The growing threat of coronavirus could change the way sports reporters and athletes interact in a negative way.
The coronavirus is having a huge impact on the world as we know it. The NHL’s announcement that clubhouses will be closed to the media, making all team interview access a press conference setting, could have a huge impact on the way our teams are covered. I am hearing the NBA and MLB will soon follow as well.
The newspaper industry as we know it is in deep economic trouble and if reporters covering teams can only get access in a conference room setting, why send them to games? They can cover teams from their living rooms and get the exact same access they would at a game. And it would decrease the travel budget websites and newspapers need to spend.
If reporters insist on traveling with the team, newspapers and other web portals might demand reporters be independent contractors and pay for their own travel which they can use to defray taxes by forming an individual LLC. The companies may actually like this setup, but the fans will suffer as every reporter will seem like we are sitting in an echo chamber.
I do believe the safety of all concerned should be the top priority but this could eliminate so many jobs in our industry which is troubling, to say the least. Maybe the short-term answer is every credentialed media member, as well as every player and team executive be mandated to take a coronavirus test.
But my fear is once the coronavirus situation passes, teams may be hesitant to return to total access. My opinion is this could happen and that’s why, as a reporter, I try to carve out access to players remotely by text or cell phones. I’ve always done that but coming into this season, I am doing it more and more because the landscape can change quickly.
For my role at ESPN, audio content is so important and lack of access can make that a challenging thing to accomplish. And I pride myself on getting exclusive content others do not get.
My biggest fear is that the beat reporter position may be eliminated by the senior management in the newspaper industry who have been looking for a way to diminish staffing for that position in the past few months anyway.
This bears watching in the next few weeks as it could change the sports reporting industry forever.