Centre for Investigative Journalism
Annual Convention: Individual Reports
by Abrey Myers
have had a long history of making themselves look bad, even worse than
they really are."
ALLAN GARR OF VANCOUVER was
quoted by Content
at last year's CIJ convention saying this about the
sports reporters: "(They're) one of the most corrupt going... Jock or
rock reporters get free parking, no ticket cost, get drunk, snort
Even if it isn't true, this is the image of
sportswriters, as others
see them and as they see themselves. Michael Farber of the Montreal
and Réjean Tremblay of La
Presse both made the point that good
writing can and does come from sportswriters.
Said Farber, "Sportswriters have had a history of
look bad, even worse than they really are... I'm not implying that
sportswriters are bought off by drinks. I mean, everybody has their
price. Now, $10,000, I'd go for that. A drink, I can afford that
myself. In the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, I don't think they were buying
off sportswriters, but everyone coming off the plane was carrying a
color television, stereos, and having a wonderful time."
Farber said that sportswriters have had a
tradition of selling
themselves out, "which makes us not the first oldest profession, but
the second oldest profession."
"Journalism, as far as I can tell, is journalism.
all the time, there shouldn't be a distinction." The name "Centre for
Investigative Journalism" should be changed; it implies that there are
other kinds of journalism, "such as the Centre for Puff Journalism... or the Centre for Rewriting Press Releases Journalism."
It's not easy to add dimension to the major
sports, because most are
carried on television, which "can tell it better than any typed copy."
The secret is to go where the camera crews don't
go: into the dressing
rooms, onto the airplane, into the bars after the game. Sportswriters,
the good sportswriters, will write for the person who doesn't
regularly read the sports pages. They will also become "collectors of
moments": Ken Read saying "Isn't it a shame?" about the loss of a ski
Winter Olympics; a description of the second baseman of the Phillies
having a voice like Tennessee Whiskey.
The solid investigative pieces come, but not too
investigated the three-star selection at the end of professional hockey
games and determined that anglophone sportswriters tend to favour
anglophone players and that francophone sportswriters tend to favour
francophone players. (The story was reprinted in the CIJ Review.)
Tremblay wondered at what point money interferes
with the profession.
"You should take everything that is said with a grain of salt. There
are tremendous liberties taken with statements made in sports.
you were a politician you couldn't make half the statements
A difficulty for the writer starting out in
sportswriting: "How do you
do a critical review of a hockey player like Lafleur, when you have
heard and admired him all your life?"
On writing a review of a bad performance when you
have to sit in the
same plane with the player the next day: "If you have written a fair
story and a good story, you should having nothing to worry about."
The question of cleaning up the act in the
sportswriting beat is not
easy to answer. Farber said "that you can really look at it two ways
and I think it's very valid—that we are giving Charles
the owner of the Expos, free publicity. General Motors couldn't buy
that publicity. The Expos or any private corporation couldn't buy the
publicity that we're giving them—free—in the guise
And Ross Grimsley's arm is news and, therefore, Charles Bronfman and
his corporation get a lot of publicity. I accept that and I think that
a valid case can be made for that and, therefore, you can say 'What's
wrong with accepting something from the corporation? It goes on all the
time.' Maybe we can get into that later. I'm not sure I have all the
It was not brought up during question-and-answer period, so this
question will have to wait for another day.
Published in Sources May/June 1980
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