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Media Summit Examines Impact of High School Sports

By Christine M. Peets, staff Intern
OSWEGO, NY – The lights were low and jazz music filled the Waterman Theatre on Wednesday as the audience took their seats for the ninth annual SUNY Oswego Media Summit.

Named in memory of Dr. Lewis, B. O’Donnell, professor emeritus of Communication Studies, the Media Summit is a place to ‘meet top minds guiding our media future.’

Panelists on stage in Waterman Theatre for Media Summit. From left are:  Louis A. Borrelli Jr., Jay Beberman, Donna Goldsmith,  John Kucko and Steve Levy
Panelists on stage in Waterman Theatre for Media Summit. From left are: Louis A. Borrelli Jr., Jay Beberman, Donna Goldsmith, John Kucko and Steve Levy.

The ‘top minds’ of the Media Summit panel are well-known TV personalities and Oswego alumni. They included: Steve Levy ‘87, commentator/ “Sports Center;” Anchor, Donna Goldsmith ’82, Marketing and Communication consultant; Jay Beberman ’89, Managing Editor for Sports of Bloomberg News; and  John Kucko ’87, sports anchor for WROS TV Channel 8.

They welcomed questions from moderator/sponsor, Louis A. Borrelli Jr., chief marketing officer of Nimble TV.

Following Borrelli’s 2005 founding gift, 1976 SUNY Oswego graduate Al Roker, weathercaster and co-host of NBC’s “Today” show, provided additional funding in 2007 to rename the summit in memory of longtime professor O’Donnell, a seminal figure in the college experiences of Borrelli and Roker.

On Wednesday, the panel tested their microphones with light-hearted questions of where the audience may be from. Hollers were heard when Levy and Goldsmith shouted, “Rochester…Long Island?”

“Bristol, Connecticut,” Beberman said. The audience paused in silence and then erupted in laughter.

This time, SUNY Oswego’s signature event of the fall focuses on sports media and the impact it has on America’s society.

A range of topics was covered from sports branding to hyper-local markets, but the real story of the Media Summit is high school sports and the impact to the children participating.

The topic, only briefly discussed, began with a question from Borrelli Jr. on how sports are “ruining” high school athletes.

Media survives through relevance, branding and advertising, he noted.

It is acknowledged that in some cases, media affects its demographics.

The consensus was made that there is a need for parents and educators to specialize children at a young age and that sports media has a way of driving those unfulfilled dreams.

A panelist spoke of how sports can be inspiring, but have a darker side such as drugs, head injuries, bullying, etc.

“In this edition of the Atlantic Magazine, is how sports are ruining high school. There are still middle of the road school districts that spend maybe $350 a math student for math and maybe $1,400 a cheerleader for cheerleading,” Levy said. “Now that media has gone global, from a standpoint of sociology of that pressure, at that middle school/high school level, there are guys that look at those wrestlers, they look at those point guards like, I want to be just like that. How do you balance that impact?”

“I think it is up to the educators to try and do that. I mean, it’s a dime a dozen. There are so many people that want to be a wrestler, I want to be a WWE superstar, I’m the best kid on my high school basketball team. The chances of making it are so slim. The point is, it is such a tough road and I think it is up to our educators to make it clear to these kids that at the end of the day there is going to be rejection; so you want to hope there is something else for these kids,” Goldsmith explained while referring to an article in the New York Times.

Markets have a lot to do with the severity of the sports’ impact. The sports media has changed a lot from a local standpoint.

It was explained that high school sports are big in markets such as Elmira, Binghamton, Utica and Watertown where things are more tight-knit.

“It’s all about making yourself relevant and surviving in sports, and you have to isolate areas where you can generate ratings and revenue,” Kucko said.