Kareem Hunt and Ray Rice and the NFL and scandal

From a book chapter I wrote for Scandal in the Digital Age two years ago on the Ray Rice story:

The presence of video surveillance of the domestic violence, particularly the video that showed the actual assault, changed the story narrative. Ironically, the graphic video of the actual assault did not bring additional criticism of the perpetrator (at least in sports media coverage) but instead changed the focus of the story to the institution of the NFL—a pattern familiar in media coverage of scandals. The social construction of news—specifically, news values of deviance and journalists’ reliance on sources—also led to the evolu- tion of the scandal. Because of these factors, by the end of the year, the Ray Rice scandal was about Roger Goodell and the institution of the NFL. The scandal evolved to the point that Ray Rice was only a tangential part of the scandal itself.

Several years later, the Kareem Hunt story is following a similar pattern.

This has become less about Kareem Hunt's actions and much more about the NFL and the Chiefs' instutitonal response to it.

Deadspin: NJ.com's Sports Director Sounds Like The Boss From Hell

From Laura Wagner

So much to unpack in this story about the editor behind the job description that made the rounds last week. But this stood out to me more than anything:

Thirty, 20, or even 10 years ago, when newspapers still reigned supreme, there were plenty of entry-level sports reporting jobs to go around, and the career track was clear: A writer would make his or her star at a small local paper, move on to a bigger regional paper, and then maybe make it to the big leagues, writing for a national publication. As newspaper jobs have dried up, the traditional reporting paths have changed. Places like the Athletic, whose stated goal is to make local newspapers’ sports coverage obsolete, primarily hire people with sizable social-media followings, meaning that to make it there, reporters have to have built a following somewhere. One way to do so might involve writing for little or no money and no benefits at somewhere like an SB Nation team site; another might involve working for a monthly stipend and no benefits at a place like NJ.com. One sportswriter recounted a conversation in which Manahan was frank about the realities of the industry, and about the ways he understands the dynamics involved.

“He essentially said why would he pay a Yankees writer $100,000 when he could pay two kids $50,000 apiece and run them into the ground for a few years,” the sportswriter said. “Then when they move on to something better or burn out, he can replace them with more young, cheap labor.”

Washington Post: Kate Fagan leaving ESPN

From Ben Strauss yesterday:

Fagan said she believed in ESPN’s journalism, but that certain structural limitations in mainstream sports media helped lead to her departure.

“I think I thought at one point that I wanted to do a show — and could do a show — that made women’s sports really cool,” she said. “I thought there could be a show on some of the tangential topics — LGBT issues and mental health. Five years ago I thought I could host a show that introduces new female characters to the women’s sports world. This isn’t ESPN’s fault, but I’m not that naive now.”

Fagan came to SUNY Oswego last year to speak to our students, and she was also gracious enough to appear on The Other 51:

DC Sports blog on the end of The Sports Capitol

From Dan Steinberg in the Washignton Post:

“We may have lost to The Athletic anyways; they’ve got millions and millions of dollars, and we’ve got gumption,” Standig said. “I still believe the idea itself is good, and with a couple of twists and turns and tweaks, I think things could have worked out for the long haul. For me, this isn’t ending because it had to end; it’s ending because this opportunity came up and I did the math.”

The framing of this fascinates me, how The Athletic, in less than two years, has gone from the plucky new kid on the block to the big-money Goliath in this space. Which isn't necessarily wrong, or bad. Just interesting how quickly it's turned.

GQ interview: Katie Nolan Is Ready to Put It All Out There

Fascinating, at times pretty raw and honest interview with Katie Nolan in GQ.

I didn't have a job for, like, a year. That was hard… I had just gone from work, work, work, work, work every day when I was doing those videos and bartending and then I went to TV and I was doing a daily live show. I had not stopped in a long time. I was forced to stop because I didn't want to sign a new deal, and I still had months left on my deal. So I was just waiting. It sucked. I was starting to go nuts.

When you're not making anything you're not in control of the narrative. [People] weren't talking about things I'd done; they were talking about why I wasn't doing things. You see this narrative building. I'm like, “If I don't hurry up and do something there's going to become this narrative that isn't true.”

From Deadspin: Q&A: Reporter Antje Windmann On Convincing Ronaldo's Rape Accuser To Speak, And Why Media Was So Slow To Pick Up The Story

A story that has been flying under the radar a bit in the U.S. has been the account of a woman who accused Cristiano Ronaldo of rape in 2009. The woman, Kathryn Mayorga, went public with details of the incident to Der Spiegel.

One of the reporters on that story, Antje Windmann, sat for a fascinating interview with Deadspin’s Laura Wagner. Some highlights:

DS: Why do you think you were approached for that part of the participation? Did you and your team think it was important from the very outset to have a woman doing this part of the reporting?
 AW: I think in general it makes sense in reporting about sexual assault to have a woman involved. Because what you want is to have people open up in interviews and talk about their inner feelings. And in this case, to also discuss the alleged trauma. I think this interview situation has a better foundation when it’s a woman doing the interview. But also I am very experienced in interviewing people with trauma, [who have experienced] sexual assault, and have PTSD. And the team was also looking for someone who was going to write this piece down in the end. So I had some characteristics that were needed.


(Later on, from Windmann)

So when writing this, when you bring everything home about what you have researched, to me the most important thing was to be balanced in the writing. This is almost impossible when you just have one side talking. I would have loved to sit down and talk with [Ronaldo]. All of us would have liked to listen to his version. But it didn’t happen. So I didn’t want to put in things where I had no substance, to make this story apparently stronger. There might be assumptions that he did something in the past and that would have been—I would have had to moderate things or make up the readers mind for them. As it is, it is almost free of interpretation, I think that’s what I hope I achieved. And so that’s why I also didn’t want to put [the 2005 allegation] in. I just wanted to write down exactly what we had about this case.

Talking about "talk about"

I’ve asked “talk about” questions.

There. I’ve said it.

If you’re a sports reporter reading this, there’s a good chance you have, too. Be honest.

By now, you’ve seen the Chris Sale video:

Look. That’s a bad way to ask a question. But the piling on about it on sports media twitter was just as bad. As my friend Joe Werkmeister pointed out:

There are two truths: A. "Talk about" is not always a bad way to ask a question. It’s not optimal, and yes often it can come off as a command but sometimes it works just fine. I’ve used it on The Other 51. A guest makes an interesting point at the end of an answer, and I want to explore it further, so I will say “can you talk about that?” Yes, that is different because it is actually a question, but the larger point remains.

B. This judging of journalists by other journalists is really bothersome to me. Journalism is hard. Interviewing is hard. It’s even harder to do in the modern sports press conference, which is not at all conducive to good journalistic practices. It’s harder still when every moment of our job is televised or streamed live to an audience that has falling levels of trust in us. At a time when a swath of our population distrusts us at best, ridiculing a fellow journalist because they didn’t ask a question properly feels unseemly.

This is a venial sin sports twitter treats like a mortal one.

Leaving sports journalism's never easy

From my sister’s Twitter feed on Sunday, her last day as a full-time sports reporter for The Buffalo News:

For almost 20 years, I’ve joked that sports writing is our family business. My sister spent nearly two decades at the Buffalo News. I took her job at The Olean Times Herald’s sports department at the start of my own career. I’ve never made it a secret that I became a sports writer because my big sister was one. She did it better than I ever could, served the profession as president of AWSM and, as a woman in this business, was braver than I ever had to be.

But now, for the first time since the 1990s, nobody in our family is a full-time newspaper journalist. We’re still involved in the business — Amy is still The News’ running columnist, I teach and do this work. The family business is no more.

And it’s fine. It’s more than fine. It’s great.

Neither one of us left journalism on bad terms. We were lucky in that we weren’t laid off or forced into a buyout. We left for new opportunities — me to teach, Amy to work for the wonderful Kevin Guest House in Buffalo.

This is an aspect of the business you don’t hear about. We hear about the journalists who get laid off, who have their jobs changed on them, who leave for the greener pastures of TV and The Athletic. But sometimes, people leave because they want to do something new.

Look, being a sports writer is a great job. You get paid to watch sports. But it’s still a job. One that requires lot of night work, a lot of weekend work, a lot of travel. Every sports writer has a list of family functions that they’ve missed due to the job. It’s an unfortunate occupational hazard.

At some point, some of us just want something new and different. It’s not an indictment of the industry so much as our own personal evolution. This is not a new thing. In James McGrath’s book “The Rose Man of Sing Sing,” he details how at the turn of the 20th century, journalism was often a gateway career. It was what young men did before they went into law or politics or other professions.

From me, looking back at my decision to leave journalism nearly 10 years ago:

But more than any of that, more than the economic problems of the industry or the changing culture of newsrooms, it wasn't just that the industry had changed or that the job had changed. I had changed.

Being a sports reporter had been my dream job since I was 18. But dreams change. There's a great line in High Fidelity, where Laura tells Rob "You have to allow things to happen to people, most importantly yourself." Gradually, I realized I didn't want to be a reporter anymore. I didn't want to be a beat writer first and a husband (and father) second. I know a lot of reporters who can do that balance and do so marvelously. But I couldn't — or, more accurately, I didn't want to. I didn't want to spend my nights at stadiums and gyms anymore. That night with my wife's former professor inspired me. I found myself being drawn more to the notion of being a professor than of being a reporter. That excited me far more than writing for a news organization.

I wasn't 18 anymore. It was time to put the dreams of that 18-year-old, and the dreams others had for me, to rest.

I had new dreams to follow.

Sometimes, leaving sports journalism isn’t about what you’re running from.

Sometimes, it’s about what you’re running toward.

Why I Left Newspapers (anniversary edition)

(Editor's note: Today (Aug. 29, 2019) is the ninth anniversary of my final day as a newspaper journalist. I first posted this blog many years ago, while I was still a grad student at Syracuse. Some of the references are dated, and I haven't changed the year count in a few places but it felt right to share it again today.) It was early in baseball season — May 2006, I think. My first year covering the Double-A Binghamton Mets. A little bit before the game started, I got an IM from my girlfriend (now wife) with a video clip of her niece (now my niece) performing in a dance recital. As the grounds crew watered the infield and the crowd started to file into the stadium, I watched my niece dance. And mixed in with pride was a wave of sadness.

Would this be how I connected with my daughter some day? Would I be watching her dance recitals on a laptop in the press box rather than from the front row?


Three years ago today, I walked out of the Press & Sun-Bulletin's newsroom for the last time, ending my career as a sports writer. I still love my farewell blog post, because it so accurately captures my feelings at the time.

Leaving that job was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made.

It's also the third best decision of my life, behind only asking my wife to marry me and our decision to have our daughter.

Funny how the decisions that are so hard at the time turn out to be such no-brainers in hindsight.


It was early in baseball season — now, it's 2007. My fiancee (now wife) and I went to visit one of her former college journalism professors and a classmate. We spent the night at a bar in the middle of Madison County, not far from Turning Stone Casino, sharing stories long into the night over excellent wings and plenty of beer.

Watching the three of them — my fiancee (now wife), her friend and their old professor — I was inspired. The bond that they had, the connection between student and professor, ran so deep, was so real. It reminded me of my connections with my favorite professors. It had nothing to do with how well they were prepared for the job market, or what kind of success they had had. It was a real, personal bond.

Watching the three of them, I realized how much I wanted to teach.


Do you miss it?

I used to get that question a lot. Now, not so much, but in that first year or two, people would ask me if I missed being in the newsroom, missed being on the beat.

There are only two times I've truly missed it. The first was September 2009, when the Binghamton University men's basketball team began to implode in scandal. I've got a thing for covering college sports scandals, and this was a good one. Every day brought a new revelation, a new piece of the story. While that was breaking, I missed it. I missed being in the middle of a story, trying to track down the source you need, trying to confirm the rumor you've read online or heard from somebody on the desk. "The chase" is how Charlie Jaworski, my old editor in Binghamton, referred to it. And dammit, it was intoxicating.

Of course, not being at the paper allowed me to attend a U2 concert and spend a weekend with my wife (now wife) instead of spending all hours on the phone or the computer ...

The other time I've missed it? The first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament. God, that's such a fun day to be a college basketball reporter.

Otherwise?

I miss parts of it. I miss writing every day. I miss the moment when you're writing a story and suddenly the whole thing makes sense, everything unfolding in front of you like a chess board. I miss writing on deadline, pounding out a story in 15 minutes, so focused on my keyboard that I never once saw the fireworks that the B-Mets often had after games. I miss the small level of celebrity that being a reporter brought. I miss the camaraderie of the old newsroom.


Let's get real for a second:

One of the reasons I left was that I wasn't good enough to move up the career ladder anymore. Let's be honest. This isn't self-deprecation or a ploy to get compliments. I wasn't good enough for the big leagues of journalism. I didn't have it. I've been told that I didn't have enough asshole in me to be a truly great reporter, and it's true. I hate making people mad. I didn't have the ability to do that job at the highest levels.

That started becoming clear to me around 2008, 2009.

It was around that time that things started to go from kind of bad to really bad in our industry. By that point, moving up in the industry was already difficult. Fewer jobs were available. Bigger papers weren't hiring feature writers anymore. More beats were being consolidated, so there were fewer beat jobs. The ones that were out there got hundreds of applicants.

But things kept getting worse. The layoffs started, followed by the furloughs. Wondering every six months if you were still going to have a job was bad enough. Wondering every six months if you were still going to have a job while trying to figure out how to make ends meet when you lose a week of pay each quarter. Then the job cuts kept coming. The industry still hasn't figured itself out.

More striking — it stopped being fun.

The newsrooms I worked in used to be fantastic, vital places. There was an energy to the room, especially when news was breaking. Being a reporter could be, above all else, fun.

That was long gone by 2009. The layoffs, the furloughs, the space cuts, all of it, sucked the life out of the room, out of the industry.

For this, I blame newspaper owners. By their actions, by their slavish devotion to print profit margins at any cost, by their desire to maximize profit while minimizing the quality of the product, by their inability or unwillingness to embrace digital news, they have sucked so much of the soul out of a business I love.

It's telling that when anyone leaves the business, my first reaction (and that of almost everyone else I know) is "Good move. Smart decision."


But more than any of that, more than the economic problems of the industry or the changing culture of newsrooms, it wasn't just that the industry had changed or that the job had changed. I had changed.

Being a sports reporter had been my dream job since I was 18. But dreams change. There's a great line in High Fidelity, where Laura tells Rob "You have to allow things to happen to people, most importantly yourself." Gradually, I realized I didn't want to be a reporter anymore. I didn't want to be a beat writer first and a husband (and father) second. I know a lot of reporters who can do that balance and do so marvelously. But I couldn't — or, more accurately, I didn't want to. I didn't want to spend my nights at stadiums and gyms anymore. That night with my wife's former professor inspired me. I found myself being drawn more to the notion of being a professor than of being a reporter. That excited me far more than writing for a news organization.

I wasn't 18 anymore. It was time to put the dreams of that 18-year-old, and the dreams others had for me, to rest.

I had new dreams to follow.


Monday nights this semester, I have a late class that runs until 8 p.m. During the class' break the other day, I got a text from my wife. It was a video of our daughter, nearly 2 years old, saying "Hi, Daddy" and then leaning in to give the phone a kiss.

After steadying my knees and stopping myself from bursting into tears in the Newhouse 1 men's room, I flashed back to that video of my now-niece at the dance recital. Here I was, working late, getting videos sent to me of things I was missing. Have things changed at all?

But this feels different. Being in school has given me the chance to be at home with our daughter most days since she was born. (And I can't complain at all, when my wife works nine-hour days supporting our family while I'm in school. She's making the real sacrifice, and I'm in awe of it daily.)

This didn't feel like anything I was missing.

This felt like something waiting for me. Something new. Something good.

It felt like the future.

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