Voices of Sports

Charissa Thompson’s comments about the laxity of media questions and the industry’s status

Sports Print, Radio And TV Journalism Have A History Of Reporters Skirting The Truth;

 Why Charissa Thompson’s Admission That She Made Up Quotes Isn’t A Surprise To Many In The Business

Fabricating And Cleaning Up Athlete’s Quotes Have Always Been Around, And That’s The Truth

Solomon

Fabricating And Cleaning Up Athlete’s Quotes Have Always Been Around, And That’s The Truth

  • When Charissa Thompson admitted that she sometime made up quotes from football coaches during her half-time gig as a FOX football sidelines reporter, it caused a sensation in a small segment of sports journalism that has not always been taken seriously – quotes from coaches to sideline reporters between the halftimes of games or 15 second interviews with baseball managers between innings.
  • What coaches tell the football sideline reporters are similar to what is said during the after games’ baseball and football TV press conferences – mostly boiler plate statements that has as much news value as last year’s newspapers and never are used by print reporters. “We have to establish the run game,” or “We have to stop the run” is often the template answer from a football coach during halftime, or, “This is a team that never gives up,” during a between innings 15 second “interview” with a baseball manager. (Not exactly headline-making news. In fact, not news at all.)
  • If anyone ever believed that a coach would come clean about any changes to the game plan that were discussed during football’s halftime, I have an Eiffel Tower to sell them, which brings us to the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic games  and how NBCUniversal will cover them. (More about that later.)
  • Why some journalists have expressed horror that a reporter would make up quotes beats me. As long as there have been reporters quotes have been made up, cleaned-up or altered.
  • For years, baseball reporters would quote cleaver sayings by the New York Yankees Yogi Berra, some of which he might have actually said.
  • For years, when I switched to public relations as the newspaper business dwindled, I would attribute cleaver sayings to clients that were used by columnists. Everyone knew it was just a game. (On occasion, I would write entire columns that appeared under a journalist’s by line. The trick was to be able to mimic the style.)
  • Today, baseball announcers inform TV viewers what players on the field are saying to each other, as if they actually heard the conversations.
  • Today, baseball announcers talk about players that they never saw play as if they did.
  • And in the days when radio was king, sports announcers would create fiction accounts about what was happening in a game. Also, when games were recreated, announcers would behave as if they were on the scene, when they were in a studio hundreds of miles from the ballpark.
  • Making up harmless quotes by a PR person or reporter is not a virtue. But as long as the “quotes” did no harm and did not misrepresent anything, it was largely accepted (Many years ago, the editor of the Dallas Morning News said that he would no longer permit direct quotes to be used in a sports story, because if there were 10 reporters quoting someone there would be 10 different quotes.)
  • The history of sportscasting has always been filled with fabrications by announcers, dating back to the radio days when people couldn’t actually see what was happening and broadcasters tried to keep listeners tuned in by turning the simplest infield pop-up to an astonishing catch by the fielder.
  • In the early days of televised sports, viewers could see when announcers, still used to radio gigs, would say one thing was occurring, when it was obvious to viewers that it was an exaggeration.
  • Not telling the entire truth is probably in the DNA of some sports journalists.
  • At one time it was not unusual for print reporters to cover up the dastardly behavior of athletes. Today, TV broadcasters talk about star athletes as if they were the most decent human beings that ever walked the planet, without ever mentioning the unsportsmanlike behavior of many, much worse a sin than what Ms. Thompson is being attacked for, in my opinion. Today, athletes with nasty pasts are hired as TV sportscasters.
  • I don’t fault football coaches for not divulging any new strategies devised in the locker room during halftime. To quote an old time New York saying, “Would Macy’s tell Gimbels?”
  • In a few months, NBCUniversal will televise the 2024 Summer Olympics from Paris (July 26 to August 11 2024.). During previous Olympics covered by a supposedly “hard news” network, controversial subjects were not covered by the NBC Olympic team, especially when the games were staged in totalitarian countries like China and Russia.
  • Thus far, there have been major controversies associated with the Paris Olympics, ranging from briberies to letting Russian and Belarus athletes compete. Thus far, they have not been or have received scant, if any, attention from the networks Olympic reporters.
  • Not reporting or covering up the controversial actions taking place during an Olympics by totalitarian governments and the International Olympic Committee by network reporters on the scene in Russia and China makes what Ms. Thompson, a host for Fox Sports and for NFL games on Amazon Prime, said, (and then claimed that she spoke incorrectly) seem like one rain drop in a hurricane compared to NBCUniversal’s Olympic reporters purposely ignoring the actions of totalitarian governments, some of which are rivals of the United States.
  • Now that the Paris Olympics will be played in a democratic country, there is no security reason for NBC’s on-site reporters not to report the truth and nothing but the truth. Only time will tell if NBCUniversal acts like a news source or the PR arm of the IOC and sponsors of the games.
  • Sports journalism is not so different from other types of journalism. The same story can be covered different ways, without any actual lies being told. But there is one big difference: Sports radio and TV journalism has a history of announcers skirting the truth and/or acting as PR arms of the leagues, teams and networks. Maybe that’s why what Ms. Thompson said was a short-lived story and wasn’t earth shattering to most people involved in the sports business.
  • Exaggerations, which are a staple of sports broadcasting isn’t a lie, but it is misleading reporting. Today exaggeration is a tool in every play-by-player’s caller’s script book. In football, mundane runs, passes or tackles are often described as a once in a lifetime occurrence. In baseball, a walk-off home run is announced like it is a cure for cancer.
  • Another difference: Non-sports broadcasters are carefully watched by media observers to make certain that their reports are accurate. Slanted, poorly researched or inaccurate news reports can cost a reporter his or her job. It’s been a long time since TV sports reporting was constantly critiqued for the quality of its reporting.
  • Sports have never been fun and games, as the powers that run it attempt to portray it. It has always been a business, and now has evolved into a big business with” sin” corporate tie-ins and international implications. And unlike other businesses, only a few publications and hardly any sports broadcasters report on its scandals and other blemishes.
  • Occasionally, a report on the controversies or seedy side of sports will be covered on television, but not by sports TV reporters. And that’s sub-par journalism.
  • At one time, many print sports reporters lived by the credo “that if it doesn’t happen on the playing field it’s not a sports story.” That type of flawed thinking has largely disappeared in print journalism. But it lives on in broadcasting journalism, where TV reporters consistently play up the “great play” of athletes, when left unsaid is their off-the-field unsportsmanlike behavior.
  •   What does it take for sportscasters other than a Bob Costas, to lash out about all aspects of sports – even its warts!

 

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Arthur Solomon

Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications and consults on public relations projects. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com.

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