Michael Phillips (from left), Josh Barnett, Mick Akers and Bill Bradley led two sessions on how to smartly cover sports business in your community.

By Wyatt Touchet / UNLV Scarlet and Gray

There are many intricacies to understanding the business of sports, especially beyond the field of competition.

Bill Bradley, who was the sports editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2022, moderated a panel on Monday at the APSE Conference in Las Vegas that included: Mick Akers, who covers sports business for the Las Vegas Review-Journal; Josh Barnett, executive sports editor of The Buffalo News; and Michael Phillips, previously sports editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Covering sports business allows readeres to be informed on the inner workings of their local sports organizations such as facilities, fan experience, tickets, and political involvement.

“What we try to do is develop expertise, and find the right people to ask the right questions,” Barnett said. Journalists covering sports business look to verify information received and pursue virtually every element related to a team or project. In order to do so, the panelists said it’s important to enlist help from other members of your newsroom, especially reporters who cover local government and business.

Beyond the surface, many moving parts are hidden, but present.

“We don’t report on just both sides, it’s our job to dig into this and figure out what’s going on,” Phillips said. “It’s your job to talk to somebody who is not going to talk to you.”

In order to dig into the story, politicians or other public figures are vital to expanding the horizon of any given story. But, as Barnett said, it’s important to know who will be able to give you the information you need, and who just likes having their name in the news.

An aspect that is underrated in this process is how “showing people what is going on for those who may be unable to experience,” Akers said, emphasizing stories written about area’s around a stadium, the food and merchandise available to fans (or only certain sets of fans). When you are talking about data, these intricacies are not exclusive to professional sports but are present at all levels, including high school and college.

A large part in capturing these stories is evaluating what content is present in the story in order to pull in readers from a headline or from a long-form presentation.

In addition to relaying the information, arguably the more difficult part is absorbing it. Reading through countless documents, “to know what actually is gonna happen versus what is a pipe dream,” Akers said. Covering the sports business has its negatives, but has its rewards.

The discussion better distinguished the processes within all sports organizations, and displayed a side of sports many fall prey to ignore.