Saturday, March 30, 2019

Print vs. Web

My course in Sports Communication (soon to be complemented by a fine textbook written by the author of this blog) is in its second year.  This is the fourth consecutive semester it has been offered and in the fall there will be two sections.

I've been impressed, for the most part, with the quality of students who enroll in this class.  We at Northeastern have continued to increase the requirements necessary for admission so it would make sense that students in this class would be bright and industrious as are the students in our other classes.

What makes this class distinctive is that many students enroll in it, not because it is a requirement, but because of their inherent interest in sports. And knowledge of sports.  When undergraduates enroll in Organizational Communication--another class I teach--they typically are not familiar with Communication theories or, say, Scientific Management.

However, students in Sports Communication are athletes themselves, very serious fans, or in some cases aspire to go into careers in sports writing or broadcasting.  They come with considerable background and that background enriches the course.

Each class begins with what I have called a Daily Case.  Students have to respond by writing a one page paper based on a prompt that appears on the syllabus.  The prompt is a statement. Students either Agree or Disagree with the statement and provide a rationale. For example, a  prompt could be: how teammates communicate off the field of play is more significant than how they communicate on the field of play in terms of ultimate team success.  Another example: Fans are entitled to express their discontent at player and coaching performance--as critically as they wish--when they purchase a ticket for a game.  A third example:  If women's sports were broadcast as regularly as men's sports then women's sports would enjoy the same level of fan enthusiasm.  A fourth: Athletes have the social responsibility to use their platforms to communicate their positions about social injustice.

Typically, the reactions to these prompts are varied often representing antithetical positions with the same level of energy.  One student will argue that athletes do have the responsibility to speak out about, for example, political oppression. And another will shout, just as emphatically, that athletes should stay in their athletic lanes.

One prompt that, each semester, gets uniform response relates to whether sports information communicated on the web is more relevant and valuable than information communicated in traditional media. Regularly, the majority of students will say that they never read the newspaper for sports news.  I will ask a question about an article in the Boston Globe and the students will look at me as if I asked about a piece in Physics Quarterly.  Students in 2019 who are interested in sports go to the web.  One of the best students I have had in four semesters teaching this class said, "I can't remember the last time I read a newspaper for sports news." She was always on top of information about sports. but never used the paper.

Okay, so on Thursday I passed a colleague of mine on the way to class. He is a sports fan and teaches a course in Sports Writing. I asked him if he was excited about opening day which was last Thursday. He smiled and asked if I had seen the sports page of the New York Times where there were several articles dedicated to the 1969 Mets.  I had not, but as someone who remembers the 69 Mets, more than I remember nearly any other sports team, I was eager to see the articles.

I have a Sunday subscription to the Times, but not a daily one. However, because of the Sunday subscription I have access to the web version.  So, I thought I would put on a young person's hat--even though I almost never read a newspaper on line, and read the articles.

Spoiler Alert: I am and have been eligible for social security, so perhaps my comments reflect the times around the track, but I found reading the articles off-putting. First I could not see them all at the same time, so I could not select which ones I might find most attractive. Second, I kept butting heads with advertisements that for some reason in the print version I can skip over. Yes, I did not dirty my fingers, and yes I did not have to go to the library, but the experience of reading them all or the serendipity of finding something else relevant on the page was not as great. 

So today, I will be going to a local library where they keep back copies and immerse myself in the 69 Mets in a way, I do not think those who seek out the Times on-line can or will. 


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