What not to do in journalism, part 4,974

So, by now, we’ve all seen Rob Gronkowski’s lap dance from last night’s Fox Sports 1 visit.

To post video of this, I believe, would make me complicit. But the question Julie Stewart-Binks posed to Gronkowski was this: “If you had a chance to make some more money using, maybe, me …” she said. “Wanna maybe show us a little Magic Mike?”

It’s not cute and it’s not funny.

Unoffically, of a sample of 100 women in sports journalism, 99 wouldn’t ask that question. One did and degraded the other 99.

Has a creepy precendent been set? Do we now have to ask interview subjects for lap dances? Let’s hope athletes are smarter than that. I know women are smarter than that. But given Stewart-Binks’ coy questioning and the display that followed, let’s clear this up right now:

There needs to be a rational understanding in the working world that women are not objects, and they cannot make themselves into that.

One of the tangents I saw last night was the straw-man argument that, “If Cam Newton did this …”

Right now, Cam Newton has a few bigger things on his mind, and I don’t know if A) he’d go on a talk show during the Super Bowl and B) if he’d take the chance to grind on a female reporter. Professionalism, you know?

Not to give Gronkowski a pass, but consider the unprofessionalism of last night’s exchange on both sides. Let’s talk about sports, not sex. Let’s discuss the topic at hand, not your past as an amateur Magic Mike.

This is not how reporters – male or female – develop their sources. This is not how we get the people we cover to open their minds to us, whether they’re a politician, a community leader, an athlete or a high school principal.

It’s not professional, or appropriate. It’s degrading and demeaning.

And we cannot give leeway to anyone who think it’s okay to somehow sexualize a professional exchange. Its not indicative of female journalists, or journalists, period.

And it’s not how you get a job.

***

On a related note, I get a kick out of this video – some of the questions/comments questions posed to female athletes and the responses that male athletes would give. Doesn’t objectification sound ridiculous?

via Covertheathlete.com:

 

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Sit down and shut up!

To the man in the stands at the high school girls basketball game I covered tonight: You had no right to shout out loud to a referee that a player “outweighs her by 50 pounds!”

People wonder where the cultural attitude of body shaming and “perfect figure” ideals come from – from what I had to listen to tonight, it starts in the home. Or in the community. These are high school girls, for God’s sake! On top of everything else a teenager has to deal with, listening to an adult comment on her weight is not one of them.

Gloria Steinem said it best when she asked me – in front of an audience of 3,000 people – about being a sports reporter. Then, she said to me, “That is so wonderful. Sports are fantastic for girls. They teach us that women’s bodies are instruments, not objects.”

That teenage girl you made that foul comment about? She is not an object. She is a basketball player, and that court is her sanctuary, her arena. You had no reason to single her out because she’s playing a sport she’s good at, one she grew up with, one that likely defines a big part of who she is.

And I hope to God that she didn’t hear you.

Hell, I’d hate to hear what you have to say about the women in your office. In your community. Or, worse, in your family.

Oh, yeah, and that ref you yelled at isn’t going to change his mind.

“They don’t like us.”

I  got a kick out of Kevin Durant’s latest soundbite:

“Man, the [media and experts are] always trying to nitpick us,” Kevin Durant told ESPN.com. “I mean, they don’t like us. They don’t like how Russell [Westbrook] talks to the media, they don’t like how I talk to the media. So obviously, yeah, they’re not going to give us the benefit of the doubt.”

I’ve been a sports reporter for 18 years, and I have to say there’s only one person I covered whom I genuinely disliked. Whose name probably wouldn’t register for anybody except a diehard fan of a particular sport at a particular level in a particular part of the country. He basically told me I was stupid, that I didn’t give his sport enough credit, that I would be better off covering girls volleyball or figure skating or fishing, and that I was wrong when I didn’t pick his star player to be our publication’s player of the year.

And each time I listened to him rant, I’d think, “I know I’m not stupid. I’ve covered girls volleyball, figure skating, fishing, lacrosse, hockey, football … and trust me, that kid deserved to be player of the year, much more than yours did.”

Only once did I lash out at him, because I had to stand my ground against his abuse. And after a few days, I apologized to him.

And while I was never for certain if his rants were just a product of misogyny, or of him genuinely disliking me, the fact that he gave me no respect – and respect should be inherent at any level, in any dealing, in any profession – made me dislike him.

But that’s enough wasting time and energy on such a small person. Again, I can’t really think of anybody I’ve covered where I’ve gone into an interview and thought, “Ugh, I can’t stand this person.” There have been athletes and coaches with abrasive personalities, but one of the things I’ve learned in being a journalist – and an observer, to a certain extent – is that you sort of manipulate your approach to work with someone else. You find common ground with them. Or you phrase questions a certain way. Or you even say, “well, I have to ask this, and I apologize if it’s a bit uncomfortable” (but only in specific instances).

There was a hockey player I never covered, but whose career I followed, and one thing I’d been told by several people was how bad it was to deal with this guy, because he didn’t like talking to the media. Later on, after he retired, I read about him and realized that this guy played through so much pain (multiple concussions, groin tear, broken wrist, ripped up knee, chronic back problems), as well as the perception that he was a bust after being a first-round draft pick who never lived up to his potential, and was probably miserable through most of his career. And maybe he felt as if he was only scrutinized. And I get how that would make someone unhappy. And here’s another truth: it’s hard for people who are constantly scrutinized to be honest. Because then, they are perceived as vulnerable.

But for the most part, I’ve found a lot of personalities in sports to be, well, entertaining. It’s unique to see what makes people tick, or how they respond to situations, or if they have a catchphrase they use – or even how often they use what their coaches tell them (Michigan football, under Brady Hoke: “Fundamentals and technique”; Michigan football, under Jim Harbaugh: “Enthusiasm unknown to mankind”).

So, no, it’s not that we don’t like you, Kevin Durant. We don’t even know you. But that’s another post for another day.

 

Aloha

As I watched the movie “Aloha” last night, I could only think one thing: This would make a much better book than a movie.

In a nutshell (thank you, Google):

While on assignment in Oahu, Hawaii, military contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) reconnects with his old flame Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams), now married to an Air Force recruit (John Krasinski). He also spends time with Allison Ng (Emma Stone), a hard-nosed fighter pilot who watches every move that he makes. As they travel throughout the lush terrain, Brian finds himself falling for his feisty guide, while his conversations with Tracy may provide a shocking revelation from their past.

The Cameron Crowe movie got a really bad rap, in part because of the issue of casting Emma Stone as Allison Ng – a white woman playing a woman of Hawaiian and Chinese descent.

The movie was also largely panned by critics. Variety called it Cameron Crowe’s “worst movie yet.” The New York Times said it was a “disappointment,” but “a loose, leisurely hangout movie, funny and sprawling and full of eccentric, interesting folks.”

However, the controversy surrounding the movie, which was largely panned by critics, made me curious. I still wanted to see it. As I watched the movie, all I thought was, “this would make such a good book!” There were so many layers to the story:

  • relationships between men and women, one of my favorite subjects in fiction
  • space exploration – especially because it’s becoming privatized
  • Allison Ng, herself, is a captivating character – a captain in the Air Force who flies jets and who understands the depth of the Hawaiian culture
  • making choices not just to appease others, but to remain true to yourself
  • How relationships and connections endure – in ways you really have no idea

The soundtrack, btw, is fantastic.

But can someone make this into a book, pronto?

23 years ago this weekend …

Sunday is the 23rd anniversary of one of the saddest and funniest memories I have from high school.

The phone rang as we were eating lunch in the house I grew up in. Bacon, eggs and toast. I was still in my pajamas, still relishing the idea of a lazy Sunday afternoon in my room, watching hockey or reading.

Our family’s rule was that nobody was to answer the phone while we were at the table during a meal, but I leaped to pick up the receiver. For some reason, I knew this noon-hour phone call wasn’t going to be a good one.

“Rachel,” a desperate, sad voice said on the other line. “Rachel. I got into an accident.”

“Oh, no.” I said. “Brian. Brian.”

My family looked at me from around the table. My father shook his head. My brother smirked and chuckled. My mother motioned for me to get off the phone. I don’t know what the look on my face said, but it must not have been good.

A mutual friend of ours – who, it ends up, was an awful driver, as this was the second of three crashes he was involved in – rear-ended the back of Brian’s new car, crumpling it. Brian and I went over to the house where the car was stopped, and it was just a mess. Even messier was the battle between the parents, who tried to pass blame from one person to another.

I had just met the boy of my dreams, a hockey player from St. Mary’s who had nothing to do with our group. Brian and I had cruised around in his Acura the previous morning, presumably to show off to Kristina, the girl he was in love with. I had gone out the night before, cruising around Annapolis with two of my friends.

Life was pretty fantastic for a 16-year-old. Until someone crashed into the back of my friend’s car.

And when I saw that Brian’s birthday was coming up this weekend, I couldn’t help but to burst into laughter and think of that teenage disaster. I would think that all of us have become better drivers since then.

 

 

One more thing to tell people about being a journalist

lenziclass
Talking to Jeremy’s class at Greensburg Salem High School, Oct. 23, 2015 – Greensburg, Pa.

So I’ve been speaking to a lot of high school and college students lately about the craft of journalism and how it crosses all platforms. I’ve stood up in front of classes, I’ve Skyped with students, instructors and professors, I’ve even talked on the phone with people working on papers and projects, and I’ve discussed how the industry has changed.

In 1998, I was only writing for a daily newspaper, and I was responsible for one, maybe two stories a day. Now I’m blogging, tweeting, making videos with my iPhone and sending up-to-the-minute online updates on a major Division I college football program.

I’ve also discussed what it’s like to be a women in a male-dominated field. How important it is to hold onto the fundamentals of journalism, but also discussing the importance of being knowledgeable of what you cover, the importance of working hard and working smart, and even the importance of how you professionally present yourself.

I’ve thought of a few constants that still hold true, 17 years later, but this afternoon I thought of one more thing I wish I could have impressed upon students.

Thanks to the greatness of multimedia, it’s not too late to do it.

Here’s one piece of advice: find a niche – and treat it like the most important thing that will go onto your platform. Because someone else out there is interested in it, too.

I did it with high school wrestling in Colorado.

I did it with high school hockey in Maine.

I did it with the University of Maine hockey team – which WAS a big deal.

I still do it with Michigan football – which IS a big deal.

Find something you are passionate about covering and learning about. I’ve seen some really, really incredible journalists do this, and soar because of it.

By doing this, people will see that you care. And they will respond.