Covering Coronavirus: Tips, best practices and programs

For Sports Journalists, the Game Is Still On

You’re a sports editor and Covid-19 just emptied the arenas, the ball fields, the links. What to do? Plenty.

At USA Today, if you can’t watch sports, help your readers imagine them.

At the Charlotte Observer, if the Charlotte Hornets stop playing, cover their video doppelgängers. Across the country, sports departments are rethinking coverage.

“Obviously there is still a lot of interest in sports even if the games are not being played,” said Peter Barzilai, the assistant managing editor at USA Today Sports. So when one of his college sport reporters encouraged his Twitter followers Thursday night “as a group therapy” to recall their favorite NCAA tournament of all time, an idea was born.

“We’re all in this mourning period of not having the tournament, not having a the opening of baseball season, now the Master’s being postponed,” Barzilai said. “So we’re trying to put together some pieces, like favorite moments of the tournament, how we think the tournament would have played out, and helping people have a little distraction.”

“It’s like being a local news reporter again – we have to get up every day and go find the story. There’s no spring training, there’s no tournament, we’re not tied to events or the sports calendar. We know there is going to be news. There will still be conversations about when this league is coming back or that league is coming back, or this athlete is testing positive or how this team is handling being shuttered.”

To Matt Stephens, the senior sports editor for McClatchy’s southeast region, the lack of competition is an opportunity to test his own philosophy of sports journalism: “I always think the games are the least interesting part of sports. It’s everything else around it that makes sports interesting to me.”

It also means defining sports a bit differently. The NBA’s Hornets recently introduced a new esport team, the the Hornets Venom, to the NBA’s 2K League. In esports, multiple players participate in competitive video games.

“Usually we wouldn’t cover the Hornets’ 2K team,” Stephens said. But his NASCAR reporters is a former esport reporter for the Washington Post. “So we’re looking at this situation as an opportunity to try new things. It wouldn’t be our traditional audience, but there could still be an audience that is interested in it.

“Nobody is excited that sports are over for the time being, but I’m excited for the opportunities for sports journalism that this is going to provide,” he said.

Of Note:

It’s not just the athletes who aren’t working

The Kansas City Star’s @PGrathoff offered a glimpse of sports pages around the country.

The Los Angeles Times is running a Coronavirus Tracker of athletes