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Article:InterMat.Blog: Four Points on Newspaper Coverage

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Fourpoints
The weather’s nice and the gas prices still stink. I think I did something to my Achilles, so I’m limping around. Today’s Four Points is about media coverage …

Right now, I’m listening into Kyle Tucker and Paul White of The Virginian-Pilot are arguing Title IX with John Castleberry on 102.1 FM The Game out of Hampton Roads, Va. I’ve worked with all three on various levels. I used to call in John’s show on another radio station and Kyle and Paul are good people. Kyle’s using some stats I threw at him and he’s really doing well in winning the argument.

Gas : $3.89
Weather : 64 and nice.

Now, we’re talking about media coverage and we’ve touched on television and those contracts, but now, let’s talk about wrestling coverage as a whole.

New York Times: Women’s Wrestling coverage
I thought yesterday’s story in the New York Times was good exposure for the sport. The discussion centered on the increase in women’s participation in wrestling, but the lack of college programs nationwide. We’re looking to get the NCAA to recognize the women’s part of the sport as “emerging” so the possibility of growing the sport and solidifying the sport as a whole.

Well, Billy Baldwin, actor and former Binghamton wrestler, sent a note along and initially, I wasn’t in agreement 100 percent, but then I re-read it, and re-read it, and re-read it again.

I think pointing out women’s wrestling is indeed a factor was great for the sport and something I whole-heartedly support. As I said yesterday, I’ve been lobbying to get women’s wrestling as an emerging sport. Others are with me. I’ve queried the NCAA about it several times, but as it relates to overall coverage … Billy does have a point.

To the Editor,
Re “Women Want to Wrestle; Small Colleges Oblige” by Katie Thomas (front page May 27th) 

 

I found your front page article on female wrestling to be insulting.  I am a wrestling enthusiast and find it disrespectful that men leave their blood, sweat, and tears on the wrestling mat for decades only to be continuously ignored by the New York Times. (And the rest of the mainstream media for that matter!)

I have attended the Olympic, World, and NCAA Championships and often times cannot even find the results of these prestigious tournaments posted in the New York Times.

What I find particularly irritating and ironic is the fact that Title IX has unfairly and disproportionately decimated the ranks of NCAA wrestling from 330 Division 1 programs prior to Title IX to below 90 programs today - thus reducing your front page feature on female wrestling to a slap in the face to the men that have wrestled and fought for decades to save this great sport only to be continuously ignored.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Title IX.  I am a supporter.  There have been great results.  Mia Hamm, Lisa Leslie, Jenny Finch and thousands of others like them.  My problem is with the New York Times and how they continue to disrespect the great sport of wrestling through their lack of coverage. 

What’s it gonna take to get a little ink, fellas?  Perhaps if the men wrestled the women naked, that might capture your attention?  C’mon, this isn’t the New York Post!!!  Wake up and give the oldest and greatest sport the respect and attention that it deserves.

In the spirit of the sport,
William Baldwin
Actor
Wrestling Enthusiast
 

Well, Billy makes a great point. Here’s why.

I did a search for “wrestling” in the New York Times. I started August 19, 2007 … about nine or so months ago. I found a story about Guy Sako and Defense Soap on that day, but it wasn’t in the Sports section. Then I counted seven other “wrestling” stories.

There was the story from yesterday; there were two about Dustin Carter, the kid from Ohio who qualified for the state tournament without arms or legs. There was a story about Sumo wrestling and two from the WWE - one on the death of the Fabulous Moolah and another on the company suspending 10 “wrestlers.”

Oh, there was a story on Scott Winston going to Rutgers last week, but a search for “Beat the Streets” and wrestling did not return any results, even though there was a huge gala last week which raised half a million dollars at the Bowery Hotel in Manhattan.

For the New York Times, it’s great to focus on certain things, and while the women don’t get much coverage in comparison to the men within our own wrestling media, two stories about a remarkable high school kid from Ohio and New Jersey’s best wrestler hardly constitute “coverage.”

The women’s story was good and great exposure, but where’s the wrestling been all year long?

Dropping the ball on the Beat the Streets … tisk tisk.

USA Today: Another disappointment
Another recent story came on the heels of Mother’s Day. Kristie Marano’s 10-year-old daughter Kayla once received an hour piggy-back ride from yours truly.  Kristie’s a gamer, a real chill individual and definitely someone who knows how to fight. Two weeks ago, this ran.

The story of the woman fighting to wrestle towards Olympic glory all the while having a 10-year-old daughter is a great human interest story. It’s story that should have been written. While Kristie’s story was again, putting wrestling on display on more doorsteps than any other publication, where was the coverage before?

Gary Mihoces has covered wrestling for USA Today for a long time. He’s a good man and a sound writer. He’ll get wrestling in as a pitch when he can, but as Mike Chapman wrote in his column in W.I.N. Magazine, USA Today missed the boat on the NCAA Division I Championships.

Chapman detailed how many editorial “inches” were given to basketball and in comparison the two inches of content given to wrestling the day after. Inches in terms of how long a story is. A 12-inch story in your local rag would be anywhere from 350-400 words - not really long at all.

Kristie’s story was the most ink wrestling has received in USA Today all year - and while I don’t have the back issues in front of me, it might be safe to assume her story was the most ink wrestling has received in USA Today all year COMBINED.

While my own dissatisfaction with Gannett News Service aside, the only thing USA Today has going for it is the rankings, which the paper lends its name to and does run on Wednesdays - depending on space. The USA Today/InterMat/NWCA Division I Coaches Poll is the only thing USA Today consistency does for wrestling, except when Mihoces gets a feature on Josh Glenn or Mark Cody through.

ESPN: The Leader in …
Unlike USA Today, I will say ESPN has been consistent with its level of wrestling involvement, however, that involvement is actually better than it once was, but at least it’s steady. 

We had the ESPNU Invitational, with its split-screen and increased live coverage of the NCAA Championships. The last two years have seen weekly features on wrestling on the (dot)com side of ESPN by Mike Rand and Andy Hamilton.

ESPNews running the rankings on the “Bottom Line” each Tuesday and Wednesday. But that’s the network and (dot)com side. We don’t see any wrestling highlights, maybe a clip of something on Top Plays once in a blue moon on SportsCenter. The only wrestling story was on Sara McMann from their magazine, a heart-tugging story, but couldn’t that have also been something Outside The Lines could have picked up on. There was Roller Derby featured last week, something I’m involved in, but there are plenty of stories about wrestling OTL could use.

ESPN’s probably been the most welcoming in terms of overall wrestling coverage. I did watch the 2007 World Series of Poker last night at 2 a.m. … which again, is part of the problem.

What can we do to get more local press?
This is the part that gets me the most. In all the cases above, the coverage has been largely disappointing compared to any other sport battling for headline space, but the two sides to every story still remain. 

In the case with the stories on women’s wrestling, Marano and McMann - all great reads, all high exposure, but all met with complaints from the wrestling community. Are we doing our part in sending notes along to the editors, not just one of you or two of you, but if it doesn’t affect a specific fan, you’re not going to get the national response. I think Baldwin’s points are valid, but we also need to let those editors know EVERY time a story is written you would like to read more about wrestling in this publication.

The bottom line for the papers is dollars. Is it going to sell papers? MLB Box Scores sell papers, lottery numbers sell papers, Dilbert sells papers.

How many of you followed Chapman’s advice? Did you even read Chapman’s column? Fan apathy and laziness still continue to be our worst enemy. When there’s a story about wrestling, do you take it for granted? I need to do my part as a fan, we all do.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but again (beating the dead horse), we need to continue to be proactive in getting editors to hear (educated) voices on the sport.

We just had two newspaper reporters and a talk show host discussing wrestling and Title IX for 35 minutes during drive-time in an area with two million people.

What else can you do? Don’t be guarded about wrestling stories. If someone in your area is a great human interest story, call the paper, talk to a writer. They got numbers and e-mails listed at either the top or bottom of nearly every story.  Contact them about a kid at your church, school or neighborhood doing something good.

Papers are trimming budgets left and right, the less work someone’s gotta do for a solid lead, the better off it might get printed. More wrestling was in the paper because someone who knew about wrestling kept pitching idea after idea.

Start pitching those ideas and stop assuming Sports Editors know enough about wrestling to recognize a story. They need to fill pages. Make that job easier by doing your job for the sport.


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