By Evan Weiner
Are journalists who cover sports hard hitting, take no prisoners reporters or are they extensions of sports teams?
The latest blowup between a team, in this case a university, Bradley University, and a reporter, Dave Reynolds of the Peoria, Illinois, Journal Star, was caused by the Bradley athletic department and their view of Reynolds not building up the Bradley brand.
Here’s the problem, the Peoria Journal Star is not in the business of building up a brand name other than the newspaper, but the sports organization doesn’t see it that way. But newspapers are extraordinarily friendly to sports organizations and often act as a public relations appendages in promoting a team. Sports journalists can criticize a player or a manager, but for the most part, as Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog used to say, beat writers are there to get what the team or organization wants out.
Today, a school or a sports organization has many platforms to do brand building. starting with its own website. There is a radio network, along with podcasts and television. As an organization’s radio network and TV outlet, they are not going to make a partner look bad.
Perhaps a good many of the teams involved in the college sports industry should send their athletic director, their sports information director and his or her assistants along with the full array of coaches to sit in journalism classes at the schools and find out what textbook theory journalism is all about.
The NCAA broadcast partners are building brands and reputations, the broadcast partners are paying for the right to show the games and make some money off of the product. Newspaper reporters should report, the good, the bad and the ugly. But in sports there is a nod and a wink approach to that. Criticize but don’t dig deep or else.
Evan Weiner is an award winning journalist who covers the politics and business of sports and how that relationship affects not only sports fans but the non-sports fan as well. This article was republished with his permission.