You would have never thought that our first opinion piece of the 2020 high school football season would have been about anything other than Covid-19. While the pandemic is still a concern on everyone's mind, things seem to be moving along in spite of the disease. That's something we should all be extremely thankful for.
Our first piece of this season is about the people that say they cover the game - and I hesitate to call everyone that's doing that these days "the media" because honestly many of them are not.
This all started with a phone call from a good friend on a Saturday morning about a week ago. He was complaining to me about the quality of announcers he had heard the night before doing some of the areas high school games over the radio and online. As someone who spent 30+ years in the radio business, I can guarantee you that the quality of high school broadcasts, with a few exceptions, has diminished greatly across the board. I believe I can tell you why. Back in the day, it was usually the owner of each radio station himself that was intricately involved in each week's broadcast. He knew the team, the principal, all the coaches, and everybody that mattered in the community the team was from. He cared about the product on the air and put a lot into it. Selling sponsorships was easy. Everybody wanted on the radio game because everybody in town was listening.
Fast forward to today. For radio, things are totally different. Most station owners have ZERO to do with the on-air broadcast of any high school football game. They send anybody willing to put a headset on to do the game while they're sitting back hoping they've made anything off sponsorships that week--something that is increasingly more difficult in this economy and the competitive nature of that industry.
Television, with revenues from other normal resources dwindling, started looking at high school football for a potential revenue stream. Their entrance into the party on a regular basis, while less felt in our area, has had a profound effect on radio's coverage of games, especially in major US markets.
In the past 3-5 years, streaming for both live video and audio has changed things even more. When we started FNN back in 2011, nobody hardly knew what streaming was, including the audience. Now, with free stream-to platforms like Facebook and YouTube, every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a laptop is trying it, with most not having a clue how to do it and what is required to produce a quality product. Don't get us wrong. We don't have an issue with anybody giving these schools much-needed coverage. Every true media member that does this has covered his or her "first game", having to get their start that first day. Experience makes us all better.
There are numerous websites now. Facebook pages. Schools have started affiliations with the NFHS Network and their Robo-camera platform through constant prodding by the AHSAA. Finances are on everyone's agenda now.
Here's the rub - don't go stand on the sidelines at games and take a few selfies to post on Facebook and call yourself media. You're not! If you're going to produce content and seek sponsorship dollars from a community, invest in decent equipment that results in a half-way professional product. When you're doing it for fun or the love of the game, that's one thing, but when you reach out for financial sponsorship from the business community, those people that invest expect results and when they don't come, it adversely affects those of us that have invested a lot of money and time in the products we produce. A couple of hundred video views or less than a thousand listeners will not produce consistent advertising results.
We feel schools need to care about how their product is presented to the public. If someone can't produce a quality product that represents your brand, it's our opinion they shouldn't be given that privilege until they can. Everybody wants to cover a winning program. It's good for the audience and even better for potential sponsorships if done correctly. You don't find many of these so-called "media" around coaches and teams that are 5-5 and don't make the playoffs on a regular basis.
Let me end with this, because I know somewhere I've hit a nerve out there. Media competition doesn't bother us at all. Good competition forces us all to be better at what we do. We truly welcome the challenges it brings our way. At FNN, we've offered help and assistance to many of our media brothers and sisters over the years and received it back in return. If you're someone that wants to do this and generate quality content, ask for help, and be prepared before you jump on a hot mic or a live camera to do a game. You'll be much better for it.
For those of you looking to enter the profession, have respect for those that have paved the way for you - our area has produced some very legendary and talented play-by-play voices, sportscasters and sportswriters. Being a true member of the media is a privilege earned by the quality of the work you do, not by a self-made lanyard around your neck
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