>Sports Journalism at its Finest…Or Not

29 Sep

>Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where my fantasy football teams (all four of them) are 3-0 instead of the other records they currently have.

I must apologize for my absence. In the last month, I’ve celebrated a birthday with my son and an anniversary with my wife. I’ve had one PR project after another at work, keeping me busier than normal. I’ve helped some family and friends through some tougher-than-normal times. And the real kicker – I and my family packed up our lives and moved into a new house. This insane level of real-life business – which always comes first in my book – has kept me offline for quite some time. So I apologize to all of you. Hopefully now I’ll be better about blogging again…I’ve got a lot to say.

So…I bet you’ve seen the Terrell Owens interview/presser after the Bills’ loss this past weekend. If not, here’s a clip:

To reset the situation: Owens’ streak of more than 180 straight games with a catch came to an end in the loss, and the media in the room were trying to get his reaction to that. If that’s what you call that kind of shenanigans they were pulling in that room.

I’ve worked in sports journalism, and I know for a fact that sports are maybe the most formulaic subjects to cover in the journalism world. The elements of the different stories you write and people you cover are essentially the same. The features you produce on the players are all basically the same. The feel-good, human interest stories you look for are roughly the same. Before and after the game, from one game to the next, the questions media ask players and coaches are pretty much the same. This isn’t to say that it isn’t challenging or difficult work (actually, keeping it fresh and looking for new angles can be one of the hardest parts), and that sports journalism doesn’t have its share of incredibly talented professionals. All I’m saying is…well…reporters and situations have a tendency to default to the routine.

In Owens’ case, the routine for him is complaining incessantly about his plight in life, or that he isn’t catching enough balls, or that his teams don’t have what it takes. So, naturally, when a long games-with-catches streak ends, the post-game presser will be full of ranting and raving, right?

Wrong. Owens, in a rare show of humility, answered every question straight as an arrow. He didn’t raise his voice or insult anyone. He stuck to the company line. And, in this case, I’m going to give him an A. Why?

Because the reporters in the room also defaulted to routine, and put on one of the worst displays of journalism I’ve ever seen. They expected him to be a brat, and they acted like it. Can you even count the number of leading questions they asked him? Did you see how they baited Owens to get him to snap? And then, when he didn’t play the game, how they didn’t let up? You can’t blame a reporter for trying to dig deep and unearth a story. But there’s a difference between approaching a source with a researched, informed, objective, intelligent line of questioning and this nonsense. This was unethical, shoddy and just plain bad journalism. As a reporter, you don’t make the news…you report it. Simple as that. You just can’t say that for those folks in that room who clearly were trying to do the former.

Sports journalism is a noble trade, and a great passion of mine and many others. I like to see it done well, with sound principle and ethics, and not like this. Here’s hoping we see fewer incidents like this in the future.

I’m out like the Washington Redskins.


One Response to “>Sports Journalism at its Finest…Or Not”

  1. Paul Omps 09/29/2009 at 9:29 PM #

    >great blog jason. insightful point of view, well written, and succinct. though you'd be hard pressed to find anyone football fan in the nation who didn't think there was a deeper story here, you're correct in stating that it's not the media's job to fabricate it through leading questions. keep up the good work.

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