Katie Nolan in her new show, "Garbage Time" has brought up an issue in sports media that barely gets touched on, let alone mentioned as one of the biggest challenges facing media today. I'm not talking about "being in bed with Chris Berman" (although that would be a serious problem), it's the new phenomenon of team-controlled media and relationships like that of the NFL and ESPN. Katie Nolan started the conversation, and now I will continue and further it.
As an aspiring journalist and broadcaster, jobs are incredibly difficult to come by. Therefore, if I was offered a job to work for the Washington NFL Team's in-house productions or write for the team website, it would be a fantastic opportunity for me. However, if anyone looked at my website, they'd see I'm not totally in favor of that team name. Would that automatically exclude me from consideration because of my own personal biases? What if I wrote for NHL.com and wanted to write about how the Las Vegas ticket drive is a risky business decision... that would get shot down instantly. League of Denial was going to be a fantastically produced documentary by ESPN and HBO on the NFL's concussion crisis, and yet mysteriously (or not so mysteriously before it aired), ESPN dropped out. And the list goes on and on.
The dilemma for journalists/broadcasters/media personalities is how to maintain impartiality to those we cover while also knowing the people that sign our paychecks often have vested interests in those same people we are covering. Sometimes cracks in the facade appear, such as with Adam Schefter's visual frustration at how the NFL was treating the Ray Rice situation, but for as many Keith Olbermann's and Sarah Spain's there were just as many who vouched for the league whose checks were signed by the same people. The relationship between the covered and the coverers is almost becoming incestuous.
Those bringing us the news are also those often making the news, simply because of the vertical and horizontal integration in media empires like NBC, FOX, ESPN, and even places like Bleacher Report who are now owned by Turner. Making matters "worse", so to speak, is now team's are producing their own content with their own editorial oversight and bypassing the middle man, the few impartial news sources left. Conflict of interests are now commonplace, which mean I could easily regret this piece when someone sends me a LinkedIn request.
So whether you're applying for a job at Monumental Network, the online production arm of Ted Leonis, or wanting to become the next Adam Schefter, maintaining your journalistic integrity and impartiality might have to be thrown out for the sight of a paycheck because there simply aren't that many available anymore. It's a question the next generation of journalists, reporters and broadcasters have to answer, and there is no clear answer in sight.
Are we journalists in the truest sense; watchdogs of those we cover to keep them in line, or entertainers, those who perform for the public's pleasure and are nothing more than marketable products off a production line? Remember, everyone needs a good "brand".
I've read entertainment "journalism"... and when I did TMZ became the biggest news breaker for sports news because they don't have any vested interests in them. I nearly had to check myself into a hospital for Whiplash.