Monday, January 31, 2011

Credentials Don't Make You Credentialed

Media day at the Super Bowl.

Did anyone ask Ben Roethlisberger for his hand in marriage? Did anyone ask him and/or Aaron Rodgers what they thought (again) of Jay Cutler's act in the NFC Championship Game? Or was it an act?

Depends on who you ask.

Media members and retired players-turned-analysts for assorted media outlets couldn't jump down his throat fast enough, questioning his guts, his bravado, his mental toughness, his will to win, his lack-of-cheerleader appearance on the sideline after being removed from the game, his lack of animated protestation when said action happened.

Those are the same media members whose own mental toughness, will to win and animated protestations upon being removed from a high-profile assignment might as well be just as transparent.

Are you a mentally tough journalist? Is every piece your write up to Pulitzer standards? Have you exhausted your sources for every drip of information that they can give you? Have you drained the archives relevant to your pursuit? In this day and age of "Google it," that shouldn't be too hard to do. Unfortunately.

We all want to go to the big game, cover the big story, write the lead piece, interview the big star, ask the most-forthright question, bleed the interviewee dry, get the "sound bite" that makes us the stars we think we are.

In fact, I'm so mentally tough that I resisted the urge to ask Ben Roesthlisberger to marry me. I had a list of questions so pointed and forthright that they were sure to get me a Pulitzer once I pieced all the responses together. My peers would've been dangling their tongues in my wake. My Tweets would've stirred the echoes under the Golden Dome. My Facebook posts would've made Lady Gaga blush.

Damn, if I only had credentials.

Sometimes, the best questions don't make it to the press conference. Sometimes, the supposed best questioners do make it, but only because they have credentials or are part of the humongous media organization that is broadcasting the event. Those are the guys who have access to every nook and cranny about the game and waste it in empty-headed analysis based on questions they never asked, let alone never thought of. Too busy palling around with their sources instead of grilling them.

I always tell my students to ask the question. Don't leave the game, don't leave the room, don't leave the meeting, don't leave the media session without asking the question. There are no dumb questions. Just dumb people who don't ask them.

Dumb ones with credentials, that is. Credentials that I don't have. So who's the dumb one? Trust me, I won't treat your submissions and contributions to my beloved Journal of Sports Media like that though. Every piece gets a fair shake.

Sort of like Jay Cutler, right?

Thanks for asking.


Howard Schlossberg is editor of the Journal of Sports Media as of Feb. 1, 2011. He is Associate Professor of Journalism at Columbia College Chicago and a sports correspondent for The Daily Herald (Paddock Publications), Arlington Heights, Ill.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Do you settle?

Do you coast when you have a big lead? Do you not study for a test when you know you're running an A-minus or B-plus in a class? Do you lighten up on an opponent in tennis when you're up a set and 4-love in the second?

I hate settling. Yet, we see it in sports all the time. Teams that let up and lose their focus and/or aggressive nature when they get a big lead and then, despite outplaying the other team for the majority of a game, allow the opponent to make a comeback. It leaves the would-be winning team snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

I hate it. I watched my beloved NY Giants do it against the Philadelphia Eagles just recently. I've watched so many teams do it so many times in every sport, so many individuals do it in so many one-on-one matches so many times.

Why? Why does it happen? Why do we let up when we should be beating up on an opponent? You can shake hands afterward, maybe even apologize (I wouldn't but you can). But don't let up.

Not just in sports either. In all things. Don't take your love for granted. Or your lover. Don't take victory for granted. Or the vanquished. Don't take a championship for granted, or the prospective runner-up.

I like to read books through to the end rather than assume the ending. Or read the "cliff notes" (remember those?). I like to watch mysteries through to the end, rather than assume I know "whodunit." I like to do research through to the end rather than assume I know how the study will turn out.

I hope prospective contributors to "Journal of Sports Media," which I'll be editing in the future, will already have the same attitude. Every outstanding piece of research usually concludes with the acknowledgment that another study for further evidence is necessary.

Just like every football game is 60 minutes, not 52-and-a-half. Ain't that right, NY Giants?

Welcome to JSM 2011. Happy New Year.

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