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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Digital Age Goes Dark

Digital Age Gets Dark Around Here

By Allan Classen

The digital age was supposed to be all about information. Almost every topic one could imagine would instantly be at our fingertips.

Somehow this information wave as forsaken high school sports in Oregon.

The golden age of prep sports news may have been the 1970s, when The Oregonian routinely ran ample stories and photos of metro area games. Small town newspapers also went all in. Last week’s football game could be counted on to fill the front of the sports section.

As newspaper coverage tapered off, OregonLive’s sports forums snowed us with raw details and commentary. If one combed through enough of it, a few nuggets about coaching changes or transfers might be found. Now it’s hard to find anything beyond the final score of games. OregonLive shut down the forums years ago. My hometown weekly in Dallas prints nothing at all about half the football games and other sports tend to get even less ink.

One might expect websites and social media to fill the gap, but you would be disappointed. School websites or fan Facebook pages might tell you when players are to board the bus to away games, but few have anything on the games.

Information on professional sports is everywhere, and one can learn the spin rate of every major league pitcher for each pitch he throws, which only emphasizes the blackout of high school coverage.

The Oregon School Activities Association now covers a few key games with online reports by professional journalists, and a few papers around the state also continue to do a good job. But for most schools and most teams, fans have to be in the stands to know how the home team did. Unsurprisingly, game attendance is also generally declining.

Sports fans can see the best athletes in the world on TV every night and read about them until they go blind. But the digital age is not democratic, at least when it comes to sports, and it has not provided a diversity of information on smaller teams and towns disconnected from the world of national championships. All politics are said to be local, but sports coverage in the digital age is anything but local.

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