Question of the day: How far should a partisan broadcaster go in supporting a team? [Updated]
Reporters from around Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times
The Arkansas radio person fired for wearing a Florida Gators' cap to a Razorbacks' football news conference exposed a dirty little secret about sports, especially college sports. The secret is that almost everybody in the business went to college somewhere, and knows at least part of their fight song, and you can't beat that out of a person even with an archrival's paycheck. When Northwestern, a top journalism joint, won the Big Ten in l995, several sports writers who attended the school had a group photo taken at the Rose Bowl and then went out and "objectively" covered the game.
Actually, it's OK to quietly root for your school to win -- just don't wear your letterman's sweater to the rival's news conference. The key is discretion. This woman in Arkansas absolutely did not deserve to get fired, but that's another part of the business that's changed for some of us. The people who write the checks demand that you to stick to the script. We were spoiled in L.A. for years with Vin Scully (Dodgers), Dick Enberg (Angels, Rams, UCLA basketball), Chick Hearn (Lakers), Bob Miller (Kings) -- partisans who badly wanted their teams to win but never let it interfere with calling a game down the middle. No one was harder on the Lakers than Chick, which is just not tolerated anymore.
Newspapers in college towns have a hard time playing it straight. Radio and TV stations covering sports teams don't even pretend. The home team is always "we." The lines of "journalism" have long been obliterated. It's come to the point where Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino WOULD be offended by the women's Gators' hat because, aren't WE all supposed to be on the same team?
This is the new normal. Franchise owners and university athletic directors don't cut broadcast deals that contain objectivity clauses. The radio station covering Hometown U expects U to get with the program. Shoot, the station director probably went to school there and is on the Board of Trustees. So if he tells you to yell "Woof Woof Woof" when the Huskies score, yell "Woof" three times.
Today's lesson: Be true to your school but loyal to your direct deposit. We're in a recession, times are tough. Sometimes the only gig someone from Gainesville can get is in Fayetteville. Do what your boss says. Root for the Hogs from 9-to-5 and for your team in front of the mirror.
Don't wear your heart on your sleeve in public ... or your cap to a news conference. And your dirty secret can be kept.
Ron Fritz, Baltimore Sun
I despise partisan broadcasters. I'd rather hear a game without having a broadcaster root, root, root for the home team. The absolute worst homers are the Chicago White Sox broadcasters. The only way to watch a game they do is to turn down the sound. Do you really think Paul Konerko likes to be called "Paulie"? A call against the White Sox? Never has there been such an injustice in sports.
A radio station in Arkansas went way, way too far in firing a broadcaster who wore a Florida Gators cap to an Arkansas football news conference. The station's GM said "we are very biased. We support the Razorbacks 100%."
Objective reporting just went out the window.
Years ago, the Baltimore Orioles allegedly let Hall of Fame announcer Jon Miller go because he wasn’t enough of a homer for the Birds. Actually, I think he got it just right.
[Updated at 11:01 a.m.:
Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune
Arkansas sports radio reporter Renee Gork certainly should have known better than to wear a Florida Gators hat on the job. But so should any "reporter" who shows up to Florida practices wearing Florida gear.
Both options are unprofessional.
Still, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and Gork's employer KAKS Hogs Sports Radio overreacted worse than Project Runway hosts to Gork's poor fashion choice to a news conference.
Petrino should have poked some fun at her and then asked that she not to do it again. KAKS claims they are proudly biased toward Arkansas sports. The station manager should take a Journalism 101 class.
I'd switch channels before hats.]
[Updated at 2:30 p.m.:
Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel
First of all, can I just say this: Isn’t the Arkansas radio reporter who got fired for wearing a University of Florida cap into Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino’s news conference actually better off? Now when somebody asks her where she works, she doesn’t have to turn red, swallow hard and answer sheepishly, "Hog Sports Radio." As a writer, the only thing I can think of that would be more embarrassing is to say, "I’m the back-page columnist for Goat Illustrated."
But I digress. How far should partisan broadcasters go to support their team? Well, if you are directly paid by the team (like college and NFL play-by-play broadcasters), then certainly you should be allowed to wear a team shirt or cap because, frankly, you are part of the team. If you’re not paid by the team, then you shouldn’t wear team colors -– any team’s colors.
Without question, the Arkansas radio reporter is a dope for wearing a Gator cap into an Arkansas news conference. But you know what? I think she would have been more of a dope if she’d worn an Arkansas cap into an Arkansas press conference.]
Upper photo: Vin Scully. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
Lower photo: Jon Miller. Credit: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images