Miami Law's Entertainment and Sports Law Society organized a panel last Thursday titled "Covering Labor Issues in Professional Sports: A Panel Discussion on the Intersection of Sports Media and Sports Law." Topics ranged from Tweets-gone-bad to NFL and NBA lockouts, and ended with a reception in the Student Lounge.
Panelists included sports broadcaster Jorge Sedano; Miami Law alumnus David E. Canter, a talent agent for athletes; Tim Reynolds, a sports writer for the Associated Press; and Ethan Skolnick, the Miami Heat columnist for The Palm Beach Post.
The moderator was Adjunct Law Professor Donald M. Papy, who pronounced the event "interesting and informative" and said it had demonstrated that media coverage of sports "is very much entertainment driven."
The controversy surrounding University of Miami football players came up during a conversation about getting the facts right in a 24-hour news cycle in which some news organizations resort to pilfering information from each other. Such use of second- and third-hand sources often leads to speculation being reported as fact, the panelists agreed. One recalled a news outlet reporting that 13 UM football players were to be suspended by the NCAA, when the correct number was eight.
The panelists' discussion succeeded in illuminating the wisdom of the joint JD/MA in Communications degree, especially when contract negotiations, scandals and other legal issues are taking center stage in sports coverage.
Reynolds and Skolnick, both print reporters, said there are unprecedented challenges to reporting on complex issues in today's media industry. Sometimes, they said, the issues being examined are so weighed down with legalities that the reporters do not possess a deep understanding of what they mean. In addition, they went on, there is often not enough space to tell the whole story.
"It's very difficult to explain complex issues in 600 words," said Skolnick, referring to the shrinking space allotted for stories in newspapers. That, compounded with the demands of constant news cycles, makes it challenging to cover sports issues in any depth.
The question was raised as to whether most people are even interested in "real" issues. "There's no depth in newspapers because no one really cares," Sedano said. "We're an A.D.D society."
A few people laughed.
Later, Reynolds pointed out the advantage of a legal background for sports reporters, especially when speaking to players about deals. "Trying to merge the two fields is brilliant," he said. "How can I ask them about their next contract if I don't have rudimentary knowledge? I need to understand the rules."