They say journalism is dead. Print and broadcast outlets are turning digital, and our generation doesn't subscribe to or know where to even find a traditional newspaper. Cutting cords to cable television has made way for this new era, including Netflix, Hulu and the handful of websites that stream your favorite series or documentary. Some stations have even foreseen this wave arising, so they jumped ship early.
Two months ago about 100 layoffs were made at ESPN due to the forward thinking of the worldwide leader in sports. The network let a number of quality journalists go as its way of combatting low ratings in a society that now lacks meaningful journalism, so they say. Not in sports, pop culture, or even politics is there journalism that matters nowadays, according to the Executive Branch. To this point, our nation is so divided that twitter has a profound impact on political and domestic matters. Within just 140 characters, the entire country can instantly become enraged or emotionally distraught by this ‘citizen journalism’ or lack thereof. We’ve been here before though, and President Trump vigorously tweet-slandering from the Oval Office is not the first display of a war on the press of its kind.
In the 1970’s President Nixon vehemently opposed the journalists of that era, and attempted to oppress them during the height of the Watergate scandal. Woodward and Bernstein of The Washington Post fought back with their only viable weapon — in-depth, critical reporting. The two then played a huge role in bringing down the President in historic fashion. Today, in a time of political unrest everywhere, journalists can again provide us with what little democracy there is in the U.S. A free press is at this country's core and apart of the bill of rights, but so many are against it. Before our current Commander-in-chief shunned journalism for relying on fake news, interestingly enough, professional athletes deemed the press enemies as well.
Marshawn Lynch, famously refused to talk to Seattle’s media leading up to Super Bowl XLIX because we 'know why (he's) here.' Legendary Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich, chooses when to cooperate or be quiet as a mouse. He gives sideline reporters and post-game interviewers hell by either disregarding their entire question or being short with them. Apparently Lebron James even thinks that some reporters only ask questions when the Cavs lose.
But a journalist has to ask these probing questions to get to the root of each win or loss. The free flow of information in sports journalism is halted when athletes attempt to silence the press and its commentary, which is much like what the 45th president has repeatedly done since the start of his unprecedented campaign.
Where do these professionals obtain the right to disrespect the press? There's great journalism in the sports world that each of us, even athletes, acknowledge.
The standard of excellent reporting starts with the late Hall of Fame sportswriter Frank Deford, who earned a National Humanities Medal in 2013. Whether we saw Deford reporting on set or were entranced by his feature story on mumbling Moses Malone’s transition to the pros out of high school, his work always spelled greatness. Cultural icons, celebrities, NBA and WNBA players didn’t each jack up three pointers to support Craig Sager’s foundation during All-Star weekend because they wanted one of his tacky suits. And nobody was as cool as the other side of the pillow like Stuart Scott was — nobody. Some of ESPN’s legends are no longer with us, but they are forever in spirit and in mystique. Its recent job layoffs, though, not only meant that its field reporters and long-time niche sportswriters were being let go, but it also meant that ESPN’s high-quality, broadcast journalism programs were cancelled as well.
Sure, the shouting matches between Stephen A. Smith and whoever is sitting across from him and next to Molly Qerim makes for must-see programming. But it’s unfair that shows like the Sports Reporters that use years of journalism experience instead of loud bickering to make their points have been replaced in the Sunday morning lineup. Bill Rhoden and Bob Ryan, the longest running participants of the show, are world-class journalists, who are just as poignant and articulate in the show’s segments as they are in their once thriving print columns. Just because ESPN is trying to be in with the new, doesn’t mean that they have to do out with the old because there is superior journalistic content, like Rhoden and Ryan’s, all around us. It can easily be found through the internet, but Americans are overlooking the journalism still in print and on TV today. It hasn’t gone away, no matter what the President or ESPN’s budget cuts say.
There is a desperate need for the work sports columnists, on-air reporters, and bloggers do because the news is ubiquitous. There is around the clock news and stories hitting ‘the shelves’ at every moment, and the public has the right to know. If it’s a war against us, let us stand our ground and protect what is ours — the news. Let the players play, politicians politic, and in doing our part, we will report.
Hopefully, in doing so, more individuals will appreciate that journalism matters now more than ever. Journalism that is, of course, fair, accurate and objective because anything else would be alternative to the facts.
And that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, Ruth.