Some good, and bad, advice for starting college

school-1517196_1280.jpg

School at the University of Alabama and elsewhere begins Wednesday, and I came across a Twitter thread that exploded on my feed. Stacey J. Spiehler of Oxford, Miss., asked for best advice for someone starting as a college freshman (which she is doing as what we euphemistically call a “nontraditional” student, aka old enough to be everyone else’s parent).

Here are five pieces of advice from the thread that are correct:

  • “It's a clean slate, socially and academically. Nobody cares who was popular in high school.”

  • “Learn to write well. It is a lifetime art that will separate you from the pack.”

  • “Do the readings. And go to class even if you haven’t: Strange, wonderful things happen in class discussions.”

  • “Befriend people who grew up in worlds wildly different than yours — nothing will open your mind more.“

  • “Just because everyone around you is drunk doesn't mean you have to be.”

And here are five pieces that are wrong:

  • “Don’t let them know you’re a conservative or you won’t graduate.”

  • “Use upperclassmen as advisors because the university advisors are 9/10 times likely to be useless.”

  • “Study like hell this year and next, so that you build your GPA. Then you can slack off your senior year and cruise.”

  • “Every professor has a system. You can go to every class and read every word assigned but it won't matter at all if you haven't figured out their system. Gaming the system is what tests are all about. Like it or not.”

  • “Don’t ever take 8am classes if you don’t have to after your freshman year.”

I’ll add my five best pieces of advice:

  • Lectures and class assignments are awesome. But one real-world internship is worth 20 of them.

  • If college doesn’t ever cause at least a moment of doubt about your chosen major or career, you’re doing it wrong.

  • Take advantage of professors’ office hours. You’re not annoying them. Honest.

  • Don’t freak out if you don’t understand academic articles. They’re intentionally written to be incomprehensible.

  • You took an enrollment spot from someone who wanted to be here. You have an obligation to act like it.

No more lectures, try TV shows instead

A scene from HBO’s “The Newsroom.”  (PHOTO CREDIT: MELISSA MOSELEY/HBO)

A scene from HBO’s “The Newsroom.”

(PHOTO CREDIT: MELISSA MOSELEY/HBO)

One of my recent blog posts mockingly suggested using a crap TV show as a classroom teaching tool. Well, I came across a recently published academic article that seriously and persuasively endorses the concept of achieving more impactful teaching by indeed letting students watch TV shows. They’d probably love that. 

 Aimed at instructors of journalism ethics such as myself, the article ($) by Laveda J. Peterlin of the University of Saint Mary (Kansas) and Jonathan Peters of the University of Georgia (who also writes excellent articles on press freedom for the Columbia Journalism Review) specifically endorses incorporating viewings of the fictional HBO series “The Newsroom.” That show was created by Aaron Sorkin and ran for three seasons (2012-2014).

Going episode by episode through season one, the researchers identified multiple ethical dilemmas and journalistic debates posed in the show that could serve as talking points and educational lessons for students. In one story thread, for instance, the business reporter clamors for more attention to the federal debt ceiling debate, which runs counter to the cable network’s push for higher ratings. In the end, the anchor asks the producer to throw out the planned story lineup for that night and lead instead with the debt ceiling. The gathered staff applauds. Other issues tackled in The Newsroom’s first season include protection of confidential sources, doing business with boyfriends/girlfriends, advertiser influence, the consequences of zealous artificial balance, anonymous online posts, and speed versus accuracy when news breaks. All good and necessary stuff to think about.

The article’s authors correctly point out that “The Newsroom” offered a highly idealistic version of journalism, and that, based on commentaries written at the time, most journalists in the business deemed it as preachy and inaccurate. (I liked the show, and believe high-minded portrayals can serve as occasional reminders of aspirations. But yeah, a couple of times I wanted to punch a character in the face.) The negativity from the profession eventually got to the point that, in an interview in 2014, Sorkin “apologized” and said he wasn’t trying to tell journalists how to do their jobs.

Still, the academic article’s authors view this show and others as providing an “innovative, rich learning experience,” and a natural one. “Today, many college students grew up watching and learning from television,” they write. I’m good with this idea, but do you think I’d ruin the whole thing by picking “Lou Grant” instead? (Young people, Google it.)

Investigative reporting must overcome obstacles from without and within

This week’s child sex trafficking charges against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein are a testament to the impact of investigative reporting, in this case by determined journalists from The Miami Herald, who dug through documents, tracked down victims and told a story not only of horrendous crimes but also of enablers and leniency from the court system. It wasn’t easy. Investigative journalism never is. And alarmingly, it’s getting harder to do.

Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown talks with host Brian Stelter on CNN’s Reliable Sources show.

Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown talks with host Brian Stelter on CNN’s Reliable Sources show.

 In a way, all news reporting is investigative. But the label customarily applies to in-depth, time-consuming stories that expose some previously unknown instance of wrongdoing or injustice that someone in power wishes to remain secret. In some places, thankfully, this kind of work is becoming more common, as new organizations recognize it not only as fulfillment of civic mission but also as an effective way to gain subscribers and reputation. The Washington Post, for instance, announced last month it is adding 10 positions devoted to investigative journalism in multiple newsroom departments. Membership in the national trade organization Investigative Reporters & Editors stands at an all-time high. Matthew Purdy, who oversees investigations at The New York Times, told The Associated Press: “With the attacks on the press and on facts, there has been a reinvigoration of the investigative mission of journalism. I don’t mean just at the Times but across the industry.” 

 But that does not tell the whole story. Uncovering malfeasance is becoming more difficult for multiple reasons. Start with rising government restrictions on access to information (laws and court rulings), non-compliance with open-records statutes, and threats of costly lawsuits by news subjects. Further, the boffo investigations by major national outlets are not being replicated to the same extent at the local and regional levels. The well-documented shrinkage of newsrooms across the U.S. has taken a big bite out of community watchdog journalism, reflected not only in fewer staff to do the job but also in newsroom priorities.

 Most newsrooms seek to do investigations, but internal considerations often get in the way. It is not easy for a small or medium-sized organization to decide that one or more reporters should spend weeks or months working on a single story when other, basic stories beg for coverage, the website and social media channels demand new posts constantly, and the newsroom’s web metrics look a little low this month. But it can be done.

Moments after then-colleague Brett Blackledge, now the editor of The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, Louisiana, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting while working at The Birmingham News, he was asked in front of the gathered newsroom about the keys to such an accomplishment. His first reply: “Three months without a byline.” On the Epstein story, Herald lead reporter Julie K. Brown worked on her centerpiece story for 18 months. But those confounding internal pressures. To wit: According to a New York Times story, Brown’s collaborator, visual journalist Emily Michot, “sometimes returned from a wrenching interview with one of Mr. Epstein’s accusers and was immediately assigned something unrelated, like a piece about the most outrageous food available at a county fair.”

 Investigations cost money, too, and that’s not something that local and regional news companies have a lot of. Note this part of the Times’ story about the Herald’s work: “The two reporters tried to keep costs down by renting less-expensive rooms at Airbnbs, booking low-cost flights and occasionally not filing expenses.” The barriers to publication aren’t all external. Sometimes they’re cost-conscious managers in the same office.

 Some painstaking investigative reporting never makes it to publication. Occasionally, sadly, presumed legal consequences or political connections keep it in the dark. But sometimes it’s for journalistic reasons: The story hunch was wrong or just couldn’t be supported sufficiently to meet legal and journalistic standards. So the effort goes dormant, with hope for a new development someday. That’s the responsible decision, but a tough moment nonetheless.

 When all those hours, dollars, sacrificed bylines and lost page views end up producing nothing publishable, the key question is how will a news outlet react going forward. For the sake of an informed community and the public service obligation of journalism, I hope the reaction of everyone in the room is, “Well, damn. Now let’s go try another one.”

A new way to teach sports journalism, inspired by a really bad example

With an assist from Fox Sports, I am thinking about revamping the way I teach my sports writing class. Here’s the idea:

  • Cancel all classes except the first and last ones

  • Cancel all readings and all assignments except for one

  • The lone assignment is that students must watch every minute of Fox Sports’ “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” sports talk show starring Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe

  • On the last day of class, I walk in, look every student in the eyes and dramatically intone: “Don’t. You. DARE. Do. ANYTHING. That. Skip. Bayless. Does. Ever.” Then I walk out.

I think it would be the most effective sports writing class ever.

Here, Skip Bayless slams Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors for not trying to play with an injury that turned out to be a torn ACL.

Here, Skip Bayless slams Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors for not trying to play with an injury that turned out to be a torn ACL.

Here, Bayless predicts the future and brands Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors as a quitter because he might exercise his free agent right to play elsewhere. When you seek to be constantly controversial for the mere sake of being constantly controversial – because you have no other act -- you cannot have credibility. Add in loudness and pomposity, and you become odious beyond tolerance.

Here, Bayless predicts the future and brands Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors as a quitter because he might exercise his free agent right to play elsewhere. When you seek to be constantly controversial for the mere sake of being constantly controversial – because you have no other act -- you cannot have credibility. Add in loudness and pomposity, and you become odious beyond tolerance.

Young journalists' survival skill: Shrug off the layoff

Part of the outrage associated with the numbingly constant announcements of layoffs in the field of journalism is the public spin offered by the perpetrating executives. You know, “reallocating resources” or “repositioning for the future” or (insert your own example here). This may have reached a new level of insult last week when the CEO of GateHouse Media’s parent company described layoffs at at least 60 of the chain’s 157 newsrooms as “immaterial.”  He meant that the number, which the company has not disclosed, is only a small fraction of the GateHouse workforce. But try telling that to someone who suddenly has no job.

GateHouse II.png

 The comment was a moment of insight into how GateHouse, MediaNews Group and other corporations that buy and slash newspapers view the value of their journalists. GateHouse, faced with revenue and stock price declines, has already had a previous round of at least 60 layoffs in 2019. It’s playing a numbers game with every disappointing quarterly financial report, apparently. A different executive said the company this time was targeting editors because they are not content producers, and that it will hire some new reporters. This has been a favored practice among retreating organizations. Its consequences are always underestimated, and more importantly, GateHouse’s moves will produce a large net loss of newsroom personnel.

 It was remarkable also that the CEO initially attempted to claim that actual layoffs (as opposed to reassignments) would amount to only 10. Did he think no one would find out? Using public posts on social media, plus emails and texts, it took one journalist only a couple of days to peg the number of GateHouse layoffs at at least 160. There are reasons that newsroom layoffs take place in the online public square. It helps, of course, to get a morale boost from social media friends at a tough moment, and it’s an immediate head start on the next job opportunity. But equally significant is the journalists’ desire to make sure the whole world understands the damage being done to journalistic quality, product worthiness and public knowledge.

 The GateHouse layoffs, disappointingly, affected The Tuscaloosa News. Two excellent sports writers who cover UA athletics were dismissed, including one who was a standout sports journalism student of mine. That’s the thing about further reducing staff when the newsroom has already shrunk: The only choices left are talented people who do necessary jobs .

 Occasionally I talk to my students about the realities of job security in the field. I always ask them: “If you got laid off, could you deal with it?” Almost invariably, remarkably, their answer is yes. Maybe it’s their idealism, or their self-confidence, or their life flexibility at that age. They might not attach a stigma to it (and considering the number of good, undeserving people to whom this has happened, I think they’re correct). It’s much harder for veterans who have given pieces of their heart to a company and to a mission and whose work has come to define a big part of their identity. I’m glad my students have that attitude, because this is a sad, continuing drumbeat in an industry that is still trying to figure out a plan to survive.

 

Should we hear the lies and the hate?

Andrew Neil of BBC’s “Politics Live” and Ben Shapiro

Andrew Neil of BBC’s “Politics Live” and Ben Shapiro

Whenever White House adviser Kellyanne Conway appears on a TV news or talk show, I switch the channel to more useful programming, such as the Home Shopping Network selling something in which I have no interest. Conway, who traffics in distortion and lies, is among the media circuit regulars who has spawned industry debate as to whether some people deserve an interview and appearance ban. A combative December appearance by Conway on Chris Cuomo’s CNN news talk show, for instance, produced a live, long and lively argument between Cuomo and CNN news anchor Don Lemon.

 A more recent repeat of the same issue, but involving a more offensive individual, occurred two weeks ago when conservative commentator and author Ben Shapiro, who could less politely be described as a hateful troll, was aggressively questioned by an interviewer on a BBC politics show. Shapiro, who unlike Conway does not advise a national decision maker (but who is popular enough that he filled the lecture room at a February appearance at the University of Alabama), abruptly walked out of the interview on live TV. Nesrine Malik, a columnist for The Guardian, wrote: “No matter how much those with regressive, prejudiced or simply dishonest views are challenged, it is pointless if they are constantly provided a venue. It is the platform that legitimizes them, not how they perform when they are on that platform.”

People worse than Shapiro sometimes get big platforms, too. Megyn Kelly controversially chose to begin her now-defunct primetime talk show on NBC in 2017 by interviewing InfoWars’ odious Alex Jones, who was recently banned from Facebook. It’s not just an issue for TV, either. The New York Times was heavily criticized for its 2017 feature story on an Ohio white nationalist following the infamous white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Much of the criticism was about how the story was done, but much was that the story even existed at all. NYT national editor Marc Lacey responded: “The point of the story was not to normalize anything but to describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than many of us want to think.”

 There is no question that effective civics requires a wide range of social and political viewpoints in public discourse. Hate speech is constitutionally protected. But that is a restriction on government action. Media are able to do mostly as they please in sharing or not sharing extreme opinions, and these days the range of opinions that some segments of the public are willing to receive and espouse is growing wider, including public airing of viewpoints that once were confined to corners and shadows.

 The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists says an ethical journalist or organization will “support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.” But SPJ also demands consideration of the potential harm done when repugnant views get aired, and when some politicians or commentators leave the realm of merely controversial statements and enter the realm of hate ideology or documentable falsehoods (which often go together), harm does occur. The harm of hate is evident, at least to people with a sense of empathy for demographic groups that are not like them. The harm of exposure for provable falsehoods is that too many people take such statements as truth, especially if the information squares with their existing beliefs. And then these statements go for a speed ride on social media, where they find more people who are gullible or looking for validation.

 But media outlets continue to give attention to speakers with track records of vitriol or inaccuracy. They do so in part because most journalists still worship the traditional industry values of balance (“both sideism”) and objectivity. Further, they see great benefit to presenting the reality of the world: That politicians distort and lie, that society is not free of hate. All the better to enable skepticism and resistance among the audience, and perhaps as the first step toward solutions. This view is bolstered by the ideal that a good interviewer can reveal truth by challenging and counterarguing with facts. That is noble and necessary (and can be good for ratings too), but it is not easy to do, as interviewers face constraints of time and format, and some don’t prepare well enough to pull it off. 

How to handle this journalistic dilemma may come down to one’s conception of the literacy and will of the audience. Public exposure for extremism and unethical persuasion may help to kill them, or may help to breed them. A lot of the evidence about large segments of media consumers today is disheartening in this regard. But an open marketplace of ideas can resist a few bad vendors. We need to know who they are and what they sell. And then we each can make our own choice of where to buy.

 

The Louisiana Purchase (Journalism Edition)

The+NO+Advocate.jpg

The New Orleans newspaper war ended Thursday with the owner of The New Orleans Advocate buying The Times-Picayune, or, as one writer put it, with David conquering Goliath. That’s true – if Goliath were missing one arm and one leg.

The Times-Picayune’s owner, the Newhouse family’s Advance Local Media (for which I worked for 30 years), gave up several years ago on daily newspapers as having a viable long-term financial future when it reduced print publication from seven days a week to three in New Orleans, Birmingham and other cities. Marketers dream and toil and spend in hopes that their product becomes part of the daily ritual of a mass of people. In New Orleans and elsewhere, that’s what daily newspapers once were. Even as expensive as newspapers were to produce and distribute, and even with readership trends working against them, what marketing sense did it make to take that product away four days a week and let people discover sooner rather than later that they didn’t really need it after all? But that’s what Advance did.

That move gave an avenue for the Baton Rouge Advocate in 2013 to create the daily New Orleans Advocate, which has since competed well with the Times-Picayune journalistically and economically. Also working in favor of The Advocate was the chance to hire some of the sadly large number of talented and community-connected journalists laid off by The Times-Picayune as part of its emphasis switch from print to its digital platform (which was also sold). The Advocate lured some other top talent from the T-P, as well. Soon, a potential wide gap in quality between the established outlet and the newcomer disappeared.

Advance is well known for its reluctance to sell its regional news organizations (New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson tried to buy the T-P but was told no). Still, for a company that was, like almost all newspaper companies, shedding expenses, it apparently didn’t want to continue competing in the fractured New Orleans market that it helped to create. (The lucrativeness of the sales price as a factor is uncertain because both companies are privately owned.)

The situation is different elsewhere. Advance does not face similar competition from a large-scale print rival in its other locations. Other sales are unlikely, especially as Advance has continued to seek an acceptable bottom line by significantly and alarmingly reducing its newsroom costs, primarily personnel, for all its local news organizations.

The sale in New Orleans unfortunately represents yet more lost personnel, as the entire Times-Picayune newsroom lost their jobs. I know some of them and know of others. That’s a lot of good journalism walking out the door. Ideally, though, The Advocate will fill the space in coverage, and it has pledged to offer a daily newspaper that is home delivered in addition to the current rack sales. I believe Advance isn’t wrong about the dire long-term future of print. But timing is everything. Other major news companies still print every day. They haven’t yet followed the Advance model. And now it’s heartening that a city the size of New Orleans gets back a daily doorstep paper.

Newspaper wars motivate good journalism, produce more voices and benefit a community. Anyone remember The Birmingham News and The Birmingham Post-Herald? But such competitions are economically untenable in all but the largest markets. A shakeout in New Orleans was inevitable. Still, in these days of numerically receding local and regional journalism, the key question shouldn’t be who’s the better medium, but rather does the community know everything it needs to know?

 

Carol Robinson: Crime boss

When I taught one semester of journalism at Samford University in Birmingham and was still trying to figure out this college teaching business, I’d occasionally ask students if they liked the course. I recall asking this of one student who said she liked it very much. And why? My lectures, perhaps? Umm, no. The very first reason out of her mouth: “That woman from The Birmingham News was great!” That woman was the Alabama Media Group’s iconic crime reporter, Carol Robinson, who kindly came as a guest speaker, regaled the students with stories, and left them mesmerized. Oh, she also gave each of them her business card, so if there ever were a big crime on campus they’d know who to contact. Yet another example of why Carol is so good at what she does.

Carol cover photo.png

 Carol, one of my first reporters at The News many years ago, is deservedly and deftly profiled by my friend and former colleague Alec Harvey in the latest edition of Auburn Magazine, the publication of the Auburn University Alumni Association. It’s worth your time just for the understanding of the life of a dedicated beat reporter (full disclosure: I’m in it).

For reasons I’ve never understood, many news organizations and individual journalists view the police beat as a temporary, entry-level position, maybe because of the uncontrollable and undesirable hours (I did it for a year). It’s a beat that will sap a reporter, in part because of the hours and in part because of tension with sources who often consider publicity an obstacle to crime solving. Mainly, though, the beat’s burden is the cynicism and perhaps psychological trauma of constant first hand exposure to the awfulness of life. Yet Carol has done it – superbly – for 23 years.

Among many other plaudits, Carol is AMG’s page view queen, a result of her remarkable volume of work and her more remarkable quality of work. Sure, she has the advantage of covering crime, which most research, including my own, shows is the No. 1 most-read topic among broad audiences. But good crime reporters such as Carol make something more of their beat than an endless series of sensationalistic headlines for the voyeuristic tendencies of readers. Crime reporting at its most basic provides essential information – kinds of crime, patterns and trends, locations – for residents to make informed decisions about self-protection. Beyond that, it is an opportunity to bridge gaps and suspicions between law enforcement and community, or perhaps in some cases to temporarily widen those differences with necessary watchdog reporting about law enforcement misconduct, with the ultimate aim of correcting failures and eventually strengthening perceptions and relationships as a result. 

 Another of crime reporting’s public services may be its most difficult and quixotic – and what Carol does best – which is to starkly and impactfully portray the human toll of crime. Bringing humanity to the stats and written reports is a chance to stir the community conscience, so that the next time, say, a 2-year-old boy or a 16-year-old girl senselessly loses their life, we might feel the compassion, outrage and, most importantly, the motivation to try to do something about it.

 

College admission decisions sometimes need a do-over

Andrew_E._Lelling.jpg

College admissions have never been a strict academic merit system. Consider the extra weight given to demographic diversity of the student body (a good thing), or to student athletic ability (a controversial but justifiable thing), or to family ability to pay (a college budget thing). At some universities, add considerations of political connections, or legacy enrollments or past or predicted family donations to the school (none of those a good thing but irresistible to some administrations). This reality, though, shouldn’t lessen the outrage over FBI allegations that 50 wealthy parents, entrance test administrators, college administrators and college coaches used bribery and fraud to gain student admissions into selective universities.

 Part of the visceral reaction comes from the galling notion that these families weren’t satisfied with the inherent advantages they already enjoyed from being wealthy and white. The other part was well articulated by prosecutor Andrew Lelling: That for every student admitted by deceit, some deserving student somewhere was denied. 

For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.
— Federal prosecutor Andrew Lelling

 Lelling’s description of a “zero-sum game” has relevance to another group of college students – an extremely small group -- who did nothing fraudulent but nonetheless leave professors such as myself baffled and annoyed. These are students for whom academics are not a priority. At all. They exist at every university – they are not readily apparent during the admissions process – and they are most easily identified by their abysmal class attendance record. More than once, usually speaking generically, I have told students that if they wish to waste their money and educational opportunity, that’s their (unwise) choice. But I’m not sure I’m right about that. Because each of those students took the spot of some other applicant who would presumably be putting forth the effort to gain something from the educational chance they’d been given. If you’re there instead of someone else, do you not have some responsibility and obligation to appreciate the opportunity and to give a flip?

 Whether talking about uninterested students or the students in Operation Varsity Blues, it’s necessary to think about who they might have bumped out, though that’s unknowable outside an admissions office. Maybe it was another rich, white, accomplished applicant who worked just as hard or harder in high school. Or maybe it was an average achiever trying to overcome an impoverished home life and a failing high school and who just needed a break and a scholarship to become the first in the family to go to college. Any scenario is unfortunate, but when I imagine the latter kind of case, I despair.

 

Course: Ethics 101. Student: ESPN. Grade: F.

Screen Shot 2019-03-09 at 10.21.40 PM.png

The revolving door of personnel between journalism and the institutions of coverage is an old story at both the national and local levels. Expertise and contacts prompt individuals to change careers from one to the other, a pattern that these days is increasingly becoming one-sided as journalists depart the field involuntarily or, frustrated by deteriorating work conditions, voluntarily. Thankfully, news organizations that practice ethics insist on no simultaneous overlap. So it is both mystifying and appalling to witness the flimsy ethics of national sports TV networks, especially ESPN.

ESPN has not only endorsed but encouraged the New York Mets’ hiring last week of Sunday Night Baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza as a baseball operations adviser who will assist with “player evaluation, roster construction, technological advancement and health and performance,” according to a club statement. That is not a ceremonial role. Meanwhile, her fellow analyst, Alex Rodriguez, is an adviser to one of his former teams, the New York Yankees. David Ross, another ESPN analyst, is a special assistant to the Chicago Cubs, one of his previous teams. Over at Fox Sports, studio hosts Frank Thomas and David Ortiz have advisory roles with their former clubs.

In a public statement about Mendoza, an ESPN spokesman referred to multiple such examples “across networks” and pledged that ESPN “will be fully transparent about Jessica’s relationship with the Mets.” I therefore expect nothing less than every name identification chyron for the entire season to say “Adviser to New York Mets.”

Certainly, transparency is a cornerstone of ethical communications in media. There’s a too-long history of compromising relationships and payments that were not initially disclosed. But transparency isn’t credibility. News outlets and commentators who work for clubs can claim that their remarks are completely unaffected by their team affiliation, and that may even be true. Doesn’t matter. Credibility is only what the audience perceives it to be. No matter how forthcoming and even-handed Mendoza or any other similarly situated analyst may be, I will always wonder if there’s any skewing of perspective about teams the Mets play against or may trade with. Which would be every team in Major League Baseball. Same goes for commentary about players. And gracious, at this point, ESPN doesn’t even seem to have a problem with Mendoza working games in which the Mets play or Rodriguez working games involving the Yankees.

Would a news division allow a regular on-air employee to simultaneously get paid by a subject of coverage? Don’t think so. And that’s a big part of the frustration here. In the world of TV sports, media credibility already gets pressured by the lucrative deals for broadcast rights. When certain outlets walk the plank even farther with formalized and fundamental conflicts of interest, it revives the (mostly) unfair aspersion that the sports media – all of them – don’t take their journalism seriously.