The Texas Program in Sports and Media


Faculty Fellowships

TPSM has awarded five summer fellowship for research teams investigating a broad spectrum of issues related to the knotty cultural intersection of sports and media. Fellows come from the School of Journalism and the Departments of Advertising and Public Relations, Communication Studies, Radio-TV-Film. Summaries of the research initiatives follow.

Dr. Dawna I. Ballard, Department of Communication Studies

Time in the Football Career: Professional, Personal, and Public Times in the Life of a Player

This project is twofold, examining both: 1) how the time-related structure and rhythms of professional football careers affect player development in ways that have gone unaddressed, as well as 2) the role of media coverage in shaping public expectations about the profession (in ways that may be inaccurate and, ultimately, impact player development).  While some professional programs have been developed that emphasize the need for players to plan for the future, what is missing is consideration of basic time issues that shape their careers, their lives, and fundamentally drive the game.  Similarly, the role of media images in shaping public expectations—including its increasing frequency owed to 24-hour news casts and social media—is a time-related issue that merits attention in its own right. 

Drs. Vincent Cicchirillo & Lucinda Atkinson, Department of Advertising and Public Relations

Parental Mediation of Sports Content on Television

Parental mediation of children’s television viewing is a relatively new of area of research that has advanced in the social and behavioral sciences. Parental mediation has been examined in regards to violent television (Nathanson, 1999), advertising (Fujioka & Austin, 2003), TV news (Buijzen, Walma van der Molen, & Sondij, 2007), and even videogame playing (Nikken & Jansz, 2006). However, one area that has not been examined is of parental mediation of sports content on television. The research on parental mediation has grown considerably, but it lacks the inclusion of interaction variables (mother or father mediation) and specific television content (sports) that might influence outcomes related to children and how they view sports media. Furthermore, the mediation of sports content may impact children’s levels of sportsmanship and their views and reactions to winning, losing, and competitive situations.

Dr. Renita Coleman and Carolyn Yaschur, Ph.D. Student, School of Journalism

He Shot, She Shot: Sports Photojournalism, News Outlet size and Gender

Sports images are gripping invitations for viewers, offering front-row seats for seeing game action, revisiting key plays and defining moments. In addition, sports photojournalism offers fans a behind-the-scenes look, allowing them intimate and candid views of athletes they feel an association with, but are likely never to meet.

Photographs attract attention (Garcia & Stark, 1991; Zillmann, Knobloch, & Yu, 2001) and influence perception (Gibson & Zillmann, 2000), allowing viewers access to a newsworthy event. Previous research has focused on gender stereotyping of sports images by photojournalists and sports editors (Hardin, Chance, Dodd, & Hardin, 2002; Hardin, Dodd, Chance, & Walsdorf, 2004; Wanta & Leggett, 1988) but little attention has been paid to the impact of gender on those who create the images. Few, if any, studies have focused on theway photojournalists, both male and female, interact with and visually represent athletes andcoaches. This is important on an interpersonal level as well as having ramifications on theimages that result.

Tracy Dahlby, Frank A. Bennack Jr. Chair in Journalism, Avery Holton, Ph.D. student and Mark Coddington, M.A. student, School of Journalism

Tweets on Deck: Modeling Social Network and News Media Integration for Coverage of a Professional Sports Team

As social media platforms such as Twitter continue to gain credibility and functionality as digital reporting tools, inviting both trained and untrained journalists to the new creation process, sports organizations continue to struggle with appropriate means of accommodation. Where once media access was easily and unquestionably restricted to the elite few, more and more citizens are seeking similar access to offer breaking news, contextualization, and commentary on sports teams. Yet, these teams have moved slowly to meet the demands of the evolving media landscape.

This study seeks an ethnographic exploration of one sports team moving with, and possibly ahead, of the digital media curve. Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, who last year opened up a section of seating exclusively for social media engagement, became the first professional team in any sports arena to offer full access to untrained social media journalists this season. The Indians have moved toward organizational transparency, allowing these journalists to report from a suite inside their home stadium while also affording them field and clubhouse access.

Dr. Caroline Frick, Department of Radio-TV-Film

Archival Preservation of Sub-national Sports Collections

In April, 2011, one of the archivists at the Home Box Office headquarters in New York sent an impassioned message to the Association of Moving Image Archivists list-serv.   The archivist’s email requested that members of the professional association contact him should they be aware of any extant sports programming produced by HBO in the 1970s.  As he explained, HBO had re-used videotape and/or disposed of obsolete recording formats leaving them without the vast majority of their productions from the era.  Missing from HBO’s collection, and now needed for current productions as well as the celebration of the network’s fortieth anniversary, were materials related to the National Basketball Association, the short-lived American Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, professional bowling, professional wrestling and many more. 

HBO’s experience is not unique.  Media producers across the United States have lost significant portions of their programming libraries due to short-term decisions in a pre-cable and internet era in which older media simply appeared a financial liability.  Over the last several decades, the motion picture preservation community has succeeded in raising millions of dollars and public support for the preservation of American cinema.  Big budget features such as Vertigo and The Big Sleep have been restored to great fanfare alongside more ephemeral works such as educational films, industrials and even home movies.  Sports media, however, have remained notably absent from these high profile preservation projects and policy discussions.

A recently completed University of Indiana dissertation focused upon the creation and evolution of the National Football League film collection appears to be the first of its kind within the archival community.  The NFL research, not to mention HBO’s plea for information related to its lost sports media, helps illustrate what I perceive as a growing interest in sports and “the archive.”  And like similar investigations that have emanated from within the arts and humanities, such initial investigations appear to be taking place at the national level, with major broadcasting entities, nationally influential sports teams and leagues.  Less obvious, although equally important, are the issues and questions related to sub-national sports collections. 

TPSM research

The Texas Program in Sports and Media supports research into issues of sport and society in two ways: direct support of faculty-led, empirical research and developing archival repositories of primary documents.

TPSM serves as a resource center for faculty researching issues related to sports, media and society. Within the College of Communication, faculty and students from the disciplines of journalism, advertising/pr, radio/television/film and communication studies conduct both applied and theoretical research into the cultural confluence of sports’ production, distribution and marketing. As a resource center, TPSM partners with faculty-led research initiatives to offer a wide range of information resources to facilitate the gathering of data and dissemination of research findings. A description of TPSM-supported research initiatives can be found at this website.

TPSM develops and supports archival repositories that provide a foundation for original scholarship and represent a wide spectrum of our cultural attraction to sport. These archives include primary documents, research archives and creative collections. For more information on the specific repositories, please see this webpage.

Holton: Bloggers not "trusted"

Independent bloggers represent the least trusted media type and are the most likely to be turned down for press pass requests, according to the first academic study to assess the sentiments of media-credentialing executives in sports organizations toward new media coverage. The research is the first study supported by TPSM.

Avery Holton, a doctoral candidate in the School of Journalism, surveyed 127 professional baseball teams from every organizational level to measure their "trust" in various media and how they responded to requests for press passes. Team media relations officials were asked to rank their trust in media ranging from the traditional to the non-traditional. Holton developed a "trust index" to provide an unbiased picture of trust. The results showed a large divide between the levels of trust team management places in traditional media and bloggers.

Press or Pass is the 11-page summary version of the study. Baseball's Digital Disconnect is the 35-page scholarly version of the study.