In response to the growth of social media, sports media in this age has become a race of who can deliver the news the fastest. Oftentimes at the expense of the truth. Beginning with the internet boom of the 2000s, the relationship between media and athletes has become hostile and downright invasive at times. What was once a day to day news cycle has become a 24/7 news breaking debacle.
The media chews athletes up and spits them out as quickly as they can. Yesterday’s Tim Tebow has become today’s Johnny Manziel in which the media builds athletes up in images they fully construct themselves. I don’t consider it entirely the media’s fault. As the age old saying “If it bleeds it leads” suggests, there is a negative feedback loop between public opinion and media. The media delivers what we’ve proven we want in our habits.
I think the best example of what sports media has become in the internet age is LeBron James’ entire career in the spotlight. James first gained fame in 2002 during his junior year of high school when he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The magazine declared him “The Chosen One” drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan his entire career because of it. He’s been forced to meet a certain expectation and drawing unreasonable ire ever since. The beloved Michael Jordan would have gotten eaten alive in today’s media world because numerous reports indicate he’s an asshole. James’ success paved the way for media in the internet age to follow potential stars from the earliest sign possible, potentially harming their chances in the long run. But the media doesn’t receive the backlash from it, it’s just another washout story for them. LeBron and every superstar in between were built as the next Michael Jordan. Today, top basketball prospects are billed as the next LeBron James.
If we want lazy and dishonest journalism to stop, our habits need to change. A long time ago as a self-righteous teenager, I vowed to never read an online article by The Oregonian sportswriter John Canzano (I’d link him, but you know, morals yadda yadda) ever again because I felt like he produced shoddy biased work. I was going to stick it to the newspaper right where it hit them: revenue. Even though I failed in reaching my goal of getting him fired (in fact he actually has a radio show now, so he’s done quite well for himself despite my noble stand) I’ve held strong in my beliefs because views and shares run media today. If we want better player relationships and interactions, we need to change. If not, prepare for more Marshawn Lynchesque interviews.