Roberts wrong about media
Jim Brighters - NBA Editor|
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Michele Roberts wouldn't like me.
The executive director of the NBA Players Association told Kate Fagan and ESPNW that she doesn't like the way the news media behave to some degree when in locker rooms.
"Most of the time I go to the locker room, the players are there and there are like eight or nine reporters just standing there, just staring at them," Roberts said. "And I think to myself, 'OK, so this is media availability?' If you don't have a (bleeping) question, leave, because it's an incredible invasion of privacy. It's a tremendous commitment that we've made to the media -- are there ways we can tone it down? Of course. It's very dangerous to suggest any limitation on media's access to players, but let's be real about some of this stuff.
"I've asked about a couple of these guys, 'Does he ask you a question?' 'Nah, he just stands there.' And when I go in there to talk to the guys, I see them trying to listen to my conversation, and I don't think that's the point of media availability. If nothing else, I would like to have a rule imposed, 'If you have a question, ask it; if you don't, leave.' Sometimes, they're waiting for the marquee players. I get that, but there is so much standing around."
I'm not a big question-asker. I'm like Clarence Thomas. Actually, I'm nothing like Clarence Thomas, but he had a notable run of silence on the Supreme Court bench. I've spoken to players and coaches, but not many and I'll explain why, and why Ms. Roberts is wrong in her beliefs.
For one, any limiting of the media is wrong, just at its most fundamental level. There should be access. The media is the conduit to the fan, who, by the way, drives the league. If attendance is strong, those salaries Ms. Roberts' clients enjoy ever so, remain strong.
(Also, I'm somewhat hesitant since the writer isn't supposed to be part of the story, but since Roberts threw the first punch, it's fair game to respond.)
I don't ask many questions because the etiquette I understand and adhere to is that the beat reporters, who are on strict deadlines, should have the first crack. They are with the team every possible moment allowable, so they earned that right.
If that's the way it goes, then there is not a lot of time left for the rest of us. LeBron James, and most NBA players, are good sports. James will answer questions for four to five minutes, then he's done. That's fine. The fact he's a superstar doesn't mean he should be forced to speak for 10 minutes. But, once the deserved asking group get through, there's simply not enough time for the masses.
The answers supplied in those questions generally provide the rest with what they need, anyway.
I could spend my time asking questions of other players, but what's the point if James is the story? At that point, I'm not doing my job. Full disclosure, because I'm not a beat guy, most of the time, I go into a locker room with a column idea and ask questions accordingly. There have been times I've asked secondary (for lack of a better term) players if it worked for my story. If not, I'm not going to bother a player who had no real bearing on the outcome just because a star has stopped speaking and I need to look busy in Roberts' eyes. Said player doesn't deserve that.
It's not as simple as Roberts' idea of "if you have a question, ask it; if you don't, leave." There's information to be gathered from listening to the other reporter's question and follow-up answer. After the beat writers, some teams' courtside reporters frankly hog up time. Again, he or she is with the squad constantly, so it's not a huge deal, but it leaves little time for the rest.
And, in the spirit of honesty, I'm not a huge deal. I don't have personal relationships with players. I'm around a fair amount for my local team, the Philadelphia 76ers, and most national big events like the NBA Finals, or All- Star game. But, without personal access, or a massive company on my business card, there's not an abundance of time for me to get in there and speak with players.
Should I not be allowed to stay because my profile isn't large enough? I don't believe so. I'm professional, respectful and share quotes with our news department so they can't write their stories. I speak with players when possible and applicable. I listen to others' questions and attribute accordingly. I'm grateful to be credentialed. But I also feel I belong, no matter my style of gathering information, which is neither unethical nor inaccurate.
There is a lot of standing around. Most players the media want to talk to aren't around before the game, and after, we have to wait for a player to be available.
I watched one gentleman return to a city he had a bad experience in for the first time. When he saw the media throng, he looked surprised. Then, he showered. For 20 minutes. We were standing around because he took his sweet time and I'll account for the fact it takes longer to wash a big-man's body than my average-sized one. The media standing was on that player, not the media.
Some players take longer. Some teams take longer to make players available in the locker room. I've never reported or wrote about something I overheard like Roberts contends. No one I know would.
I hate writing about the media. There may be loafers, but they're loafing is easily explainable.
What do I care? I don't ask questions anyway. Wait, that's the problem.
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