Ignoring papers will not improve coverage

COMMENTARY: BILL COLWILL on a worrying change of approach towards national newspapers by Hockey England

The late Chris Moore once wrote “Sport can’t exist without newspapers” and at the time it was hard to believe that it could be the case for hockey with the four major broadsheet papers — The Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, all with their own hockey correspondents, and in some cases one for men and one for women, the Sunday Times and Observer also giving the game good coverage.

Chris was writing about the conflict between newspapers and television and was indeed referring to the need for the “drip feed” of the written media against the occasional coverage of the game on big occasions by television. Then, television was paying for the privilege of screening the sport, which is no longer the case today.

The one time hockey specialist of the Daily and the Sunday Telegraph, both of which gave such splendid coverage of the game in the past, would be horrified to know that both newspapers now appear to have forsaken hockey. Although there has been a similar decline at newspapers worldwide and online technology is generally blamed, it is difficult to believe that there are not other underlying factors.

Sports editors will tell you it is market forces and economic factors which have dictated the change. Another answer will be that the interest in hockey is simply not there.

I don’t buy this. This is possibly true from their viewpoint but it should not be the view of hockey’s administrators. Equally, the administrators should not, as it often appears, accept that television and now websites can fill the vacuum left by newspapers; both are ill-equipped to do so. Between them they may be able to provide results and in the case of television, coverage of major events. But it has in the past always been the newspapers that hockey supporters turn to for the bread and butter coverage and exposure of the game at all levels and the crusading zeal which all sports require.

It may be too late to buck the trend but there is undoubtedly a need at national and international level to give deep thought to a worrying situation which is threatening the progress of hockey.

The internet is still relatively new and it is difficult to know where it will lead next and exactly what long-term effect it will have on the traditional media. We may have to accept that newspapers are no longer required any more but there will still be a place for journalists to find out details, provide commentary and having established the facts provide, where necessary, a critical analysis. First-class original journalism is still required.

Nevertheless, I was disappointed to hear it reported from a recent Road Show presentation that England Hockey’s policy was in effect that they were no longer interested in national press coverage and were going to concentrate their efforts on magazines and feature material. This is a defeatist attitude.

History shows that the British public has the appetite to become absorbed in any sport if it is promoted in the right way and for hockey’s sake England Hockey must find a way to get it back in the national media on a regular basis. Like hockey, media coverage should be a team effort.

This is from the latest issue of The Hockey Writer, the newsletter distributed to HWC members. More details about the HWC can be found by clicking here

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