Question for the journalists here

Got to thinking about this after Naomi Osaka dropped out of the French Open tennis because her media obligations were stressing her out.

When I was still an ink-stained wretch, it was obvious to me that people went out of their way not to say anything substantive to me or any other journalist. They’d spew cliches, or lie, or answer the question they wanted to hear instead of the one you asked, or just say no comment. It’s only gotten worse since then, I think. I watched DVH’s Zoom on Monday and he pretty much said nothing. I’m not picking on DVH, he’s just the recent example,

Anyway, I’ve heard more than one journalist say trying to get quotes/soundbites for a story is a waste of their time and the reader/viewer’s, and I’m starting to agree. What do you guys think?

The journalists want anything that will attract readers and the one being interviewed just tolerates them as little as they have to, trying to avoid looking stupid, avoid making a mistake, or giving away information that will help an opponent. So Sam Pittman doesn’t care if your readers are interested in who is injured and who may not play the next game, he is not sharing that information because it does not help him and it does help the future opponent. The media needs the games to cover more than the game needs the media to cover them. In the end, everyone will have to follow the money to see how this all shakes out. What if Osaka is not the only top player that says no more 3rd degree after the match? If the lack of the top players starts decreasing the ratings and revenue for these tournaments, they WILL back off. I bet there will be several that take the same stand soon in support of Osaka, mental health, or just to jump on the band wagon to avoid the media swarm after the match trying to rip out a juicy quote.

I think it can be a waste of time interviewing some people, but not all. There are some people I’ll interview once and know that I’ll probably never interview them again because it is going so poorly. Those are typically the ones who are trained to say a lot without saying anything.

On the flip side, there are people who are engaging and answer your questions and want to inform readers through you, the reporter. I just got off a 25-minute call with someone who gave me great information for the entire time we spoke.

I disagree about not getting anything out of Van Horn. He is as informative and direct as any coach I know. A 15-minute conversation with him is more fruitful than a 45-minute conversation with a lot of other coaches I’ve interviewed. I think good answers are often the result of good questions, and good questioning is lacking in a lot of press conferences/Zoom interviews. I find my best work comes from talking to someone one-on-one.

I would think participating in Zoom interviews with coaches and players where you get to ask just one or two questions (or 4, if you’re Bob Holt) isn’t very ideal for our sports reporters. I worked as a reporter many years ago, and not getting much chance to follow up and clarify on questions would have been tough for me.

Maybe it hasn’t been all that different for those of you covering the coaches and players from when you were getting to do press conferences and after-practice interviews in-person, but it just seems more limited to me. You can’t hang around hoping to outwait the other guys hoping to get a minute or two of one-on-one with Zoom, either.

You just have to work a little harder to get information in the Zoom era, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I should clarify that a mass news conference is what I’m talking about in particular, whether it’s in person or Zoomed. I’m sure you have good sources that give you good info, Matt, as did I, but the mass newser format seems almost designed to prevent any information from getting out. They read their statement (or not, if you’re Tim Corbin) and then the flow of anything worthwhile stops.

I’ve often wondered if all the media got together and took a few days off and didn’t cover athletes at all if it would change the prima donna attitude any. Really I’m thinking of pros more than college.

Naomi and many others are afraid of intruders from non reliable media just trying to get dirt instead of the subject at hand, Zoom makes that easier. I get that most reporters are genuine and doing a job they love, more power to them but there are a lot of blog only types who get into the interview. Same for personal responsibility because someone is probably filming it on their phone if it has social media potential. I don’t expect much real information to be revealed ever given the high level of paranoia about giving an edge to an opponent or becoming bulletin board material.

I think Van Horn is typically good if the questions are good. I’ve also seen if you ask a stupid question he may still come up with a good answer. Van Horn has shown to be among the best interviews among SEC coaches in many respect. So I would say if he was bland Monday it was more the exception than the rule.

I’ve done some phone interviews one-on-one and Zoom one-on-one since Covid changes that are terrific. I spend time looking for fun, fresh angles and so that may help.

You get what you put into all situations. I try to bring something fun to an interview.

I hear a lot of poorly worded statements in Zoom media sessions. Often the reporter fails to ask a question at all. What would you expect to get in return.

Hogmodo made a lot of generalized statements that I don’t agree with. I see coaches (and Pittman is one) who try to engage.

I think Journalism died a few years ago.

Smart phones have created dumbness and laziness in all areas of society. Journalism is front and center in that, but not alone.

I agree that Van Horn is good at giving valuable information in interviews. He doesn’t give out state secrets, but I always learn something when I watch his press opportunities. He doesn’t just talk in coach-speak, and I enjoy that about him.

I can understand you having a different view on who needs who more, the media or the coach? One way to test that theory is who is out of a job first if all of that breaks down? (Like if Osaka has enough friends who join her to do away with media interviews after matchers.) The media losing its job might lead to a coach losing his eventually, but the media’s reason for existence is to cover that sport. The sport exists, whether it is lacrosse, tiddly winks, or football, because enough folks care enough about it to support it. That may be enhanced by the media but the sport existed long before the media decided to use its popularity to pay for their profession. JMVVVVVVHO

I think Matt got it correct when he said the quality of the answer has a lot to do with the quality of the question.

I understand why people have backed off in the age of “got you” Journalism. It seems many people are asking questions looking for the mistake or angle instead of information. I don’t think there is as much of that in Sports journalism as there is on the “front page”, but that journalism died a long time ago.

In sports I am looking for two perhaps three things. First, of course, I want to know what happened. Arkansas beat Ole Miss by a score of 89 - 0. More importantly, I want to know how or why it happened and I don’t think we get enough of that. Such as, the Arkansas left Otackle was able to seal his side of the line allowing consistent running to that side.

I have followed the PCs of Sam, Muss, and Dave this year. I think all 3 are very informative and as open as they can be. It is not their job to point out that their player was no good, but I do expect the reporter to offer that as an opinion, not fact.

Oh well

There have been a lot of coaches fired in my 50 years of covering sports. Things can change, but I’ve never been without a job or asked to leave. So I guess I know the answer to your question. I do not think what you propose is going to happen. I believe the companies that pay the bills (sponsors) do want the players to do interviews. The teams do, too. NFL teams require their players to do interviews. College teams put it in the coach contracts requiring them to do interviews. I guess you understood that.

In fact, there were newspapers before most of these sports were invented. You probably knew that, too, just didn’t realize football, basketball and baseball were that young. TV, radio and other mediums are younger than the sports.

I was once reminded by my father that Superman worked at a newspaper.

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I’ll never forget listening to Dan Patrick on his show critiquing another journalist. He said “if you ask a good question, you’ll get a good answer.” “If you get a bad answer, it’s because you asked a bad question.” He said he thought too many journalist show up and wing it, but those that really think about asking a good question will be rewarded. I find the same to be true in many relationships. If your conversations are very vanilla it’s usually your own fault.

Good media can drive sport attraction. So in that respect certain sports need the media.

this is a good question, and I think like all things involving lots of different people, “it depends”.

Saban is generally a waste of time, but occasionally he provides a real gem.

I LOOOOVE pittman and Muss interviews. Mike was really bad at interviews, really repetitive answers with no real substance. Jordyn weiber is good. our softball coach was really good on the morning rush a couple weeks ago.

belichick is the worst. total waste of time.

But I am always very interested in getting to know the young, budding stars. I would have loved to have heard the beatles or stones very young, not sure how great they would have been 20 years later, rich and complacent. so I’d love to hear the world’s #1 tennis player, so very young, speak to us. especially since she’s born and raised in USA, lives in USA, but plays as a Japanese citizen. so many questions!

MMA guys are a lot of fun also, especially Derek Lewis, i love that guy.

GHG

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One of the problems (from my vantage point) is that ANYONE can think they are a journalist - a website can be acquired easily, and good web-developers are a dime-a-dozen (great ones, of course, are rare). The digital media age - I tell students it is the “age of interruption” - rewards those who report something first, even if its low-quality journalism, and even if its wrong! They then become part of the news, which is not the purpose (but it happens).

The hard-work journalism is what we are paying for here. I can get scores, highlights, etc., from about anywhere. It only requires an internet connection and a working computer. Sometimes, if the Hogs’ team is playing well, TV stations provide enough coverage for me to “get by.” I pay for the hard work, the investigation, the relationship building, that is required of good (of real) journalism.

Clay’s inheritance includes the connections from OH as well as Bill Connor. He has added liberally to the inheritance. Those in Clay’s orbit benefit, but they certainly bring their own hard-work connections to my browser. Dudley and Richard have worked HARD to develop relationships (ugh, with high school athletes, that HAS to be trying at times) and they reward us as readers as much as they reward the recruits. Some of those recruits sound like professional orators due to savvy writing.

Matt, Scotty, etc., do that as well. They find their niche. They work that niche.

WIthin Arkansas’ orbit of fandom you don’t have to look hard, or far, to find shallow “journalism”. We sometimes refer to it as “clickbait” - it is more style than substance. It is not built for enduring relationships with the subjects of the reporting (or with readers).

The last 14 months have challenged “journalists” who did their job poorly before, or faked their way through it, or built it on style not substance. The pandemic required hard work, and some relationships to exist between writer and subject. For much of the past 14 months we saw faux “experts” and faux “reporters” trying to get our attention. Just because you call yourself a “doctor” doesn’t make you a doctor. Instead, it requires doing the hard work. Posting a youtube video is easy; being a doctor is a tad bit harder.

Thanks, Clay and Co.

I agree, Matt. I watch all of the DVH interviews and he’s often very good—usually when you or someone like you asks an educated, relevant question.

I think where you see DVH not give much is when he gets frustrated with certain journalists.

It’s clear he isn’t going to give away much strategy pre-game. Why would he? So, yes, if someone is expecting him to rundown his plan for the rotation and the pen for the weekend, it’s not gonna happen.

Similarly, he’s not going to give up much regarding injuries. Why would he?

There are sometimes privacy issues, but, also, he wants to keep the opponents guessing.

That’s when I’ve seen him get frustrated with a certain reporter asking he same questions 5 times.

He’s not going to give away trade secrets and I get that.

But, when people ask good questions in post game, he gives great baseball answers-very informative.

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