Jamaica is blessed with some of the best sport journalists you will find anywhere across the globe.
In countries like Canada, UK and US many UK sports journalists tend to stay in their lane and focus on just one or two specific sports. So you would never hear ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith discuss or report on English football or the Daily Mirror’s John Cross report in any detail on basketball or lawn tennis.
But the average Jamaica sports journalists brings versatility to their sports coverage and discussions. Most are comfortable discussing any range of (international/local) sports. Whether it be football, cricket, netball, swimming, lawn tennis, boxing, athletics, NFL, basketball and table tennis.
The Jamaican sports journalists’ reputation is so well known and respected internationally that some are called up to cover events on behalf of global media organisations.
But for 2019 there is one request I beg of the local sports media fraternity. In relation to local sports please give more reports to the action/players and reduce the airtime/column inches given to the local administrators.
Currently much of local sports reporting is taken up by political figures, sport administrators and spokespersons for sponsors. Yes, these individuals have a part to play in the development of local sports, but the players are missing out on fair coverage in the media.
You rarely go 5 days without some sports report bulletin that includes interviews/speech clips from the likes of Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Minister of Sports and Christopher Samuda, head of the Jamaica Olympic Association. Not far behind are the likes of executives such as Billy Heaven (cricket), Michael Ricketts (football) and Godfrey Lothian (table tennis) and Walton Small (school sports!).
These suits seem to suck up much of the airtime which is very unfair on those playing the sports. Sometimes I wonder if these suits use their lofty positions to boost their own image/outside interest and the sport is just a side issue. Whether these suits are doing a good job or not is besides the point; sports reporting should never dedicate so much time to the pen pushers and suits.
Table tennis is a perfect example. In sports reports you will see endless interviews about the sport with its top administrator for the last 6 years, Godfrey Lothian. Lothian is always in the media discussing his strategic plans, launch events, electioneering, board infighting or which overseas meeting he is off to from the airport. But you rarely see reports about the local table tennis players themselves.
The local sports players need more coverage in the news reports as it would give them much needed exposure to fans and possibly increase their own chances of attracting sponsorship.
In the UK, sports media hardly mentions the sports minister. I have no idea who that person is and do not wish to know. The outgoing head of the English Premier League, Richard Scudamore, hardly spoke publicly. He allowed the product (players and managers) to do the talking and publicity.
IRIE FM’s flagship sports show “What’s the Score” seems to be over run with such sporting administrators as their special guest on its 2 hour weekly show. Last week the show had as its special guest Godfrey Lothian (head of table tennis) and the week before Billy Heaven (head of cricket). Both men running for reelection for their respective sporting body. This week the show had as its special guest Mark Neita who is challenging Heaven for the post of head of Jamaican cricket.
When was the last time “What’s the Score” had a table tennis player or cricketer as a special guest?
Decades ago when Jamaica had just a handful of media outlets we knew the names of the top local table tennis. Why? Because the sports coverage mentioned their match reports constantly. These Jamaican table tennis players were not world beaters but they were our local stars in the sport.
Back then we knew of the exploits of local table tennis players such as Sandra Riettie, Orville Haslam, Stephen Hylton, Colin McNeish, Ingrid Mangatal and David Marshalleck. These players drew large audiences, discussions and extra coverage. The media reports back then of the charismatic Desmond Douglas – Jamaican-born English player – also generated much interest amongst young Jamaicans to play the sport.
Those were the individuals who inspired us to take up the sport not the suits.
There is an old saying that the best sports administrators are the ones who stay in the background and let their respective sport do all the talking. There is also a thought that if the suits are in the news constantly, then it could imply that there are underlining problems with the sport they are overseeing. As one table tennis administrator said recently; his sport has become a contact game – in the boardroom.
So to the local media houses – develop a fairer balance that allows the local players more coverage in your reporting. It is just never a good look when the comments from politicians and administrators constantly fill up such sports reports. The local players lose out. So too the fans.