More often than not, the discussion around prominent sports news “insiders” is about journalistic integrity and whether or not we can consider what they do as journalism.
While breaking news is certainly one of the cornerstones of journalism, especially in the sports world, we have heard many stories of journalists pushing ethical boundaries in order to establish themselves as the preeminent “insiders” who require to be followed.
NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski has reportedly sent out a social media pitchdeck to potential sources to market himself as the most worthy person to break their news. NFL insider Adam Schefter spends thousands of dollars on freebies every year to please his sources, according to a recent Washington Post profile.
Schefter, who is extremely good at his job, regularly gets himself in hot water for a host of transgressions, including giving editorial approval to sources, unnecessarily editorializing about the people he covers, and shilling for produce in a way that could undermine its integrity. Although none of those issues make him any less valuable to ESPN.
While we often try to figure out why Schefter and his fellow initiates act this way, Dan Le Batard has a different perspective on their situation. The former ESPNer and current Meadowlark Media podcaster recently appeared on the House of Strauss podcast with Ethan Sherwood Strauss and shared his concerns about the sanity of insiders like Schefter and Jay Glazer, citing the demands of the industry complex from Breaking News. as guilty.
“It made me so sad to read this story about Adam Schefter in the Washington Post,” Le Batard said. “He’s a gentle man and he’s a good man and for a long time he was a good journalist. But the way we do it now in the current evolution of this, where you have to deal with relationships of a way that circumvents some principles of journalism that I grew up with, makes me uncomfortable, but beyond that, what makes me uncomfortable is the obsessive addition of… 2 30 a.m., you have to worry that someone else in the world in the information age has information that you don’t.
Le Batard shared an anecdote from his time with the Miami Herald to illustrate the stress that “news breakers” are under.
I remember when I was in my early 20s. I was sobbing in the Miami Herald bathroom at midnight because I was competing on Marlins beat with Gordon Edes, a longtime baseball writer who had scouts at his wedding, and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Le Batard said. “And just having to report as a 23-year-old and competing and worrying about what another paper was going to have was such horror that I question my career choice in my early twenties because It’s not what I imagined it was. I don’t want to give news. I don’t want to compete with anyone else for information. But we’ve misrepresented now where the thing is. the most precious.
“So I don’t know if you could be a normal human being and be good at these jobs.
“To do what these guys are doing, go up against all the beat writers in every city that get paid to cover these teams, and get more information…does your audience understand how hard it is because I don’t think they do I don’t think they have a clue what it’s like to be Jay Glazer, Woj… Shams [Charania], and Schetter. These are the four (best).
The Batard also discussed Glazer’s mental health journey and how working as a breaking news reporter for Fox gave him panic attacks.
“You don’t know the weight of mental illness until it grabs you by the throat,” Le Batard said of Glazer. “He was having panic attacks right before he walked on [the TV studio].”
Regarding what makes work and industry so damaging, Le Batard cited the impact of social media.
“If I didn’t do what I’m doing right now, Ethan, I’d throw my iPad like a frisbee into the ocean and never look at social media again,” Le Batard said. “Like, never checking anything that was going on because of how addictive it is and how toxic it is, and how slow and depressed you can look at all the other things that are out there and be saddened.”
There is certainly validity in what Le Batard says. The pressure Woj and Shams must feel to constantly compete with each other, let alone maintain their place against everyone else in the NBA insider world, must be immense. And clearly, Schefter and Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, and others are in constant competition with each other while constantly working to prove their worth. Not to mention the microscope they find themselves under to do everything right or shame themselves on social media.
It’s also worth saying that this is all a choice too. You don’t have to push yourself beyond the ethical boundaries of journalism to be the first person to say the Pittsburgh Steelers have signed a new punter. It’s a choice you make to put your career ahead of other things. As Le Batard hinted to himself, the drudgery of breaking news was too much for him to handle and so he transitioned his career to another aspect of sports media. It’s always possible for others too, as Glazer seems to show.
Does the state of modern sports journalism require Adam Schefter to woo sources with freebies and give them a say in his reporting or is it a choice Schefter makes because he wants to be number one , whatever the price to pay for its integrity? This is the question at the heart of what Le Batard says. Since you don’t see other NFL insiders getting into the same hot water he does over and over (and over again), it seems like the latter is the one. But the jury remains absent.[House of Strauss]