Because of the way media is changing so quickly before our eyes, big stories now help illuminate new trends in media and communications. The situation at my alma mater, Syracuse University, has brought one of those trends to light.
SI.com’s media reporter, Richard Deitsch, ran an extensive interview with ESPN reporter Mark Schwarz, who first broke the story of allegations against now-former associate basketball coach Bernie Fine in this story posted yesterday. Schwarz’s reporting on television and online has mostly consisted of a presentation of his interviews of alleged victims and a recording of one alleged victim talking to Fine’s wife. He used the conversation with Deitsch to not only defend his reporting of the story, but also to offer his opinion, as he has apparently not been able to do over ESPN’s platforms through his reporting.
Here’s the line from Schwarz about alleged victim Bobby Davis and Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim that jarred me the most when reading the article on my phone on a Downtown Detroit sidewalk last night:
“The part that is the most difficult for me is Bobby Davis put his entire soul and reputation out there and then Jim Boeheim, a person much more respected in the community, put a knife through him.”
There’s no mistaking that as subjective personal opinion. Deitsch and I traded Twitter messages late last night about this. Here’s what he told me in a publicly-accessible message:
“I’ll be honest: I was very surprised he used that language. Checked the tape again after to make sure I heard it right.” Deitsch also told me that he agrees this is part of a bigger trend, “the definition of a reporter is changing in a point of view world, for better or for worse.”
This trend is evident when reporters for national news organizations appear on cable news to talk about their stories and, typically, offer their opinion on the subjects they are covering.
We hear this frequently on the local level in Detroit, particularly around the recent political scandals and even with big automotive news. It follows a pattern – journalist breaks story and then goes on the radio the next day to talk about it. Radio shows like WJR’s Paul W. Smith and Frank Beckmann Shows, public station WDET’s Craig Fahle Show and rocker WRIF’s Drew and Mike frequently give air time to newspaper and TV reporters to talk about their reporting. Some of those reporters often use their radio appearances as a catharsis – spewing opinion that would previously have only been heard in the newsroom.
What does this mean for PR professionals? Bigger challenges, under the most difficult circumstances for clients. But, there also could be opportunities as previously hidden agendas become public, they could be addressed head-on.