Monday, April 19, 2010

When The Source Controls The Media

By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network


It's a slippery slope - this new business of newspapers getting the sports franchise to pay for the reporters covering their teams. But, what's next, politicians paying reporters to cover government?

That's what's happening with sports coverage in New Jersey, where the Gannett newspaper reporters who cover the New Jersey Devils are paid by - not the newspapers - but by the Devils.

Gannett, to its credit, is transparent about the relationship. But how healthy is it?

How can a reporter criticize a decision to hire or fire a player? Pull a goalie? It's decisions on disciplinary matters? Even critiquing a player's performance?

Does this put the player in the position of being able to pressure - through his common employer - the reporter to back off?

How about decisions on ticket and concession pricing? Will the reporter feel constrained about writing about that?

Yes, radio and TV sports announcers are often compensated by the clubs they cover. But they are almost expected to be cheerleaders for the teams, aren't they? Not so the sports reporters covering the them. If you've ever been in the locker room following a loss, you'll feel the tension between the reporters asking probing questions and the team managers and players. It may be an uncomfortable setting - but it's healthy. Because those reporters are supposed to be representing the fans. It's their job to ask probing questions.

Hopefully, those who work for the Gannett papers, will keep asking away!

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Talk to Gary at 5 PM weekdays on News Talk Online on the Paltalk News Network. There is no charge.

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