Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Damned if you do, damned...

You know the rest. This seems to the situation the WNBA is facing. The league recently launched a campaign to encourage more local press coverage of WNBA teams. On each team's home page there is a link to a local paper that allows you to send a letter to the paper asking for more coverage of the team. It's a form letter. This a point of contention I will get to later.
It's no secret the WNBA is struggling when it comes to attendance. And it's also no secret to some of us that greater media coverage will bring in more fans. So, in addition to changes such as 4 quarters and 24-second shot clock,* Donna Orender, David Stern, and other sport administrators met with key people at the Associated Press before the season started asking how to get more press. And, not surprisingly, they got back the same old line the media gives us regarding women's sports: we cover what our readers want.
Well Orender knows WNBA fans want more coverage and so this email campaign was launched. But editors and writers are poo-poohing it saying that an organized campaign doesn't really show interest. What the &^%$? An organizedcampaign indicates fleeting interest?
I see the point about form emails not necessarily showing some deep, emotional vested interest. (How many fans of men's sports have been required to indicate some level of passionate interest?) All the email campaigns I have participated in encourage senders to add something personal somewhere in the letter or to just write one from scratch. But saying WNBA fans' letters are not genuine, that they somehow indicate a lesser interest, is basically just a way for media outlets to ignore it and diss it--the campaign has been described as "desperate."
Oh and one of the "desperate" comments are coming from alleged fans. Kim Callahan, who runs, in addition to calling it desperate, said "you don't see this on the MLS site." Well MLS is, despite its subordination to other sports in the United States like basketball, football, baseball, still played by men. The WNBA must do a lot of things that other leagues do not have to do. Last night for example, during the fourth quarter, Sheryl Swoopes, who was on the bench, not having a great scoring night, and her team was behind, spoke with an ESPN sideline reporter. Women athletes have to make themselves available to the media in ways male athletes do not.
The problem is that as much as they put themselves out there and the league puts them out there, so few people seem to be taking advantage of their accessibility. Maybe they're too busy whining about how the big stars in men's sports are so aloof and so stingy with their time.

*Which it seems San Antonio has not gotten used to yet if last night's win over the Houston Comets is any indication. They had more than one shot clock violation and during the one I saw, no one even let the shooter know the clock was running down--not a player, or a coach, or the fans.

1 comment:

Diane said...

That is a tried-and-true way to suppress not only reader demands, but demands for social change. Often, when such letters are sent in protest to TV stations, politicians, etc., the answer is "It doesn't count--it's a letter-writing campaign."