However, it wasn’t long into my first year as a journalism major that I’d realized the culture of the journalism industry was one that I did not want to be apart of. And mainly, sports journalism.
Both in the classroom, and out, I was observing an industry primarily populated of egotistical, judgmental personalities who routinely harbored contradictory perspectives. I couldn’t relate. Journalism is objective, at least it should be. Yet the issue at hand is that today’s culture of journalism is widely predicated on subjective material, political even.
Walter Cronkite once said that, “Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.” Try to understand, in no way am I vilifying the concept of opinionated journalism, as op-ed’s, for example, have long been a staple of American journalism. The conflict, for me, arises when that is the only avenue from which journalists can navigate.
Believe it or not, there are codes of ethics (referred to as points) in which all journalists are to abide by, such as the ones adopted by the Society of Professional Journalists. One of the points calls for journalists to Be Accountable, and it is my personal favorite, as it does a tremendous job exposing the hypocrisy within the media. Specifically, being accountable calls for journalists to “Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media,” and “abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.” Which may understandably come as a shock, because it seems those are some of the very principles many sport broadcasters and journalists struggle to uphold.
And that brings me to Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. With Super Bowl XLIX just days away, the participating coaches and players have essentially been required to meet with the media daily. Lynch, sometimes colorfully, has long illustrated his disdain for talking to members of the media. Although, this particular postseason, the relationship between the player and the media has soured even more. The situation, in fact, has gotten so bad that the NFL threatened to fine Lynch $500,000 if he skipped Media Day, two days ago. Needless to say, he didn’t. Lynch showed, but only to repeatedly answer various questions with the statement, “I’m here so I won’t get fined.”
As expected, many people outside of the media took to social media to label Lynch as defiant and ignorant. Although I find that criticism to be misguided; also expected, as I have written many times, that the American public’s struggle with both comprehension and consistency is simply one that will never cease to exist. “He makes millions, he should have no problem sucking it up and talking to the media,” some say. Ironic, because many of those same critics do not make millions, yet I would bet the last croissant that they don’t respond kindly to being forced to have to do certain things either.
Essentially, all of this brings me back to the media and their self-regarding agendas. At some point, journalists have convinced themselves that professional athletes owe them something. And that is the first lie. Athletes don’t owe the media, nor fans anything. “Well we pay their salaries,” some fans quip. For starters, you don’t; and more importantly is the fact that no one forces us, as fans, to buy tickets to a sporting event.
We aren’t forced to buy our favorite athlete’s merchandise, we do it because we want to. But just because we make that choice, doesn’t mean we’re in turned owed something for it. The same goes for the media. Just because they spread awareness and publicity for the game, doesn’t mean the personalities they cover owe them something. At the end of the day, it’s their job. That’s what this whole thing – journalism – needs to be about.
Journalists are also expected to Minimize Harm. It’s another ethical code. One of the conditions of minimizing harm states that journalists are to, “Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.” So here we have, already, two codes in Be Accountable and Minimize Harm that journalists are violating as it pertains to Marshawn Lynch. So that begs the question, who’s “disrespecting the rules,” Marshawn or the media?
As American Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour once perfectly put it — in response to a reporter’s question regarding Wintour’s icy relationship with the media — “It’s not so much troubling, as [it is] they always seem to ask the same questions, so it would be refreshing, sometimes, if they could dig a little deeper.”