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Sports media types adjust on the fly to new normal of league coverage

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TORONTO — A couple dozen sportswriters sat physically distanced at a makeshift work area on the 200 level at Rogers Centre for the Toronto Blue Jays’ first intrasquad game of summer training camp.

Masks were on and wipes and hand sanitizer were stationed at each desk as reporter laptops connected to a Zoom call with shortstop Bo Bichette, who appeared via video from the regular media room two floors below.

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Welcome to the sports media new normal for 2020.

Big-league sports are back and everyone involved is adjusting to changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. How the developments might affect the quality and depth of stories, however, remains to be seen.

“People who are just simply good at telling stories, they’ll always find an audience,” said sportswriter David Shoalts, who recently retired after a long career at the Globe and Mail. “But I think there will just be less and less room for them.

“And for the reader, that reader will have to work a little harder to search out where the good storytellers are and who’s telling them.”

One of the biggest challenges for media members is that it’s much more difficult to get access to quality story material because the sports scene is so different.

For example, the days of reporters squeezing in pre-game player interviews on the field are over for now.

Sitting down in the manager’s office for an availability before batting practice? A Zoom call will have to suffice for the time being.

Chatting with an athlete in the locker room before or after a game? That won’t be happening any time soon.

In fact, most sportswriters will not even be on site at games this season. A handful of reporters will attend NHL games in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. Same goes for the NBA bubble near Orlando.

Most scribes will have to settle for video or conference calls in a group setting instead of traditional in-person or one-on-one communication.

It may be the best that teams can do given the various hurdles in place, but it still presents a significant challenge for media members in their effort to present as deep a story as possible.

“When you move to digital, you lose that personal relationship,” said Laurel Walzak, an assistant professor at Ryerson University’s RTA School of Media. “You lose the fact that they see you around the field of play. That’s important.

“To be able to be in the field of play, they see you, you’re part of the overall group, you’re able to talk to many people to get the full story.”

Attending events in person allows reporters to gain a full view of the action and cultivate relationships with players, coaching staff, management and everyone from the locker-room attendants to the travelling secretary.

Jeff Pearlman, an author and former Sports Illustrated writer, said some of the best story nuggets can’t be seen on a television broadcast: players jawing at each other during a timeout, the sense of frustration in a locker room, or a manager being near tears in his office after a loss.

“For the job professionally, that’s what you exist for,” Pearlman said from Laguna Niguel, Calif. “Without that, the coverage is just flat. Anyone can get the score. What’s the point of media if you’re just giving the score and a couple of canned quotes? The whole job is to take (a reader) where (they) can’t go.”

When Shoalts first started in the business, he would routinely sit down with athletes and have one-on-one conversations.

“That’s what access is,” he said in a recent interview from the Bolton, Ont., area. “It’s building trust with those sources so they will open up to you. That became more and more difficult over the years because the leagues were restricting access.

“But now that’s doubly so because this whole pandemic thing has restricted (one on one) access to practically nil.”

Teams and leagues have generally done well to adjust on the fly and help facilitate interaction with the media during the pandemic. However, there have been some issues along the way.

The Professional Hockey Writers Association was upset with the NHL’s decision to allow three writers from its website into the “bubble” in hub cities, but not provide the same access opportunity for PHWA members.

PHWA president Frank Seravalli said that if significant news occurred within the bubble setting, such as at a morning skate or team practice, independent reporters would be in the dark.

“We won’t be there to chronicle it,” he said from Philadelphia. “And if the team decided not to share video from practice with us, we might have no idea that it’s happened. Because every piece of content that NHL.com puts out, the league approves it or edits it.

“So if it’s negative or if it’s something that the team doesn’t want out, NHL.com isn’t going to be the way that it (gets) out.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league will continue to look at the media access situation and expected that things will evolve.

“We’re going to continue to monitor things, understanding your sentiments,” he told reporters before league play resumed. “But at the end of the day, we have a greater responsibility to the people who are required to be in the bubble, and to the communities in which we’re playing in. We’re doing the best we can.”

Seravalli said the PHWA was initially told that space limitations would prevent bubble access for media.

When advised later that NHL.com writers would have exclusive access in some areas for this unprecedented playoff setup, he said the feelings of his 300-plus member association varied between frustrated, disappointed and angry.

“If there truly were space limitations, NHL.com writers wouldn’t be inside,” he said, adding that the PHWA has no formal recourse to fight the decision.

The developments also put the spotlight on the grey area of whether league website writers should be considered working media.

“They typically have been given media credentials and are allowed in all the same places that we are to do our job similarly,” Seravalli said. “The NHL has always liked to think of them as media but now there’s been a quick shift in the dynamic, where the league is now saying that they are league employees and they should be subject to whatever access the league wants to give them because they are employees.”

The hub city approach has prevented many outlets from generating their own content, with cost, location and time commitment some of the prohibitive factors.

All NBA games, for example, are being played at the Disney World complex in Florida. Upon arrival, reporters have to quarantine for a week and the minimum cost of accommodation is US$550 per night.

A total of 10 “general media” members were in the bubble for the resumption of play, an NBA spokesman said.

At the outset, there were no Toronto-based reporters on hand to chronicle the defending champion Raptors although that could change if the team makes a deep playoff run. The Toronto Star is planning to send one writer in late August, the spokesman said.

Shoalts said being on site can provide a significant advantage over those who cover things remotely.

“The essential being of a journalist is you are the reader’s eyes on the scene,” he said. “You are there to soak it all in and give some context to it, and relay to the reader what’s going on.

“Even a limited amount of access in a venue is still better than you sitting at home and watching and writing it off TV.”

Walzak suggests that if reporters can think outside the box — regardless of their location — and show resourcefulness, innovation and resilience, they should be rewarded with solid content.

“There’s so many different types of stories you can tell that people still don’t have information on that are going to be relevant and interesting,” she said from Collingwood, Ont.

“So keep telling them.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2020.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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Calgary restaurateurs say anti-maskers are causing social media headaches – The Guardian

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Anti-maskers are causing a headache for local restaurants that are facing online harassment and in-person aggression for upholding COVID-19 safety measures.

Stephen Deere, owner of Modern Steak in downtown Calgary, said comments on their social media pages have spiralled in recent days with some calling for the boycott of the fine dining restaurant.

“Over the last 24 to 48 hours, it’s like there has been a full moon of some sort and people are just losing their minds now about having to wear a mask,” said Deere.

“Calgary has always been the hospitality of the west. Like, how we act at Stampede, how we treat visitors, how we help people when their cars break down — we’re known in Canada as such a friendly, helpful place. And now we’re doing this to our own people? I’m absolutely disgusted and upset about it.”

He said the threat of anti-maskers causing a stir at their restaurant is adding to the stress of his staff, who are already coping with existing anxiety of serving numerous guests in the midst of a pandemic. Deere said he’s coping but is afraid members of his team might quit if things get worse.

The restaurant is considering hiring security.

Other restaurants in Calgary are facing similar issues, some of which have turned violent. Deere said his friend Jason Shukuda, who manages KABUKU Downtown, had a group of men throw objects in the restaurant after being refused service without masks.

Shukuda did not respond to request for comment.

“This anger is so misdirected at hourly retail and hourly hospitality workers. We don’t make the rules,” said Deere. “I believe you can have your opinion about hating masks and all that but taking it out on the industry that are the ones following the rules is not the way to do it. Contact city council, contact your MLA, MPs and fight the ‘battle’ properly.”

Ernie Tsu, who owns Trolley 5 Brewery on 17th Avenue S.W. and is a board member with the Alberta Hospitality Association, said restaurants across the province are seeing these type of problems.

He believes the anti-mask movement is gaining momentum in part due to “contradicting” messages coming from Alberta’s top doctor and the provincial government but adds that the majority of interactions are positive.

In schools across Alberta, students are not mandated to wear masks while sitting at their desks and schools do not need to enforce physical distancing when students are sitting in classrooms.

Meanwhile, restauranteurs are following public health guidance in asking guests to mask up unless they are seating at their table and eating.

“That’s where public distrust comes from,” said Tsu.

“But at the end of the day, the public needs to understand that restaurants and restaurant owners livelihoods depends the safety of the general public. So if you’re going to refuse to wear a mask, don’t go to a restaurant. It’s pretty simple.”

Hinshaw said previously masks can be a barrier to communication and learning, which is why there are different public mask requirements for retail stores, or restaurants, for example.

Tsu’s message to Albertans who are against wearing masks is simple: Stay home.

“If you want to have the luxury of still being able to go out and have some normalcy then understand this is coming from medical experts,” he said.

“Numbers never lie. There is no emotion in numbers. The amount of cases are going up right now and everybody has to do their part.”

alsmith@postmedia.com

Twitter: @alanna_smithh

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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Media celebrates Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life, legacy

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“We never expected the film to generate the reaction that it did. Many people were unfamiliar with her pre-judicial career as a lawyer for the ACLU and how she played such an essential role in securing equal rights, particularly for women, which meant all Americans benefited,” she wrote. “The stories of her personal struggle to become an attorney makes her singular contributions to the law that much more poignant. And her enduring marriage to Martin Ginsburg touched and moved audiences of all genders and generations.”

This CNN Films documentary will be broadcast Sunday on CNN at 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Eastern. The film is also available via CNN on demand with cable and satellite subscriptions beginning Sunday, and for streaming on CNNgo platforms, also beginning Sunday until Sept. 26.

The documentary is available for streaming on Hulu, Apple TV and for rent on Amazon Prime Video and in the iTunes store.

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A NEW MAGAZINE COVER

Time magazine will feature Ginsburg on one of multiple special covers for an October double issue presenting the 2020 Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people. It will include a special tribute to the justice, who was featured on the list in 2015.

The issues will be available on newsstands in the U.S. beginning Sept. 25.

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“ON THE BASIS OF SEX”

The 2018 biopic focusing on Ginsburg’s law school years and early legal career is available for purchase on Amazon Prime Video and in the iTunes store.

Felicity Jones, who portrayed the young law student and fighter for justice, told the AP in an email Saturday that Ginsburg was a beacon.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave us hope, a public figure who stood for integrity and justice — a responsibility she did not wear lightly,” she wrote. “She will be missed not only as a beacon of light in these difficult times but for her razor sharp wit and extraordinary humanity. She taught us all so much. I will miss her deeply.”

Other distribution plans for the movie were pending Saturday.

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KATE McKINNON AND “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE”

McKinnon, who has played Ginsburg in a series of “Weekend Update” segments on the NBC show stretching back to 2015, appeared on Thursday’s online 2020 National Constitution Event honouring Ginsburg.

She praised the trailblazer in a statement Saturday.

“For so many of us, Justice Ginsburg was a real-life superhero: a beacon of hope, a warrior for justice, a robed crusader who saved the day time and again,” McKinnon said. “Playing her on SNL was a profound joy because I could always feel the overwhelming love and gratitude that the audience had for her. It was one of the great honours of my life to meet Justice Ginsburg, to shake her hand, and to thank her for her lifetime of service to this country.”

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NEWS & TRIBUTES

Tributes and re-broadcasts are trending on streaming services and the apps of major networks, with more to come.

Plans for “CBS Sunday Morning,” beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern, include journalist Erin Moriarty looking back on the life and times of the justice. Rita Braver, who covered Ginsburg, will offer an appreciation. John Dickerson of “60 Minutes” will report on the political implications of her death and “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker will have a tribute at the end of the Sunday night broadcast.

The network’s “CBS This Morning” with co-hosts Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil will dedicate much of Monday’s broadcast to remembering Ginsburg and also look at the fight for who will replace her on the court.

At NBC, the news division and those of its other networks, are already out with special reports. On MSNBC, a past profile, “Justice Ginsburg,” was re-broadcast as word of her death spread. The NBC streaming service Peacock is streaming the National Constitution Center virtual gathering for Ginsburg.

Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos will go one-on-one with former President Bill Clinton on the trailblazing icon he nominated to the Supreme Court. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Ted Cruz will discuss the fight to fill Ginsburg’s seat.

Throughout Saturday, Fox News shows “FOX & Friends,” “CAVUTO Live” and “America’s News HQ” will discuss the legacy and historic career of Ginsburg. Joining the live coverage will be Chris Scalia, a son of Ginsburg’s close friend and colleague, late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Fox News Channel will present a one hour special on the life and legacy of Ginsburg on Sunday at 10 p.m. Eastern, anchored by Shannon Bream.

Leanne Italie, The Associated Press

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Hate-filled social media posts key to Rexdale mosque murder?

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Solaiman also pointed out other posts he believes are “offering Neo-Nazi style perspectives.”

Homicide Insp. Hank Idsinga said they are in possession of said social media and that the possibility of this being a hate crime has not been ruled out and is being explored.

Police also are looking to see if there is any connection to the stabbing death of Rampreet (Peter) Singh, 39, five days earlier, on Sept. 7, under a nearby bridge.

Both men were remembered Saturday evening in a special vigil at the mosque attended by Supt. Ron Taverner of 23 Division.

“It’s so senseless,” he said of the two murders. “Homicide is working very hard on this to get the answers to the family and community who are understandably devastated.”

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Standing at this mosque a week after the bloodshed, everything looked pretty well the same as before — except that Mohamad wasn’t there. What was not there a week ago were flowers, balloons and a card from Zafis’ widow that read: “To my wonderful husband on our anniversary.”

So much has been stolen from so many.

“It’s so sad seeing that card,” said mosque member Ayesha Hussain. “I pray she can find the strength to move forward. Everybody loved ‘uncle.’ All of our hearts go out to her.”

It’s a sentiment shared by many.

Mayor John Tory has visited the mosque to pay his respects. Premier Doug Ford has called mosque members, who are also his constituents, to express both sorrow and anger. Everybody should be angry.

While fondly remembering this fine man is important, what is equal in priority is to find out what ideology and potential encouragement was lurking in the shadows that led someone to do something so evil?

Whatever it was, no matter how embarrassing or inconvenient, no stone should be left unturned. Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, and the whole country, is owned nothing less.

jwarmington@postmedia.com

SOURCE: – Toronto Sun

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