Off top: the large-scale organizations that put together the seasons by which we — we being sports fans, followers and chroniclers alike, basically the greater American public — set our emotional clocks are very often backward thinking and petty and trifling in the way they engage with their public and the outlets which try to pay homage and respect to groups such as the NFL, the NCAA and the Chicago Public Schools by prioritizing even and unbiased coverage of the athletic events they put on season after season, year after year.
No matter how sterling your record may be as a media outlet, how proven your reputation stands within the community you represent, there stands to be some hurdle that awaits your leaping in order to bring desired information to the public when dealing with such institutions, ones that can collect revenue by the millions and billions in some cases, off the backs of unpaid talent in more cases than not.
It is in this arena of grift and exclusion where Chicago-based multi-media organization The Bigs find themselves right now after falling on the wrong side of things with the CPS and their legal arms at the Board of Education.
The Bigs, an independent website that focuses primarily on sports in Chicago at all levels, ran afoul of CPS in the wake of coverage they offered from this past weekend’s CPS Public League boys basketball semifinal and final competition at Chicago State University. Bigs co-founders Terrence Tomlin and Eugene McIntosh recorded exclusive video and audio from the competition and posted excerpts, none of which featured actual live play-by-play coverage, to their respective personal social media accounts as well as those representing The Bigs as a whole.
For their efforts, The Bigs reportedly were served a cease and desist letter, which the co-founders made public Wednesday both on Facebook and Twitter.
What it is: let it be known, for transparency’s sake, that The Bigs are friends of the management of this site, including the producers and hosts of The D & Davis Show, on which both Tomlin and McIntosh have both appeared, they are considered colleagues of the first order, not only because they, like We Are Regal Radio, are independent, Chicago-based and Black-owned, but because they are very good at what they do and they are growing and they are believers in the movement to further diversify sports media and media in general.
The efforts that so many are taking to make media more diverse, and to keep it that way, involve not just the overall “tanning” of media talent, it also involves a broadening of perspective and insight that can only come when the press corps that follows such prioritized events in our community looks more like the community itself, when the press corps actually features members of that community such as Tomlin and McIntosh, young men who both went to schools in Chicago, who have watched and played alongside prep stars of the past and have institutional memory of recent generations from Benji Wilson to Kezo Brown and everyone in between.
The same could be said of WARR and D & Davis, which includes people born and raised on CPS sports as well as the Catholic Leagues and top suburban leagues. In select private discussions we’ve gone over plans to possibly cover local high school sports, in not pulling the trigger on such moves it would seem we’ve saved ourselves a lot of trouble which has since fallen at the hands of the gumption-filled Tomlin and McIntosh. It shouldn’t be that way.
With its approach to working with local, independent, online-based media established, it should be said that the CPS is making itself look small and penny-pinching by trying to control any and all streams of coverage of its publicly-funded athletic endeavors.
This writer has seen this type of thing play out before, as fate had it I covered the first streamed prep sports event in Wisconsin history in the fall of 2008. While doing my typical work, members of the Appleton Post Crescent’s sports department set live video on the game as it played out. For their efforts the Post-Crescent, its parent company, Gannett, and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association were sued by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.
The WIAA’s impressive legal representation would close the case in a Chicago appeals court nearly three years later, besting representatives from one of America’s most behemoth media organizations. It would be safe to say that should The Bigs exercise any legal challenge to CPS they’d be going uphill at a steep incline.
To put it plain: CPS shows with its actions here that it has little patience for any outlets that it can’t put together an obvious buck with, any outlet that does not come with it an expressway to revenue that will likely go into making the final games it puts on more extravagant, more “TV-ready,” when for so many Chicagoans it’d be enough to simply get a final score in good time if they can’t make the game, maybe a quick clip put together by resourceful community journalists would do the trick and make such events like the city title game more real for those citizens who feel closest to schools like Simeon and Morgan Park and their students.
Guess these sports fans will have to wait another season, at least, for such things (maybe its not too far behind “finding a suitable gym for Morgan Park” on the list of priorities). The CPS — and for that matter the IHSA, who due to the precedent set in Wisconsin can have similar limitations regarding online streaming at sanctioned events — should pay attention to the response of fans and colleagues of The Bigs regarding this matter.
It is not surprising that these groups are behind the times, they’ve not helped any in the deterioration of on-site prep sports coverage from long-standing outlets like the Sun-Times and Tribune and television stations across the board.
The obvious divestment and setting aside of local sports coverage from corporate media can only be stemmed by websites like The Bigs. When they are shut up and marginalized then CPS is painfully proving its scholar-athletes, the supposed stars of the show, to be little more than role players in a greater game that only salaried organizers and administrators have any chance at winning.
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