Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Aug 2005

FO at TNR: Sports Illustrated Turns Tabloid

My latest piece in The New Republic Online documents the way Sports Illustrated has changed in the last two decades. I know we often have fun at the expense of Peter King around here, but I think the stuff he does in the magazine is first-rate. Unfortunately, many of his SI colleagues aren't such solid journalists. Note especially the SI reporter who donated to George W. Bush's re-election campaign -- then gave him a softball interview. (Free New Republic Online registration required.)

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 23 Aug 2005

60 comments, Last at 27 Aug 2005, 2:30pm by Goldman

Comments

1
by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 11:56am

I really enjoyed the article last night, and your takedown of the Price article was excellent.

That said, and as much as I love Gary Smith (the Jonathan Takes Enemy piece is a heartbreaker), I think you knock ESPN's magazine a bit too much.

The one thing I really give them credit for is a consistent, compassionate focus on the impact of mental illness and addiction on athletes. There have been some really powerful pieces over the years, and to have them in a magazine where they're not as expected makes them even more striking and impactful.

The real question is this, as my 74-y.o. father always asks me: what is the role of a weekly sports magazine in the age of instant results?

2
by Pat on the Back (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 12:08pm

what is the role of a weekly sports magazine in the age of instant results?

That's easy: swimsuit issues.

3
by TMK (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 12:20pm

That's why we have Rachel Wacholder ads, Pat.

4
by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 12:26pm

Adam, thanks for the info on ESPN's coverage of mental illness and addiction. I haven't read those articles, but if they're as you described them, maybe I should have more esteem for ESPN Magazine.

That said, my point was more about the way SI is reacting to ESPN than about ESPN itself. SI could have reacted to ESPN by saying its journalism would become even more rigorous. Instead it reacted by having more puff pieces.

5
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 12:34pm

"For Yaeger to conduct an interview without taking notes and then put the subject's words in quotes demonstrates an appalling lack of judgment."

You're being charitable there, MDS. I can't ever imagine a competent, professional reporter writing copy without notes or, better, taped conversations.

Paying anonymous sources also should be verboten. Not to mention LOBBYING while still on the magazine's dime. The softball interview with GWB should never have taken place. I wonder if his editors knew he had ponied up for the campaign before he got the get.

Maybe that's how he got it? That said, I'd love to see Adam Clymer asking W about his Little League days.

What do I know? One of the best interviews I ever did was with JFK (errr, John Forbes Kerry), who had a certain reputation for banality that then veered into hagiographic autobiography that crashed, dead, into ennui.

I also would like to make the case for the old Sporting News as a first-rate publication. I'm not sure it's ever cleared a profit (much, ahem, akin to TNR), but the columnists were always top of the shelf.

6
by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 12:53pm

"I wonder if his editors knew he had ponied up for the campaign before he got the get."

So do I. It would be great for SI to conduct a sports-themed interview with the president, but only if the interviewer were going to ask tough questions about steroids, Bush's relationship with Palmeiro, how he got such a sweet profit from his brief stint running the Rangers, etc. Bush knew he wouldn't be getting those questions because he knew the interviewer was his supporter.

It's funny that you mention the Sporting News, as Aaron and I were just discussing it. I still think TSN does some very good season-preview issues (I just bought their college football preview), but their weekly magazine doesn't offer much. I think they need to do more to distinguish themselves. A good place to start would be more top-notch statistical analysis. Hire Michael Lewis to do a column. Or Aaron Schatz. Or Carl Prine.

7
by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 1:41pm

I did some quick Googling to pull up some of the articles I was thinking about. It's hard to find some of it still online:

Chamique Holdsclaw and depression

John Howell

Ricky Williams' social anxiety disorder

8
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 1:57pm

an article about the tabloidization of SI and not ONE mention of the biggest sleazoid of all, Rick Reilly?
Amazing

9
by Daniel (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 1:58pm

Great piece, Michael.

Follow up question: how much has the clubhouse atmosphere infiltrated SI, making it more like sports networks and less like, say, TNR? The trend in mainstream sports reporting is to hire former athletes and give everything a frathouse feel. I don't know where it started, but you see it everywhere: every show on ESPN and FoxSports has it. SI is moving away from journalism and towards something else entirely.

10
by Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 2:20pm

SI was never about instant results, but about stories. I can still remember pieces about Howie Long and Marshall Faulk that not only told fascinating tales about some fairly conflicted men, but were very well-written. One of my high school English teachers used to use SI's story about Laettner's perfect championship game as a teaching tool. Now? God help us all, Steve Rushin has a column.

11
by JB in DC (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 2:28pm

what is the role of a weekly sports magazine in the age of instant results?

I think that the role of weeklies is dwindling quickly, and not just for sports magazines, but publications like Time and Newsweek as well. This was clear to me fifteen years ago when these magazines lagged a week behind major events.

I wonder if the tabloidization of the weeklies is partly a result of serious journalism moving to other outlets that disseminate it more quickly.

12
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 2:38pm

Thanks for the nice compliment, MDS, but I'll let Aaron carry the ball to TSN.

Click on my name for a longer discussion of the problem with the sports' sections.

13
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 2:45pm

It would make sense that weekly magazines have a harder time making a profit anyway and that with instant news on TV and the internet, the best options are to go strictly online or cut down to monthly issues with more substance. For a sports or news magazine the goal would be to spot trends early or write articles about subjects that concern people now with an emphasis on historical and future implications. If a reader wants sports information they're usually better off going to the internet and finding a website about the subject or newspaper articles that are available online.

14
by TMK (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 3:30pm

"serious journalism (is) moving to outlets that disseminate it more quickly."

I submit that statement on its face is an oxymoron. The level of reflection and consideration that is necessary to produce a serious piece is inherently incompatible with the voracious appetite of television or the Internet for material.

A mass-appeal site or broadcast station is facing greater pressures all the time to have new, fresh and original. Last season, last month, last week -- sometimes even yesterday -- do not have the cachet for the mass audience that an SI is trying to reach. Such content is left more and more for a niche such as FO, instead of getting the wider exposure that it would have as recently as 5 years ago.

There is no alternative, "faster," distibution to a wide audience, only an increasing compartmentalization. SI isn't being replaced; it's coming apart like Monty Python's Black Knight.

15
by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 5:45pm

Not to mention LOBBYING while still on the magazine’s dime. The softball interview with GWB should never have taken place. I wonder if his editors knew he had ponied up for the campaign before he got the get.

only that last sentence seems relevant to me. lobbying on a newspaper's (or magazine's) dime in some form happens all the time, not to mention softball interviews. and why shouldn't they? just because SI is a sports magazine doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to support a political candidate if they feel like it, or write a story about the economy of botswana. it's up to readers to recognize swill when they see it.

but again, back to that last sentence, if SI didn't realize what was going on, then lobbying on its dime would be wrong. that said, the editor still held the ultimate decision of whether or not to publish the article.

16
by csjoholm (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 5:55pm

Note especially the SI reporter who donated to George W. Bush’s re-election campaign – then gave him a softball interview.

It's a sports magazine, not a news magazine. I wouldn't expect them to give a political figure anything but a softball interview. Just like I wouldn't expect a science magazine to be too critical of Michael Jordan.

17
by joel in providence (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 5:56pm

a typical newsroom stereotype: sportswriters are generally the least intellectually curious people in the newsroom and the least interested in professional standards and journalism ethics. another dirty little secret: most of them barely even enjoy sports in the wider sense! yeah, they have sunday ticket and watch the yankees-sox games, but don't know jack about the hundreds of other sports that are out there!

i've known some nice people in sports departments, but they ARE considered the lightweights of the journalism world.

as for SI, they need to get back to what they used to be: a really well-written magazine that just happens to cover sports. they should pretend like ESPN doesn't exist... write the enterprise stories that go WAY deeper than anything you'll see on sportscenter.

18
by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 6:12pm

"I wouldn’t expect them to give a political figure anything but a softball interview. Just like I wouldn’t expect a science magazine to be too critical of Michael Jordan."

That's not an apt comparison at all. The actual comparison would be a science magazine allowing someone who had invested in Nike to write a piece interviewing Jordan about how his new Nike shoes had superior engineering technology that made the people who wear it run faster, without disclosing that the interviewer was a Nike investor with something to gain from sales of the shoes. I assure you, any science writer who did something like that would be shunned by the scientific community. Publications owe it to their readers to disclose any ties a writer has to a subject.

19
by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 6:31pm

"what is the role of a weekly sports magazine in the age of instant results?"

It's the same as it was before the internet: in-depth stories that go well beyond the scores. That's what SI used to be so great at.

20
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 6:32pm

Professional journalists do NOT donate to the campaigns of those they cover. Nor do they serve as paid lobbyists or even unpaid lobbyists.

This isn't simply an issue of disclosure. At most newspapers and magazines, a reporter who financially supported a candidate s/he interviewed would be summarily fired. And I can't imagine anyone in the newsroom would protest the termination.

Journalists at the Strib were even barred from going to rock concerts with a political theme. Ditto SF Chronicle columnists who wanted to protest the invasion of Iraq.

Reporters, editors and photographers cede certain inalienable rights when they become gainfully employed in the profession. I, for one, don't vote in any election I cover. I would never dream of cutting "W" a check, then interviewing him. I sure as heck wouldn't put out a shingle as a lobbyist and expect my readers to take me seriously.

I don't know of any professional trade organization in our craft -- Investigative Reporters and Editors, Society of Environmental Reporters, Professional Football Writers Association, et al -- that would allow flacks or "reporters" with an obvious conflict of interest to join them.

While I won't defend other sports' departments, ours is top notch. Our reporters in that section are top notch.

What often goes unappreciated is that the best writers at any news outlet typically work in sports. Our newspaper -- along with the Dallas Morning News, USA Today and a handful of others -- strongly believes in investigative reporting on sports.

Over the past four years alone we have committed many thousands of dollars, invaluable staff time and editorial oversight to a range of sport issues, including Title IX violations by high schools, the financial state of the NHL and a probe into the nature and number of injuries in the NFL.

But what do I know? I thought the Village Voice for years had the best sports page.

21
by Adam H (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 6:35pm

Re 18 I think MDS just summed up whats wrong with the pharmaceutical industry.
As for SI, I'm still waiting for my damn football phone.

22
by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 6:37pm

Publications owe it to their readers to disclose any ties a writer has to a subject.

i disagree. i would say that readers owe it to themselves to determine the credibility of said publications, something which articles such as yours are designed to help us with.

in other words, the main problem isn't that SI published this bullshit, but that its readers won't care.

23
by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 6:41pm

Carl, I don't want to sidetrack this too much, but the practice of journalists does not always meet such standards. From a brief I recently filed before the FEC:

"One example should suffice: Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, has given $194,000 to federal candidates, PACs and party organizations over the years. . . See, generally Howard Kurtz, “Journalists Not Loath to Donate To Politicians�, Washington Post A-1 (1/18/04) (“More than 100 journalists and executives at major media companies, from NBC’s top executive to a Fox News anchor to reporters or editors for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, CBS and ABC, have made political contributions in recent years.�). See also http://www.newsmeat.com/, or just go to http://opensecrets.org/indivs/index.asp and type in “journalist� under occupation."

24
by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 6:42pm

Carl, I don't want to sidetrack this too much, but the practice of journalists does not always meet such standards. From a brief I recently filed before the FEC:

"One example should suffice: Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, has given $194,000 to federal candidates, PACs and party organizations over the years. . . See, generally Howard Kurtz, “Journalists Not Loath to Donate To Politicians�, Washington Post A-1 (1/18/04) (“More than 100 journalists and executives at major media companies, from NBC’s top executive to a Fox News anchor to reporters or editors for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, CBS and ABC, have made political contributions in recent years.�). See also www.newsmeat.com, or just go to www.opensecrets.org/indivs/index.asp and type in “journalist� under occupation."

25
by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 6:47pm

Reporters, editors and photographers cede certain inalienable rights when they become gainfully employed in the profession.

hehe, where's the oxymoron now? but seriously, i understand what you're saying. you mention that normal reporters would be fired if they did this, or that membership in certain organizations would be denied. but in the end it's still an executive decision of whether to fire an employee or deny membership to someone.

in other words, you still have the right to write anything about anyone, whether or not you've donated money to their cause; just don't expect us to publish it, or for that matter, to continue to employ you if you try. the problem is, SI published it, and continued to employ this guy. and again, the underlying problem is that its readership likely won't hold it accountable for that decision.

26
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 7:18pm

Adam, I won't disagree with you. There are scofflaws, and you certainly can dig them up. That their publications didn't stop their activities says more about those publishers than the journalists, perhaps (The Nation is a partisan publication and operates under different norms than SI).

I also know that many of the aforementioned reporters faced disciplinary action when their largess was discovered. Some actions were different than others because of grievance procedures embedded in their collective bargaining agreements.

As for me, I'm an uncapped free agent! No CBA for me!

The problem, Zach, is that it's more than a reporter's fear of the mean ol' publisher comin' down on 'em. We have norms, conventions which we tacitly follow that have nothing to do with the Man enforcing these rules. We take great pride in what we do and would never compromise that or the integrity of our publication for mere financial gain.

That's one reason why SI is in the libel mess it's in. The standards under which they allow journalists to operate will attract a certain kind of reporter. I, for one, wouldn't wish to associate myself with them. That the good name of an august publication is being tarnished in the process is the point of the MDS column.

And it's a damned good point.

27
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 7:24pm

By the way, the unspoken truth about NFL locker rooms is that they trend Republican. The one thing that unites millionaires on the field with millionaire coaches and millionaire owners is that they tend to give millions to the same millionaire candidates for higher office.

Go team.

28
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 7:34pm

Good article. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who's been disappointed in SI. I've subscribed on and off for about 30 years, and it's to the point now where I skip half the magazine - I also consider the features in the front People-style reporting, which is fine if you want to read People. I don't.

Fortunately, I don't pay for it. My grandmother has been renewing my subscription as a Christmas gift for the last 20 years or so. Once we get the digital cable modem in her condo, maybe I can get her to switch over to donating here once a year ...

29
by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 7:41pm

I don't have the time to do a full search -- y'all can go to www.OpenSecrets.org, but here's a few data points:

Jeffrey Lurie leans R, but his wife gives solid D.

Georgia Frontiere: Solid D.

Mark Brunell throws to the right.

Biggest donor I've seen so far: Texans owner Bob McNair, and it's all R.

30
by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 7:42pm

I don't have the time to do a full search -- y'all can go to www.OpenSecrets.org, but here's a few data points:

Georgia Frontiere: Solid D.

Mark Brunell throws to the right.

Biggest donor I've seen so far: Texans owner Bob McNair, and it's all R.

31
by Adam H (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 7:50pm

Who cares who Zeron Flemister is voting for? Now if you can tell me who he's dating and what they are wearing I'm all ears.

32
by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 8:34pm

I have no problems with softball interviews in a sports magazine because the magazine itself is supposed to be about sports and not about politics. However, I do have a problem with a organization (ESPN) that throws someone under the bus for comments knowing full well what they were getting (Rush/McNabb) and yet lets one of the most "respected writers" around throw in his snide New Englander liberal comments around in another high profile show (Peter Gammons). Keep sports and politics seperate unless their paths do happen to cross. It's better that way.

re: #23/24 - I greatly enjoy the fact that you are being a thorn in Kos' side.

33
by Adam (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 8:45pm

Actually, CS, Markos is my client.

Sorry about that double post above. But here's a bonus: you'll never guess which presidential candidate Chris Berman supported in the last cycle.

34
by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Tue, 08/23/2005 - 10:16pm

re #32:

Here I was going to sing your praises from the mountaintops. Alas, it's not to be.

I'm not exactly sure it would be suprising to see Berman support Lieberman. If I recall correctly, he metioned something about it during the whole Rush/McNabb situation.

But that brings me back to my original point: We really shouldn't care what the guy reporting or writing the the sports news thinks about global warming or CAIR. They should stick to talking about sports. Now, if someone asks them about it on their own time, that's perfectly legit and they have every right to give their views.

This really affects the printed media because a magazine is often viewed as each individual piece making up part of the whole while a web site is viewed as being the sum whole of all its parts. If someone doesn't like a guy's column based on political affiliation or whatever, they would be less likely to physically pay money out of pocket to purchase their magazine/book as opposed to not clicking on their portion of a web page which in their head they aren't paying for (aside from the internet charges).

35
by Bulldozer36 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:20am

I kinda see SI as that big fraternity on campus that everyone loves and respects because of its history and what it stood for but now just uses its history for the same glory and does nothing to redeem itself present-day. I do like their pretty pictures and all (insert aww sound here) but the articles are about as tintalizing as wiping my feet off at the front door.

36
by pcs (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:30am

Tip-top article, MDS. I've been in newspapers for 13+ years, and what SI has done is the same damn dumb thing I've seen over and over in this business. In a doomed attempt to win (or win back) people who don't and won't read their magazine anyway, SI gave its longtime readers the finger. Just like the newsweeklies turned themselves into People. Or like Esquire turned itself into Details. Or like every local newspaper in the country, desperate to reach tha kidz, is filling itself with old news about the iPod and the Black Eyed Pees. (True: In the mid-'90s I once heard an editor pitch a story about the Rolling Stones as targeting the "younger demographic.") I do enjoy ESPN The Magazeen. But I look to SI for something else entirely, and it isn't Steve Rushin teeing up pun after pun. If SI reads like ESPN, I have no reason to buy SI.

37
by Jim A (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:56am

Does anyone know if Don Yeager has done any work for SI since the Price story? There's currently no mention of him on si.com.

Although it appears he crossed the line with that piece, I generally enjoyed his work for the magazine. You could always count on some interesting sports-related investigation under his byline. But the issues brought up in this case do raise some serious questions about his journalistic integrity.

38
by Harris (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 1:19am

Not to break up all this serious philosophizing, but shouldn't we be looking for a way to pin all this on Stephen A. Smith? I full believe everything wrong with sports, and America in general, can be traced back to him, Stuart Scott and/or Adam Sandler. Aw, what the heck. I'll through in that crazy nut Pat Robertson too.

39
by BillT (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 7:30am

You left out the satanical Skip Bayless.

Does it really matter who football players/owners vote for/give money to? I hate when people make everything about politics.

40
by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 9:46am

re #39:

No, it shouldn't. People should be able to watch sports with each other worrying about political views. The problem is when political views are brought in unwarrented to the sports arena.

41
by Daniel (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 10:42am

It is good to hear someone beating the drum for journalistic ethics in sports reporting. For much too long many of these "journalists" have been given a pass. It is sad to see a magazine with the tradition of SI deteriorate like it has. But the same could be said for The Sporting News and other publications. I just recently allowed my subscription to TSN lapse after nearly a decade of receiving the magazine. Besides the fact that it seemed to be delivered to my home on a sporatic schedule the reporters seemed to having difficulty separating their personal feelings and friendships from their role as an unbiased observer. It just seemed that more and more these guys are serving as mouthpieces of certain organizations rather than reporting to the paying customer.

42
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:27pm

Full disclosure: Today I'm the unpaid NFL correspondent for "Lance!" (the largest sports daily in Brazil).

In a moment not unlike Jerry Seinfeld's "Super Terrific Happy Hour" discovery, I'm reviewing a proof written in Portugese. I have no idea what it says.

But I can write a tight Brazilian lede! "A cada domingo na NFL, a liga profissional de futebol americano..."

Profissional de futebol americano, by the way, is very popular in Brazil, albeit not so popular as soccer (real profissional futebol), tennis or motor sports.

Or, as I closed today, "E poucos fas apreciam o sacrificio que eles fazem em um esporte que poucas pessoas praticam fora dos Estados Unidos!"

43
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 12:46pm

Aaron and MDS, as part of this new gig in Brazil, I'll see if I can get us press credentials for the Super Bowl, assuming I'm still around.

We can act like the cool guys from Brazil. We'll all use only first names (like Pele or Ronaldo or Charo; I'm going as "Charlo") and curse in Portugese at various NFL officials.

Cabasa de Xixi! (Pee head!, get me a brownie!)

Everyone will simply ascribe the odd manners to our Brazilian roots.

44
by Harris (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 1:12pm

Can I be your bumbling manservent Hector, who always wears a rumpled tuxedo and keeps a silver tray of canapes on hand for emergencies?

45
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 1:17pm

Is there a Brazilian league for American football?

I've always been fascinated with the fact that American football (and baseball, for that matter) isn't that popular overseas, especially given that, like baseball, it's a very different sport than soccer. I like soccer, basketball, and hockey, but all three of those sports are very similar.

Obviously, football and baseball have their niches (Germany for football, Japan for baseball).

Also, I know in Argentina when they broadcast the NFL games, they speed them up - literally, the games are played at something like 30% higher speed. It makes it very bizarre to watch games. Gave me a headache.

46
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 1:22pm

"(T)they speed them up - literally, the games are played at something like 30% higher speed."

Note to CBS, your Week 11 Miami at Cleveland game might need the Argentinian tweak, you know what I'm saying?

47
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 1:26pm

As for futbol in Brasil, Pat, all I can say is, "O futebol americano e praticado no Brasil em versao muito, mas muito menos violenta. E o qu se chama de 'flag football.'"

I didn't write that. My editor did. But I think that answers your question.

Maybe.

When in doubt, just say, "Basta retirar a fita do adversario para parar a jogada!"

Charlo

48
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 3:26pm

46: Ha!

Seriously, though, it was a KC game, though I can't remember exactly who was playing. It was seriously giving me a headache, though - everyone was flying around so fast you couldn't follow anything. Nuts.

Flag football, huh? Well, better than nothing, I guess.

49
by MDS (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 5:40pm

"Does anyone know if Don Yeager has done any work for SI since the Price story?"

Yes, he has. His most recent piece was two months ago, about the recruiting scandal surrounding Albert Means. I'm not sure why Price hasn't written for them in the past two months. I actually think SI probably will go out of its way not to discipline him for his other unethical actions because that could be used by Price's lawyers to show that the magazine itself acknowledges that Price is a bad journalist.

"how much has the clubhouse atmosphere infiltrated SI, making it more like sports networks and less like, say, TNR?"

Fortunately, SI has avoided hiring ex-athletes. But I do think SI writers have become more like fans and less like unbiased observers in recent years.

50
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 6:37pm

MDS,

There are two things that bother me about the Yeager case, beyond Don Yeager:

1. I don't agree with the district court decision that forces him to reveal anonymous sources. The appellate judges determined that Alabama's Shield Law only applies, specifically, to newspapers. I believe one can reasonably assume the legislature wasn't simply contemplating daily or weekly newspapers when they created the protections; and,

2. I still wonder if Price isn't using this lawsuit to find out the names of his accusers, knowing full well that the substance of the charges SI reported are true. This would be a grave misuse of libel law.

Of course, the problem with (2) is that had the reporting been spotless, we wouldn't have to wonder about the motives of the plaintiff.

51
by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 6:43pm

Of course, if Time threw Matt Cooper onto the grill, you know they'll deliver any documents or sources Don Yeager has.

Free Judy!

52
by jack (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 7:44pm

I don't know when I've enjoyed reading a discussion more - philosophy, politics, comedy - who would believe it's all on FootballOutsiders.com.

Obrigado todo para uma discussão a mais agradável.

I'm not sure exactly what that says, since I ran it through a machine translator, but I'm pretty sure I didn't call anybody Pee Head.

53
by SNPA (not verified) :: Wed, 08/24/2005 - 8:00pm

Great article. Is this at all similar to the Cooper case? It sounds like Price would already know who the sources are if there's any truth to the story at all because if there's any truth to the story Price doesn't just know the sources, he knows the sources.

Does anyone know of any other instance when a newspaper or magazine allowed one of its reporters to interview a politician after the reporter donated to the politician's campaign? I never practiced journalism other than at my college paper, but even there it would have been a firing offense.

54
by Nick (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 12:28am

Disturbingly a journalist friend of mine suggests that, these days, even daily newspapers (not just weeklies) deliver news so much more slowly than online alternatives that the role of print media - should it wish to be profitable - be fundamentally altered to offering opinion and spin.

This is disturbing, not because there isn't a place for opinion and spin, but because this crowds out space for stories which require the length and depth of analysis that are wanting in the online world.

As for ESPN, while I find Stephen A. Smith absolutely unwatchable, I am far more offended by Stuart Scott who's role is supposed to be to report the news. At least Smith is presented in the context of a commentator; Scott feels the need to opine his opinions within the text of news stories - how dare he force that crap on me when all I want to know is who won the Braves game!

55
by TMK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 11:08am

For sportswriters, the whole question of journalistic ethics is almost laughable. Any reporter or columnist has his sources in the clubhouse; he then must turn around and provide commentary or reportage concerning that same source, who probably will take offense and refuse to be as cooperative unless that writing is to his liking.

This is inherently in the ethical gray area, but any newspaper that does not provide such coverage loses subscribers. You get such results as the Mark Grace / Sammy Sosa feud in Chicago, where a pair of jerks who can't happen to stand each other split the writers and reporters into two camps, each of which prints what one says about the other without verification or attribution. The writers then get to go onto to television in our grand synergistic brave new world, and repeat the same junk as fact -- *cough* Bayless *cough* Mariotti *cough* -- without any actual reporting going on. Thus is the beast fed. And what is the beast? Our desire for the latest, hottest, freshest "news," which is what's killing TSN, SI and the like. We don't get analysis and in-depth reporting because we CHOOSE to pay for the other stuff.

Immensely entertaining? Sometimes. Highly lucrative? You bet. Ethical journalism? Give me a break.

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by MDS (not verified) :: Thu, 08/25/2005 - 5:34pm

TMK, you're right that beat writers depend on their sources to such a great extent that many of them would rather be friends than impartial observers.

But I actually think that should work in SI's favor. Since SI doesn't have beat writers who cover the same team all year, you'd hope they'd be free of such ethical problems. SI would seem to be very well situated to write solid sports journalism without having to worry as much about maintaining cordial relationships with sources as a newspaper beat writer does. But instead they run gossip.

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by PTR (not verified) :: Fri, 08/26/2005 - 12:26am

Why is SI worried about ESPN the Magazine? How many people, like me get just because we are insiders? I get it because I want to read people like Neyer, Gammons, rumors mills, Fantasy site and forth on ESPN.com and could care less about the paper issue. I peruse the Mag in about 1/2 hour, and then recycle it.

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by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 08/26/2005 - 12:51am

Why is SI worried about ESPN the Magazine?
Advertisers.

SI's business model is not so much selling magazines to readers, as it is selling subscribers to advertisers. You may be willing to pay for both, but not everyone is. The more readers dump SI for ESPN the Mag, the internet, or niche publications, the less SI gets to charge advertisers.

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by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 08/26/2005 - 4:23pm

The funny thing is that SI and ESPN get to sell the subscribers twice: once for the printed content and once for the identical content online, probably with different advertisers in each place.

One of my beefs with SI is that several of their online articles are word-for-word reprints from the magazine, or perhaps the other way around, as they are frequently available before I get my copy of SI.

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by Goldman (not verified) :: Sat, 08/27/2005 - 2:30pm

The question is, why do advertisers want to buy ads in a magazine that's declining in this respect? Does anyone have circulation numbers for SI. Is it working for them to make these changes?