How The Media’s Fast Reporting Hurts Athletes

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 2, 2013 – 6:02 AM

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Kimber Auerbach, the Director of Communications for the New York Islanders. He wrote this to supplement a post I wrote last month about the challenge of notifying families about a death before they learn about it from the media. 

I do not want my comment to come across as demeaning the bigger picture of, “Should you wait until the family is notified of a death.” That’s obviously an issue of greater severity than the one I’ll write about today, but I wanted to share an issue we deal with in sports regarding “Information being released before a player is notified.”

The trade deadline is one of the busiest days of the season in hockey (or any sport) for management as they try and better their team for either a playoff run or the future. Players are on edge because they don’t know if they’ll be on the ice skating one moment and get pulled off the next to be informed that they’ve been dealt.

Reporters are so connected to their smartphones that it has literally become a race to see who can tweet the information first. Who can write the better story about how BLANK player will fit in with the team or how this deal helps the future seems to have become secondary. The media are too fixated on tweeting the news first, as reporters want to be the one sourced in all the articles as “BLANK reporter (@BlankReporter) tweeted the news first.”

There have been players that said they found out about being traded from watching TSN TradeTracker:

It really is a shame that players wind up finding out about a trade this way. For them, it’s life altering news that means they’re going to have to pick up their world and move it to another city. Yes, the media are doing their jobs in reporting the news as quickly as they possibly can, which in one way you can’t fault them for doing. However, there should be something that prevents them from doing so until all players are notified and the information is properly filed to the league, much like there seems to be in news reporting when someone tragically passes away.

It goes the other way as well. Sometimes, the media speculate about where a player may be dealt, and family and friends of a player see the rumors before a deal is even done. We’ve had players call to ask if it’s true that they’ve been traded, only to find out the reports are false. But because the media are so into breaking the news—and are often times correct—a player’s world gets turned upside down for no reason.

Until the day when there is a system to allow a period of time between the finalization of a deal and alerting the media, we as PR reps for teams are left to confirming the news that the media has already reported.

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Comments (5)

  1. By David Garby:

    I don’t really see the problem. The players are paid a lot of money, and they know that trades are a part of the game wthen they sign the contract with NHL.

    If being traded without being noticed in advance is such a problem, then should just sign a contract in Europe.

  2. By Brad Phillips:

    David,

    Thank you for your comment. I suspect a lot of readers share your opinion, and I had a similar first reaction to Kimber’s piece.

    But I think the strength of his piece is that he makes the point that regardless of whether or not these players are wealthy, they’re still people with the full range of human emotion. Being uprooted from your friends, family, and community may be part of the sport, but it’s also not necessarily easy for the players or their families. And that difficulty is exacerbated when the media discuss rumors that turn out to be false.

    I agree with you that making several hundred thousand dollars per year (or more) softens the blow. No one is comparing these players to, say, a worker who suddenly has to commute 100 miles each way to work every day just to earn enough to feed his kids. But that doesn’t invalidate the experience of these players, either.

    Where I disagree with his piece is that the media should wait until the League is notified before reporting the news. But since Kimber has likely had to watch young, dispirited players cleaning out their lockers, I can understand his instinct to protect them.

    Thanks for commenting,
    Brad

  3. By Andy:

    ” . . . there should be something that prevents them from doing so until all players are notified” There is; it’s called integrity.

  4. By David:

    Brad,

    I know i was a little cynical, but most of these players are young and not very settled with big kids with friends and school, and they are used to being far away from their family. Ie Frans Nielsen from Islanders, who moved abroad when he was 17 years old to play hockey.

    Being moved around is part of the game and the players are more than well compensated for it. The minimum salary in NHL is $525,000 a year!

    If one would write a blog about young servicemen and women who are tossed around the globe without notice, i will mobilize all the sympathy in the world, but for 23 years olds, who are paid millions to play sports. Not really.

  5. By Brad Phillips:

    David,

    You make fair points, and I’m glad you’ve added them to the blog.

    As for “If one would write a blog about young servicemen and women who are tossed around the globe without notice, i will mobilize all the sympathy in the world,” I’d love to run that post (as long as it has a media angle, of course).

    I would like to make one other point. When my wife is sick, she always says something like, “Well, at least I don’t have cancer.” I always remind that although someone else has it worse, it doesn’t negate her own experience of feeling ill. I’d say the same is true here. A 19-year-old being sent to Iraq will rightly garner more public concern than a wealthy kid who plays hockey. But I’m not sure that should fully invalidate their experience, either.

    Thanks again for your comments – you’re always welcome here!

    Brad

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