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.