03 April 2008

Cricket: Missing the Stumps at VOA?

The News Blog received an email this week from a listener in India who said he follows VOA daily. No complaint about the news, but he has a problem with our sports coverage. Here is what he writes:

“…your sports section coverage is given mostly to American sports like baseball, football etc. While I understand that this will be of interest to U.S. listeners among your audience, I feel you [should] also keep the interests of listeners in the target area in mind, e.g. in your broadcast targeted to South Asia, international cricket news should also be included… [C]ricket is hugely popular in most parts of South Asia like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. Only international cricket news need be broadcast, which may take a minute or so… Please consider the feasibility of this suggestion.”

We referred this email to VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer. He disputes the notion VOA focuses on American sports and says, “when we have international cricket news, we're usually pretty good about reporting it in our broadcasts.”

But, as sometimes happens with all sports, time pressures may limit the coverage in a single short sports show to just a brief headline-type item, like “South Africa leads India by 147 runs after the first day of their second test.”

If our listener in India were to check out VOANews.com on the web in hopes of finding more cricket-news, he might still be disappointed. With limited resources, much of what our sports staff writes doesn’t end up on the website at all. (There is a “sports” link, but you have to go to “regions and topics” to find it.)

Still, we checked VOANews.com, using the word “cricket” in our search function. Since the start of 2008 we have had numerous stories about cricket and not just results. Here are some examples, some of which came not from our Sports team but from our Zimbabwe service:

On March 19th, there was an item on a forensic report by KPMG South Africa that “highlighted serious financial irregularities but found no evidence of criminality” on the part of Cricket Zimbabwe management.

On March 4th, we had a report that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was stepping up efforts to ban Zimbabwe’s cricket team from touring Britain to pressure the government of President Robert Mugabe for its alleged human rights violations and humanitarian negligence.

Admittedly, those involved what we might call sports politics versus simple match results. But earlier in the year, there was considerable cricket coverage:

On February 19th: Zimbabwe's women cricket team put up an impressive performance at the preliminary round of the World Cup qualifiers in South Africa Monday by beating Scotland by 75 runs.

On February 1st: Australia's cricket team has beaten India in a Twenty20 International match in Melbourne.

On January 30th: Pakistan Cricketers Thrash Zimbabwe In Series, Taking Four Of Five Matches despite impressive batting by Tatenda Taibu who put 51 runs on the scoreboard.

And on January 19th: India's cricket team has beaten Australia and ended the Aussies winning streak at 16 test matches.

We here at the News Blog would have to say that is evidence of a pretty solid interest in cricket by our sports team. Maybe our listener in India was just listening at the wrong time?

Sonny Young, host of the ever-popular “Sonny Side of Sports” on VOA’s English-to-Africa show, has also weighed in on this issue. Sonny says:
“I agree with Parke that we do a decent job on major international cricket stories. Cricket is much more popular in South Asia than it is in Africa, but I'll do the occasional cricket story if there's an African angle. For example, today I'm picking up some Dave Byrd audio on the India vs. South Africa cricket competition. You're never going to please everyone ... I still get occasional e-mails asking why I don't cover WWF professional wrestling!”

Hey, how about a VOA web page focusing just on international cricket?

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