The legendary Frank Deford spoke at an awards ceremony on Friday, and during his acceptance speech he lamented what he believes to be the death of sports journalism.
He was somewhat vague on what he thinks is causing the death, but he goes after sports writing that is primarily about statistics and “texting,” suggesting that he believes internet writing, sabermetric-style analysis and social media based stuff like Twitter are killing sports writing.
This, he says, is creating a class of readers and reporters who are “optionally illiterate.” Those who can read and write weighty things, but choose not to.
And what is lost?
Like everyone else, I have no idea what’s going to happen to the future of our profession. The great thing about sportswriting is that it’s about storytelling. The drama, the glamor …. I don’t want to see sportswriting be overwhelmed by statistics. I want to read about the heart and blood of athletes and their stories, which has made sportswriting so special.
I worry who is going to pay for the expensive stuff. The long, expensive, investigative pieces, the enterprise journalism. The work that matters more than anything else and justifies the whole experience as journalists.
I understand what Deford is talking about, but I think he (a) misidentifies who the consumer of sports media is; and (b) identifies a false choice with respect to what sports media can be.
Deford has obviously enjoyed the hell out of his career, but since when is sports reporting — or any reporting — about that which “justifies the whole experience as journalists?”