Reimagining sports media without sports

By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer, Video by Drake Toll | Broadcast Managing Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an obvious effect on sports, causing essentially all professional and collegiate athletics to either cancel or postpone play. What may be less apparent are the effects this pandemic has had on sports media and broadcasting.

John Morris, “Voice of the Bears” and Assistant AD for Broadcasting said that while Baylor pays him a salary, the “screeching halt” of sports has hurt many sports media members financially.

“There are a lot of guys I know who are paid on a per-game basis,” Morris said. “And all of a sudden, they lost a bunch of basketball broadcasts or baseball and softball broadcasts, things like that. One guy I know who does football, basketball and baseball, said he’s going to lose about 25% of his expected salary this year.”

SicEm 365 radio host Paul Catalina said that he lost his job at ESPN Central Texas about four weeks ago, but was luckily able to find a job with SicEm 365. However, he said that because radio subsists on advertising, which is currently scarce, there is less money to go around.

Catalina also said that due to the lack of sports, people’s jobs are in jeopardy.

“If you’re a television station,” Catalina said, “do you need three sportscasters when there are no sports? Probably not. So you got to either repurpose those people to news, or people are going to lose their jobs.”

Catalina said that the cancellation happening this season was particularly unfortunate for media members who cover Baylor sports. He said it would have been exciting to see how the men’s and women’s basketball teams performed in the NCAA tournament.

“It was a bummer. I have been covering both those teams for so long,” Catalina said. “Particularly the [men’s team] the last few years has been my beat. That’s the team that I cover. That’s where I go. I follow them. I’ve been to Providence and Jacksonville and Salt Lake and Tulsa and New York City and Anaheim and all these places with them. This year, we were really excited for what could have been a really deep, good run.”

Morris said that everything in sports media revolves around the games. He said that without the games, Baylor media has had to be creative with what they release.

“We’ve run some condensed game broadcasts, which seem to be pretty well received,” Morris said. “We’ve started doing podcasts. We taped a podcast with [Baylor athletic director] Mack Rhoades. So things like that, what I would consider alternate programming is kind of mainstream programming right now.”

Catalina said that for sports radio, this time is like the period during the summer when just baseball is going on, but with “an everlasting rainout.” He said that without games going on to talk about and analyze, sports radio comes down to bringing on guests who will catch the attention of listeners.

“You can talk about the old days,” Catalina said. “We’ve had Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters on. We’ve had Seth Russell and RG3. Kim Mulkey was on talking about the Hall of Fame, so that was something. We had MaCio Teague and Freddie Gillespie. So grab onto whatever’s going on out there and then build from there.”

Catalina said that while this is a difficult time for people in his career, the current situation will positively impact sports media in the future.

“Certainly now, especially in a content-driven society like we have, you’ve got websites you have to put content on,” Catalina said. “There aren’t games, there aren’t press conferences, you’re not talking to guys in the locker room. So you got to find stories, so people have to get more creative… I truly believe that all this will make us better at our jobs.”