It's an interesting idea. In a way, the emergence of The Players Tribune is a potential shapeshifter for sports journalism. The core relationship in all of journalism, including sports journalism, is between source and journalist. Nearly half a century of media sociology has taught us that. Giving athletes (and their ghost writers) the chance to report news, to break stories without having to go through a reporter or columnists potentially upends one of the foundations of journalism.
I've always felt that in this particular case, this argument was overblown. I feel like I hear it a lot from both future-of-news types and serious-news types (and the statistically overlapping future-of-serious-news types) who use it as an argument against sports journalism itself (even though these are often the same folks who tell us nobody cares what reporter breaks a story). And athletes (and their ghostwriters) breaking news themselves is an old practice, dating back to sports journalism's early days in the 1910s and 1920s. We've been hearing that teams and players have been able to reach fans directly for nearly 20 years now, and it hasn't made sports journalism any less vital.
(One interesting argument, from my twitter friend Stephen Cohen, is that The Players Tribune is part of a larger issue of restricting access to sources. That's certainly an important point, one fitting into my larger research at the moment).
Posting things on The Players Tribune is smart for athletes, and breaking news on your own website or Twitter feed, is smart for athletes and teams. It allows them to control the narrative. It gives athletes the chance to tell their story without having to trust a reporter to do it.
But it's troubling for reporters and for fans. It keeps players from having to answer questions about a decision. It can create a culture of unaccountability, where teams and athletes don't have to answer to the public that funds their stadiums and buys tickets. It's not to say that a player "owes" fans or the media anything, but that level of accountability is generally a good thing. It also, in a way, contributes to the cycle of anonymous sources in media. If players don't make themselves available, reporters turn to anyone who will talk - and those people have agendas and may not put their names to comments.
Kevin Durant was smart to announce his decision on The Players Tribune. He did nothing wrong.
That decision does not spell the end of sports journalism as we know it. But it does raise some important issues about the industry's future.