As NCAA women’s basketball Final Four activities get underway in San Antonio, several dedicated bloggers who cover the sport are at home. Q McCall from SwishAppeal.com, Megan Hueter from WomenTalksSports.com and I are not watching the games from home by choice. We did not meet the NCAA credential criterion of having one million unique views per month for our online publications.
Looking at a survey of women’s basketball sites using the service Quantcast.com reveals that not many publications that cover women’s basketball beyond re-posting of news wires meet that metric, much less a site completely dedicated to women’s sports. SBNation.com, the umbrella site for SwishAppeal.com, attracts over a million visitors per month but SwishAppeal.com on its own? Not by a long shot.
I talked to a few veteran journalists about this issue including the “guru” of women’s basketball coverage Mel Greenberg and Wendy Parker, a former writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a contributor to Basketball Times.
When I asked Mel about his thoughts on the NCAA media credential process, he alluded to the NCAA catching up to the times and the evolution of technology.
“The NCAA is still figuring its way through the new social media world and unfortunately the women usually get to become attached to rulings caused by the men because of the commonality of membership,” said Greenberg. “Recruiting gets impacted in all this along with email, Facebook, etc.”
He also addressed the history of approving credentials and the sometimes unfair nature of denying independent journalists.
“In the early NCAA days the approach to media was ‘y’all come to our tournament, whoever you are, within reason,’ as the organization tried to attract coverage,” he explained. “Then as it got more businesslike with the women, and a need to establish order, a large part of the men’s requirement began to slip into the women’s lingo. In an effort to avoid ‘cowboys,’ my description, many times some people doing good work found themselves denied access, which is unfortunate and a bit unfair.”
“But it is an evolving process. Size of press row and interview rooms fed into this, although that is less of a problem in larger arenas. However, as print media shrinks—the real number last year would stun people—some more doors are going to have to open. And, of course, the NCAA is running its own internal media show these days so in some ways they are trying to stifle competition somewhat I think, although work at sites—print or independent—that look reputable, they will incorporate through links into their coverage.”
I told him that the experience that I have had, along with SwishAppeal.com, when dealing with the credentialing and the WNBA, is completely different. In the past year, the WNBA not only expanded its social media reach via Twitter.com, Facebook.com and live blogging, they have also reached out to online publications granting access to players, coaches and administrators.
“I think you have it easier [with the] WNBA, because of their levels,” he said, “and, in some way they are where the NCAA was at the outset even though they are now over a decade old.”
Parker, a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association, along with Greenberg, says that the organization intends to discuss the credentialing issue during its women’s awards breakfast Tuesday morning in San Antonio.
In response to a question regarding the regarding the one million unique views, Rick Nixon, the Associate Director of the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, said the organization does review the policy annually.
“In fact we review this criteria each year to make sure that those online agencies that are being credentialed are reaching the most fans,” said Nixon. “We know that there are many online sites that are exclusive to women’s basketball and that every year more are springing up. Our current criteria asks that online agencies reach a minimum of one million unique users per month.”
He added that social media metrics are not a part of their selection process.
Hueter interviewed McCall and I this morning and posted the audio on WomenTalkSports.com. Listen to the interview and read Hueter’s summary of the conversation.