22nd October 2011
It’s not good to try and look in the mirror and size yourself up as a media member, unless of course your position is clearly defined. Peter Gammons, Peter King, John Clayton, Ken Rosenthal… “Insider”. If you blog from home and do analysis around stories in the mainstream and alternative media and provide commentary, clearly an “outsider”.
There are tweeners. Liz Mullen of the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily is as inside as they get when it comes to what agents are up to, but outside, for the most part when it comes to leagues.
And, then there’s me.
I’m an “inside, outsider” in that I’m an independent. I have insider access to an extent, but I would never dream of saying that I have the muscle needed to get into every place I’d like to be because I don’t have “ESPN”, “FOX”, or “Yahoo! Sports” on my title at this point.
You’re asking what this is all about. Keep reading….
Much was made of how Albert Pujols and some of the veterans on the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t make themselves available to the media after the World Series Game 2 loss on Friday night. A host of columns, and a mountain tweets and Facebook comments were generated out of the actions, specifically with Pujols.
This morning, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com ran a story that may best describe why accessibility is critical to good reporting (see Stars need to talk to media, regardless). Part of the column reads:
Anti-media types consider reporters to be pests. Fanboys want to hear only the best about their favorite players and teams. But the daily contact between reporters and players produces not just quotes, but also background information for context. And the checks and balances actually work both ways.
Such accountability is healthy, often prompting restraint. Judging from Twitter, many fans took exception with the other side of the argument, that players should be accountable to reporters. Well, reporters essentially are conduits to fans, means to an end
Rosenthal hits on something that has been a source for my desire to write daily: background information for context.
From the time I began writing, I wanted to interview those around sports. I wanted to ask my questions, and get answers from individuals directly without the filter that may come from another writer’s perspective. It was done, not only to get original content out there, but to be enlightened.
Rosenthal talks in his column about how those that are balanced pros as reporters can be heard to say, “I don’t know.” Even the best, with many, many years in the trenches have been heard to say that. And, the best advice I ever got about doing radio was when confronted with a question you might not know the answer to, the best of them know how to gracefully say, “I don’t know.”
There can be pitfalls in accessibility. One can run the risk of being a conduit for one point of view or another. “Balance” has to be a reporters credo, even if a story is incredibly one-sided.
Reporting on the business side of sports can be difficult. Report on a game, and the outcomes are fairly clear, and the story rarely lingers more than a few days. Contrast that with a story on labor issues, or the complexities around a club bankruptcy or sale, and the story can ebb and flow for months, if not years.
I have been pounded every which way to Sunday on reporting a story one way, only to see the direction of events shift 180 degrees in a matter of days or weeks. That’s the nature of the beast.
So, talking to those directly involved in negotiations is paramount to understanding how matters can change, the complexities and internal politics, and more.
I have never considered myself an “expert” in the field of sports business. To say as much would mean knowing everything about an industry that is constantly moving and evolving. There are no rules. There is no “final out” or “time has expired”, it just moves on.
So, in a world where fans take sides, and look for any little matter to say, “You’re a hypocrite,” if you want to be a journalist, get some real thick skin. If you’re good, you’re always learning, which if you think about it, isn’t a bad thing, right?
FOLLOW MAURY BROWN ON TWITTER @BizballMaury