At a recent Sports Leadership Seminar organised by the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee one of the topics that attracted a fair measure of discussion was ‘The Media and Sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines’.
The topic has been on several former seminars organised by the NOC because of its importance to national federations (NF).
It has often been said that no sporting organisation can hope to do well and survive for any length of time without establishing and maintain a healthy relationship with the media.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines there are many sports organisations that have failed to work well with the media and it is not always entirely their fault.
There is a general belief that generally speaking the local media are not sufficiently interested in sport and do little more than pay lip service to it. On the other hand there are those media houses that claim that from inception they have shown a relatively high level of commitment to sport. The truth is however that there is probably not a single media house operating in the country that is sufficiently committed to sport to employ a journalist dedicated solely to this aspect of Vincentian life.
Indeed it is perhaps true to say that in St Vincent and the Grenadines there are no qualified, full-time sports journalists. There are journalists who, from time to time, cover sporting activities of one sort or another. This is perhaps the primary reason that media coverage of sporting activities in the country is so haphazard and lacking in professionalism.
In respect of the print media the documents are produced once a week and this therefore means that it is at best something of a magazine. Most of the information relating to activities would have already been aired at some time earlier in the week. The staleness of the news items carried negatively affects the generally intended impact of media coverage. Add to this the fact that our newspapers do not have adequate space for sports coverage. They are often cluttered with a host of other things aimed at justifying the expenditure on the document by the average consumer. The News newspaper originally committed to four pages of sport and often tries with some measure of difficulty to sustain it. Recently the Searchlight newspaper has been attempting to allocate more space to sport and this seems more intended to match The News than any firm commitment to or love for sport. The Vincentian newspaper has been consistent in its limited coverage of sport although there seems a tendency towards improving on this aspect in the recent past.
Amongst the electronic media NICE Radio has long since created a niche in terms of sports coverage that remains unmatched except when there are regional and international events when NBC Radio and others come on board to varying levels.
Coverage of sports events
Sport coverage in St Vincent and the Grenadines is not really as advanced as it could and should be. Perhaps this is a result of lethargy on our part.
It is true that in a number of cases NFs do not always engage themselves sin the preparation of a calendar of events that they can then make available to the media. It is also true that some NFs leave it to the very last minute to inform the media that this or that activity is going to happen, when and where.
There is a view however that in a society where journalism is synonymous with investigative journalism the newspeople are always on the prowl seeking out information about what is happening around the society. Sport is not exempt from this approach to journalism.
The general practice in St Vincent and the Grenadines is to have someone involved in the organisation of a sports event call in the results on a regular basis. For the most part the ‘sports journalists’ are too lazy to make it to the event to ensure that what is reported is indeed the truth.
One of the fundamentals of journalism is that it forever pursues truth. This is not always the case in the coverage of sport in this country.
Our ‘sports journalists’ have an approach that suggests that if a sporting organisation is desirous of having its activities covered then they will pursue every opportunity to get the information to them. The first option on the part of our ‘sports journalists’ is never that of seeking out information. This is actually one of the last options.
Another feature of our ‘sports journalists’ is that when they do attend a sports event they are woefully short on professionalism. It is usually the case that they spend little time preparing themselves for the event. They engage in little or no research on what they are about to cover. The work begins on arrival at the event. In a number of cases care is not taken to investigate the history of the particular event so that what is being covered can readily be compared with what obtained before and the listener or reader can be encouraged to make an appropriate analysis of the development or lack thereof in respect of the particular activity.
Indeed it is often the case that media houses are deficient in respect of sports statistics thereby leaving the ‘sports journalists’ virtually naked in the field. This is particularly the case in the coverage of football and netball matches in St Vincent and the Grenadines. No one seems to keep track of the number of matches won in a single season by any team or the number of goals scored by a single player. Not surprisingly it is the memory of the ‘sports journalists’ that are brought to bear on the comparisons drawn in the coverage of the event.
Sports Talk Shows
Sports talk has become important among the Vincentian media over the years. It is perhaps unfortunate that the various shows suffer from inadequate preparation, poor interviewing skills, weak analytical skills, inappropriate choice of ‘experts’ on different sports, lack of professionalism and chronic failure to understand the role of the host, on the part of several persons charged with responsibility for them.
The role of the talk show host is one of facilitator. This is hardly understood by too many who sit in the hot seat. Instead whet we often get is someone who seizes the opportunity afforded as host to pontificate his own views and virtually seeks to ram it down the throats of an unsuspecting public.
In many instances callers are not really afforded the chance to fully express themselves son any given point because the opinion of the host takes precedence. Rather than allow callers to air their views and facilitate a distillation of these towards an analysis that enhances the particular sport, we are often left with the opinion of the host who dares to suggest that ‘he makes no apology’ for his stance. In the opinion of the host he is always right.
Too many hosts are inadequately prepared for their respective shows. Callers are therefore able to recognise this and take the hosts in directions that are not necessarily correct or useful to anyone but the former. Ill-prepared hosts cannot bring themselves to the point of admitting their lack of knowledge or indicating to callers that they will pursue information on the particular matter but instead seek to bluff their way through the programme hoping that no one will recognise the reality.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the sports talk show is the eagerness of some hosts to engage in controversy. For some, unfortunately, controversy is what the programme is all about and every opportunity is sought to find something controversial.
There are some hosts who are so eager to start a controversy on air that they do not bother to seek out truth. Despite knowing the sources of information leading to truth they ignore it and instead fuel the controversy almost frothing at the mouth. Having heaped coals on the fire they then make an appeal for someone from the organisation to call in and clarify matters.
A new approach
Indeed there are those who seem to think that sport is such an exciting aspect of social life in Vincentian society that there is never any shortage of stories to be covered. For the better part of the year there are sporting activities taking place everywhere and literally begging to be adequately covered.
There is a certain responsibility that should befall the media to tell the truth about what is happening in Vincentian society in the world of sport.
The time has come for a new approach to be taken by media houses here in the way they cover and address sport.
The first component of a new approach is training. Anyone desirous of engaging in sport journalism must seek out training opportunities. They must educate themselves and learn the craft.
A second component would be to hone the skills learnt in the education process. Having accessed training they must understand that practice makes perfect. They must seek to practice their craft as often as possible to allow for growth through experience.
A new approach requires media houses to employ sports journalists who show a relatively high level of professionalism and who brings listeners and viewers and readers to their respective organisations. Slipshod work in the field of sports coverage must be vehemently rejected.
Individuals who strive to make a career of sports journalism must take great pride in their work. They must strive to be role models for others. Success breeds success and good sports journalists will lead others to eagerly pursue careers in the same filed and so enhance the overall quality of sports coverage in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Controversy sells and this is of particular importance to media houses. However, there is always a need for a level of maturity and responsibility to characterise even the most controversial of issues and this must also be the case in sport.
The eager desire to become popular cannot be the major driving force behind our genuine sports journalists. They must be eager to uncover truth.