DL530: Oscars, Sports & The Line of Media Impartiality


We all root for things. We root for our favorite sports teams growing up. We root for our favorite movies or actors to win awards. We root for our bets to pay off.

We all root…and therefore, we all habitually cheer when our rooting interests come through. Heck, even if you’re one of those writers who “roots for storylines,” you may still find yourself cheering when a good one comes along.

Today’s show is about the Oscars, sports and when the media should or should not feign impartiality. I say that because much of this discussion is centered around the question of WHEN (not if) it’s okay to cheer or celebrate or congratulate or, yes, ask for an autograph.

We talk about how voting for the Oscars (non-media) or events like the Golden Globes (Hollywood foreign Press) is not too dissimilar to voting one into the Hall of Fame. Are we supposed to believe that any of this voting is done impartially?

We promise this is more about sports than movies. After the Daytona 500, some media types were caught cheering for youngster Trevor Bayne, even going so far as to congratulate him in the post-race press conference. Jay Busbee, veteran sports writer and blogger, took issue with this in a very well thought-out column discussing the topic last week.

We use this article as a launch into today’s show. Cheering openly in the press box is wrong — any form of open impartiality is wrong…right? — but Hollywood writers commenting on the Oscars with clear favorites somehow is okay. Heck, sports reporters and columnists openly discussing who in sports is or is not their friend happens every day as members of the media get more and more famous. Try to find an opinion by Mike Wilbon where he doesn’t qualify it first by mentioning that someone involved is his friend. Bill Simmons is the most read columnist in the country and we all know his biases when we read him. If he were on press row and WASN’T cheering for the Celtics, it’d look conspicuous. How is this different?

The question is actually whether or not media should refrain from cheering in the press box because they’re supposed to be impartial, or should refrain from cheering in the press box because it looks bad to other members of the media. Is it okay to cheer at home? Is it okay to high five in the parking lot after the team you cover won a big game knowing countless more people will read your story and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to cover the Super Bowl or Final Four or whatever event your beat leads you to next? Is it okay to cheer when a 20-year old kid just saved your sport?

Look, no member of the media should ever applaud in a press conference. That’s just ridiculous. But this whole press box impartiality is more gray than some think. Busbee uses the example of a foul ball he one snagged:

And at one of the first Braves games I attended as a member of the working press, Chipper Jones fouled a ball up that nearly smashed my laptop. I picked up the ball, looked it over, and tucked it into my laptop bag … for about two seconds, until at least three writers virtually yelled at me to throw it out. (I tossed it to a kid below, and nearly hit him in the face with it. Sorry, kid.)

I wonder — and hope to ask him later this week on the show — if a more-seasoned Busbee would keep the ball and give it to his kids, telling the surly scribes who yelled to stick it. I wonder if he’d keep the ball and wait for a more appropriate date later in the season to ask Chipper to sign it and then give it to his kids. Is that wrong? Is coming home from a late game that precluded you from putting your kids to bed with memento your son or daughter will cherish forever morally reprehensible on some level? Is that the same as cheering the press box?

What is the line of impartiality?

Thanks for listening.