Thursday, May 31, 2007

Constructive Criticism About Televised Track Meets, Part 2

[Click here for Part 1]

You might recall that my first challenge was from a reader who suggested that FLP readers, "provide constructive criticism to USATF's televisied series of track meets, including the USA Indoor and Outdoor Championships and the Visa Championship Series."

In that post I promised that I would obtain some feedback for you from USATF and that I would compile a list of contact names from networks of televised USATF events so that you could call or write them to offer some constructive criticism about the sorry state of track and field coverage on television. (Note to self: don't start an FLP challenge on the Saturday of a national holiday unless you want to wait several days to get the first replies).

Jill M. Geer, USATF Director of Communications, was most gracious in her reply and offered FLP some insightful suggestions. The best thing that track and field fans can do to promote broadcasts and how the sport is covered, Ms. Geer offered, "would be to write to ESPN to convince them the sport needs to be on SportsCenter, and that they should promote broadcasts of the sport before they happen. Those are two simple things that would make a big difference. The same goes for newspaper coverage of the sport – writing to their sports editors to let them know they should cover the sport is more effective than any lobbying on our part."

I can't help you with the contact names of the sports editors at your hometown newspapers (there are 1,400+ in the U.S. alone), but I can certainly help you to reach their website, if they have one. Newspapers all over the U.S. are extremely sensitive about declining circulations. Your letters to the sports editors will be noticed. Here are some suggested points to make:

The sports coverage your newspaper provides is unbalanced and tipped in favor of NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. The sport of Track and Field is poorly covered. There aren't enough stories, headlines, athlete profiles statistics, or advance promotion of track and field meets. Please offer more track and field coverage or I will have to consider not buying your newspaper anymore.

As for the network contacts, here they are:



(Note: the CBS contact page attempts to redirect you to for feedback about CBS Sports. I provided you with this page because Sportsline not only requires you to register but seems to be more oriented toward promoting their website and their Fantasy Sports League than to receiving feedback about the CBS TV Sports Division.)

Some suggested points of criticism for TV Networks:

  • Extend the broadcast length of track and field meets. Current coverage is too compressed. One or two hours is not enough time to cover an entire meet.
  • Many of the middle-distance events are not shown in their entirety. Why must networks insist on cutting to commercials right in the middle of an event? Show more events in their entirety.
  • Too many events (especially field events) are extremely short capsule summaries that only show the winner's - and maybe the challenger's - winning effort. If broadcast time is an issue, at least extend the summaries of pre-broadcast events to include more field-event performances.
  • If broadcast time is of the essence, show less human-interest stories and athlete profiles and more of the events during your broadcasts. Track fans are not as interested in watching melodrama as they are in watching the actual events unfold.
  • Some of the best-quality meets are over in Europe. Track and field fans in America are missing most of the European meets. Broadcast more European meets.
  • Track and Field is not routinely covered during sports news shows on your network. Offer more news coverage of track and field events other than the Olympic Games. Track and Field has a season every year, not just every 4 years.
  • Promote broadcasts of meets before they happen like you do with other sports.

My goal is to recruit 1,000 track and field fans to write each of the networks and one hometown newspaper to offer them constructive criticism. As they say, 1 letter is worth 50 signatures. If 1,000 of you would take action, the networks definitely would take note as if 50,000 people had acted. Please come back to this post and comment once you've taken action. It'd be interesting to tally how many people actually act. The only way we can change the status quo of second-rate track and field coverage on TV and in newspapers is to act.

So there it is, hopefully, the beginnings of a grassroots campaign to improve the quality of track and field's television/newspaper coverage in the United States. I hope you will take a few minutes to contact the TV networks and the sports editor of your local newspaper to offer them some constructive criticism about the sorry state of track and field media coverage.

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