Tom Brady’s boot is still bugging me. I thought my pique was going to pass until Ben Benya, a smart student in my Sports media class, jabbed me again.
I have asked my students to nominate a sports media turkey of the week. ESPN’s Dana Jacobson got a lot of attention for her tasteless, apparently drunken, rant against Notre Dame and Jesus. I spent a career thinking Catholics (and I am one) overreact. In this case, not so much. The editor of Golf Week who got fired for printing the noose cover also got plenty of attention.
Only one student, Benya, mentioned the issue that has been nagging at me. Here’s how he put it. “ESPN took it upon themselves to not only borrow footage from popular celebrity news Web site TMZ.com,, but they also referenced TMZ as being the lead sources for a ‘sports’ related rumor on Tom Brady’s condition……ESPN now possesses the dubious distinction of being the first legitimate network to credit and praise TMZ.com for their investigative sports journalism work.” Ben added, “I can only pray that Paris Hilton does not become the new analyst on Outside the Lines.”
Beyond Ben and yours truly, I have not seen a lot of concern about this. This commentator from Inside Bay Area .com seems to grasp the paparazzi implications of this event, but there has been too little comment about what this all means to mainstream media and how we want to be judged.
I am not contending Brady’s boot should have been ignored. I do believe it was a news story that should not have taken advantage of the very paparazzi most mainstream media outlets pretend to abhor. Paparazzi exist because they find a market for their photos. If reputable organizations become a part of that culture the paparazzi will flourish and everything we believe about privacy and minimizing harm gets trampled.
Using a gossip celebrity site as a source for news lowers every reputable journalist in the eyes of the audience. Mainstream media has always attempted to claim “we are not like them.” If we use their stuff we become mighty hard to distinguish.