There’s still a need for sports media opinion

Michael Bennett is an outspoken individual in person and through his social media platforms. Unhappy with an op-ed column from the Seattle Times’ Matt Calkins, Bennett sent out a tweet indicating that he would boycott the paper and request his teammates follow suit.

Apparently, not uncommon for the Seahawks, Richard Sherman claimed he could pull the media credentials of Jim Moore.

Certainly, Moore and Calkins are irritants and really their takes on sports are polarizing for a reason. In an era of clickbait and trolling, these guys have perfected it and survived a shrinking journalism/sports reporting market. I hesitate to stick up for either one because each has their own reason for being parasitic.

But, I do stick up for their right to probe sports without a filter.

The Players’ Tribune was launched by Derek Jeter and his financial supporters as a way to provide unfiltered stories from the players themselves. Essentially, the site is a well-financed “blog” that many players and “traditional” media rail against. It serves, in most instances, as PR component disguised as “journalism.” It does not mean that “journalism” is an adversarial process which pits media versus player but a check against a story. If done well, a story will be provided an unbiased, unfettered look at an individual, an issue, a story, etc.

At this year’s Sports Lawyers Conference in Denver, Colorado, sports PR people gave their spiel about the wrongs of “blogs” that do not play the game that traditional media do. Certainly, there are online media with a presence solely to generate news by being salacious and controversial. Many of the antidotes reflected on the fact that “bloggers” wrote things that mainstream media started to pick up and ask about. This was a hindrance to the PR folks and sought the source of the issue was the bloggers and not the mainstream journalists that were picking up on the blogs. Notably, there’s something to be said about this research that is underlying but highlighted. Mainstream outlets are scouring online for news. This can be seen as a result of the declining newsrooms and 24/7 news cycle.

But, there is a portion of online sites that are comprised of former print journalists that are seeking to still utilize their J degrees to a dedicated readership.

Enter The Players’ Tribune. Offering itself as a “Voice for the Game,” it gives great first-hand accounts from players. It gives the players the opportunity to speak for themselves. This is great for fans as they get to read what the players want you to read.

Obviously, the problem is that it gives you just what the players what you to read.

In most instances, journalism cannot be discounted when reporting. Sports is just one of a variety of industries where the media is being inched out. Or in the alternative, online publications such as The Players’ Tribune, Facebook or the personal web sites of players are used to break news. While this is a great way to personalize messages to fans, it does not tell the whole story.

There is still room for opinion and dissension.

There are obvious issues with inaccuracy and not being privy to all the information but if we turn merely to a first-hand account of everything, there will be no research and context into situation. Moreover, there is much influence of celebrity and people with information that will hamper investigative efforts. Also, the conflict with mainstream outlets becoming too comfy with the subjects they cover.

At a time where media is being laid off more than it is hiring, this seems to be a time where we must rely on online sources and non-traditional media to keep us informed. It is up to the reader to become vigilant in their beliefs and whether what they read is right or wrong. Of course, we should already have these sensors up.

As for Calkins, his saga has a twist:

Earlier in the week, Calkins issued an apology column mainly due to an assumption that Bennett had not apologized to a reporter for an outburst. It turns out he did in fact apologize.

Bennett responded to the follow-up column:

Whether there was internal pressure from his paper to apologize or Calkins found it right to correct an assumption.

While criticism of Bennett would never have occurred on The Players’ Tribune, it brought discussion and debate, something that facilitates interest in sports and the people involved.

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