The Dying Art Of Sport Journalism

Andy Lyons

Real journalism in sports is not easy to find these days. There are plenty of bloggers and fans who write, but the attempt at an unbiased perspective is becoming increasingly rare.

Today there is an awesome column by Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe about the role of journalism in sports, and I think it's absolutely right. I point this out because I want people to understand that I am not cast in the role of a "journalist" here at A Sea of Blue. I do care if the Wildcats win or lose and that will show up in my work. I am a fan, not just a reporter of fact. That doesn't mean I can't try to see both sides, and I usually do, but Shaughnessy's column is how a real journalist should think, at least in my opinion. Consider:

That’s the way it is in other departments of a legitimate news operation. Journalists who cover politics, science, medicine, labor, and international relations are asked to put their agendas on the shelf. Tell the story. The reporter covering the Romney-Obama election is not supposed to be a fan of either candidate.

Why is it presumed to be different for us? Why do readers expect — and in some cases, demand — that sports reporters be fans of the team they cover? This amazes me. Are we supposed to suspend all rules of journalism because we cover sports?

I truly appreciate this perspective, and I think the Internet has done great violence to journalism by creating an environment where writers who genuinely take the idea that they should not be a partisan of the team they cover are derided and criticized to the point they throw up their hands and join the fan echo chambers. I have always imagined that it is very difficult to be a journalist, because part of me believes that an unbiased perspective is very demanding for anyone invested enough to want to cover a particular beat.

This is where Jerry Tipton deserves some slack. I write occasionally about his negativity, but he also does us an invaluable service by not being a fan of Kentucky. Sometimes he's hard to read, but very often, what he produces forces us to ask questions of ourselves and our team, if we are truly as self-aware as most of us think we are. Unlike some people, I don't think he dislikes Kentucky or Calipari, but rather, sometimes goes a bit too far to make sure that he isn't seen as being "in the tank" for UK. It's a tiresome balancing act, I'm sure.

With that said, I think the best sports journalists do a great job of divorcing themselves from their rooting interests in order to properly do their jobs. I often accuse this or that reporter of certain biases, usually with at least some justification, but sometimes I blow things out of proportion as fans are wont to do. I don't think there is much doubt that guys like Pete Thamel, Thayer Evans, and Pat Forde have anti-Kentucky predispositions that come out in their writing. But there are a number of reporters reporters, like Andy Katz, Dick Weiss, and Michael DeCourcy just to name three, who scrupulously try keep their prejudices out of their writing. I admire that.

I normally wouldn't dedicate an entire column to this, but I know that most of the Big Blue Nation, including your humble correspondent, is as susceptible to frustration over perceived anti-UK reporting as the eye is to grit. I don't know if Dan Shaughnessy is really able to detatch himself from fandom, as he suggests he does, but I think he strikes exactly the right tone here, and we should remember that more than enough of our news comes from a partisan perspective. We definitely need the non-fan side of the story, and it seems to be a dying art.

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