A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Letters to the editor

By Quill

Colleges do enough for sports journalism

To the editor:

Neil Henry’s “Toy department deserves more respect” (August 2005) told only part of the story. He wonders why sports reporting isn’t offered in more college journalism programs. One reason might be that journalism professors can teach the coverage of “race relations and gender equity laws … priorities of education and local governance and politics” in more appropriate courses than using those topics to justify a sports reporting course. Henry seems to imply that sports reporting students might get interested in covering those subjects in a sport context and then cover them for the front page. That’s highly unlikely.

Unlike the Berkeley J-school, at the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of journalism programs in the United States, it is difficult to find print journalism students interested in covering anything but sports or entertainment.

Moreover, in the newspaper industry, sports news does not need “more respect.” Sports news already gets more of everything: space, staff, travel budgets, etc. The key Readership Institute (www.readership.

org) study showed sports news getting a mean average of 21.5 to 22.7 percent of all news space, depending on circulation size. This is about twice as much space as any other type of news. Sports news tied for second place on “reader satisfaction” (meaning we’re giving them plenty, perhaps too much). On one scale of “importance,” readers ranked sports BEHIND business, education, environment, health, accidents, politics, science, war and weather news. Thus, the typical U.S. daily that followed the results of Readership Institute studies would be far different than it is today, including -– most notably –- a lot less sports and more “respected” news.

Dane S. Claussen

Department of Journalism and Mass Communication

Point Park University

Another example of pros, pupils working together

To the Editor:

As a professor and 21-year veteran of the newspaper business, I agree that many college journalism programs are out of touch with the industry and do a lousy job of teaching students to write and report. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I started a community journalism class three semester ago at California State University-Fresno that draws raves from the professionals as well as the students who take it. In just over three semesters, my students have published more than 300 stories in professional weeklies and dailies. They leave my class with professional portfolios and oodles of professional experience.

It’s a simple concept: The editors send me story ideas, and I function as a city editor, guiding my students as they report, write and rewrite. When a story is as polished as we can make it, we ship it to the newspapers, who are always happy to get the copy.

My students have done everything from council meetings to elections to sports to features on a bar owner dying of cancer and investigative pieces looking at a small town’s finances. Several of their stories have been nominated for professional awards, and some editors have been so happy they have hired the students for part-time jobs before they even graduated.

It’s a perfect mesh of professional and academic worlds, and a few talented students who were headed for public relations careers opted for journalism after enjoying the class so much. It’s a lot of work for the students and the professor, but it’s worth it.

Dr. Gary Rice

California State University-Fresno

(Distinguished Teaching

in Journalism Award, SPJ, 2000