Need media coverage – then hire your own reporter. That is what is happening in the US where newspapers are increasingly in the position where they can no longer to afford to send reporters to cover professional sports.
The New York Times this week highlighted the growing trend in baseball and hockey for teams to hire journalists who have previously covered their teams.
Newspapers have increasingly been using copy from news agencies, which tends to focus only on the winning team. It doesn’t necessarily tell the full story of the game and misses details that a newspaper’s dedicated reporter can bring to the story – particularly if his team has lost. However, it is not just the match day coverage that has disappeared but the profile provided by non-match day stories and interviews.
To combat this, the hockey team the Los Angeles Kings have hired journalist Rich Hammond, who used to cover the team for the Los Angeles Daily News. He will travel to all the games and provide copy for the team’s local newspapers.
It immediately throws up issues of impartiality and potential conflict with the Kings’ PR team. Hammond has been quick to dispel concerns on his blog. He says that that his output will not need approval or interviews supervision and that his role is not PR.
He will be working as an independent reporter but can he? It is hard to believe that that the PR team will be totally comfortable with this as, in theory, he can write stories about the conflict within the club or how the manager may be about to lose his job. Compromise will happen somewhere along the line.
Could something like this happen with professional sport in the UK? Unlikely at national newspaper level but with the cuts being made in the regional media and the number of journalists that have been made redundant it is not beyond the realms of possibility. A media owner could jump at the idea to have a flow of stories about a football club without the cost of employing the journalist. But the nagging question would be how much input has the PR team really had?