Recognizing What is and What is not Sports Journalism

Journalism is an amazing thing. It informs the public, it entertains, it holds people accountable. There seems to be a common misconception, however, that everyone in the media is supposed to be a journalist, or at least that’s what it seems like when it comes to the world of sports. It’s important for us, as fans and as consumers, to recognize the difference between what is and what isn’t journalism.

ESPN is a good opening point of reference. While the worldwide leader does produce quality (or at least palatable) content, there is a large helping of low-brow, impossibly inane that comes out of Bristol as well. ESPN’s supposed journalistic integrity often comes under attack, most notably online in places such as reddit and Twitter, despite the fact that a majority of its content is not journalistic in nature, and that is by design.

For example, SportsCenter itself is not sports journalism. That comes in to play when reporters come on to talk about team or league news, but some talking head spouting off hot takes is not journalism, it’s just a form of entertainment through media. People love to rip on First Take and often make snarky comments about its journalism, but the fact of the matter is that show is intentionally devoid of journalism. People like the current incarnations of Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith are not journalists, they are personalities who are paid for their loud, boisterous opinions, not their in-depth reporting and feature pieces.

I recognize that I come off sounding like a huge ESPN shill writing all of this, and frankly they don’t need to be defended, but it’s irritating to see people relentlessly attack journalism efforts that don’t exist in the first place.

I don’t love Mike & Mike, either as a show or as individual personalities, but Mike Greenberg once said something that I really like. It had to do with the fact that while he is trained in journalism, he is not a journalist in his role as a sports talk show host. As someone who is proudly majoring in journalism and wants to work in radio broadcasting, I completely agree with his sentiment. Sports talk hosts, generally speaking, are not journalists; they’re just personalities.

My reason for writing up this brief but, in my opinion, necessary post was a reddit comment about how Sahadev Sharma and Brett Taylor bemoan irresponsible sports journalism on their podcast. This brings me to the second half of my explanation: not every person with a Twitter account is a journalist.

The aforementioned comment was found in a thread denouncing the rumored trade talks between the Cubs and Yankees revolving around reliever Aroldis Chapman. These rumors emanated from Twitter user @DfineNrmLC, who also “reported” that the players involved on the Cubs’ end could include Javier Baez and Adam Warren. First of all, the fact that anyone would believe this is simply foolish. In addition to that though, it’s important to recognize that this is absolutely not journalism.

This user only is notable because he was able to leak the news of Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract details when he signed his $325M contract in 2014. Otherwise, he’s just some guy with a shade over 1,700 Twitter followers. Obviously these “reports” were quickly refuted by reputable people in the industry, but it’s important that we don’t consider someone throwing pure nonsense at the wall and hoping it sticks as journalism, because it is not; it’s just dumb rumor-mongering.

Most ESPN programs are not journalistic in nature. It’s important to recognize that this is intentional. Not every clown with a Twitter account and mediocre following is a journalist. As fans, we need to understand that these people do not exemplify journalists or their craft, and by tagging them with this profession erroneously, it takes away from the excellent journalists who do provide the public with great content on a regular basis.

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