalists.
In the case of cricket however, we do have Earl Robertson who had distinguished himself not only at the local level but internationally as one of the most adept at cricket statistics. He is unique however, not the norm.
Our sports journalists do little more than live for the moment and engage in little or no research.
Sensationalism vs truth
The number of radio stations and newspapers in operation in St Vincent and the Grenadines allows opportunities for sports journalists to emerge. Unfortunately while many individuals have come forward time has not been taken to learn the craft and hone the necessary skills for success.
Too often truth is sacrificed for sensationalism. This is particularly true in the area of commentary.
Many of the call-in sports programmes favour sensationalism. All too often the facilitators do not know their role. They actually run the show rather than facilitate it. Their own comments are given pride of place. Rather than allow callers to air their views and encourage dialogue the hosts are often too anxious to impose their own views on the unsuspecting listeners. In some respects it would be better if they change some of the programmes from being designated call-in and just have the hosts do their commentaries. This is almost what happens anyway.
Call-in talk show hosts for sport programmes show no compunction to establishing truth. More often than not they assume that they alone possess this facet and decry any others who dare to suggest otherwise.
In a number of instances the hosts do little preparatory work on the various aspects of the different sports. They arrive at the stations unprepared in respect of precisely where they are heading in the pending programme. There is also little by way of monitoring and evaluation of their programmes to establish greater credibility.
Indeed credibility is assumed by virtue of one’s perception of one’s popularity.
It is amazing the way hosts often calumniate organisations and individuals without offering them an opportunity to defend themselves. Additionally, the hosts often have access to the organisations and individuals but never establish contact to verify any sort of information lest the intended sensationalism becomes deflated.
There is a sort of laziness amongst journalists in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is not limited to sport. One has only to listen to a press conference and one would get an appreciation for the paucity that exists in this important field of journalism in this country.
More often than not the journalists go to the press conferences unprepared, hoping to get information dispensed for them. Many do not have any background in the particular area being dealt with and therefore find themselves incapable of framing appropriate questions for the benefit of listeners and readers.
The situation is particularly grave in the field of sport, which is still perceived as frivolity. Questions at press conferences on sports are threadbare as well as particularly in short supply. The journalists simply take away whatever is said and make something out of it.
Pride in one’s work
The time has come for sports journalists to take pride in their work. The internet facilitates learning for those desirous of developing themselves.
St Vincent and the Grenadines does have people who possess the necessary talent to become excellent sports journalists.
Sports journalism is a profession and requires due diligence on the part of anyone willing to take up the challenges involved.
The time has come for our sports journalists to take a serious look at themselves and commit to developing themselves to significantly higher levels of excellence.