By:
June 11, 2024

You know you have a hot and spicy media topic when two well-meaning and well-respected people from the same media outlet write columns and could not be further apart in their opinions.

The topic was basketball sensation Caitlin Clark, who has been left off the United States team for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris.

USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan wrote a column with the headline,

Meanwhile, Brennan’s USA Today colleague Nancy Armour wrote,

First off, a couple things. One, I like that one news outlet published opposing viewpoints from high-profile columnists on the same hot-button topic. It wasn’t to reflect both sides-ism. It wasn’t to make things seem “fair and balanced.” It wasn’t meant to placate those on both sides of the issue to avoid making one side angry. No, it was two smart columnists who just happened to see it differently, and both were given the space to express those views.

And, second, I’m with Brennan. What an incredibly short-sighted decision by USA Basketball. Is Clark one of the best 12 players and absolutely deserving of a spot on the team?

Who cares? That answer doesn’t matter.

This is the best chance for women’s basketball to really grow the game. Women’s basketball has always had terrific players, but let’s face it, no one has watched in big numbers before. People are watching Clark. She brings attention to the sport. She brings fans.

As Brennan wrote, “She won’t be there, so all those fans won’t be there, because they’re never there.”

Brennan knows. She covered those games in half-empty arenas with lousy TV ratings.

For the record, the person who seems least offended by all this is Clark herself. to being left off the team is full of class and grace.

The time is now for women’s basketball, not four years from now when Clark will most likely make her Olympic debut. American women’s basketball was handed a gift. It’s the perfect storm to make the sport more popular than ever. If casual fans are going to be introduced to all these other sensational players, Clark is the best person to make those introductions. Tune in for Clark, meet everyone else. That’s the whole point.

But let me jump off my soapbox and get to the media coverage surrounding this decision.

You also know it’s a hot topic when ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith gets fired up. Smith said, “This is about what I will personally label ‘The Idiocy of Team USA Women’s Basketball.’ How dare you make this decision. It’s stupid. … Caitlin Clark does not deserve a spot ahead of any of the players on this roster — if we’re talking just basketball. You know we’re not.”

Smith was joined by Andraya Carter and Chiney Ogwumike, both of whom pushed back, saying Team USA’s priority is to assemble the best possible roster to win a gold medal.

Earlier in the show, guest Shannon Sharpe had said, “Are we really trying to grow the game? Because this is the most popular women’s basketball player in the world and it ain’t close. So are we really trying to grow the game? Is that what we’re really trying to do? Or are we just talking about ‘We’re trying to grow the game’ and just bull jiving?”

There is no shortage of opinions on Clark. ( with USA Basketball’s decision, as did most of the panelists on while )

In the end, does Clark make the team better? Maybe not. Does she make the sport better? Absolutely.

How do I know? From all the media attention being paid to her not making the team.

Hey, at least this topic gets us to stop talking about The Washington Post for a moment. … OK, the moment’s over. Onto the Post.

Posting some questions

As I’m sure you know by now, Washington Post publisher Will Lewis is under all kinds of scrutiny for the events of the past week, which started with executive editor Sally Buzbee stunningly stepping down.

Former Washington Post media reporter about what Post staffers should ask Lewis in a Q&A. (Lewis is conducting Q&As with staff as a part of his “Build It” plan to dig the Post out of a steep financial hole.)

Farhi suggests a dozen questions. You can check them all out, but I did want to highlight a few that really stood out to me. Among them:

  • How many people did you interview before you hired Matt Murray and Robert Winnett as the new editors of the Post? Were any internal candidates interviewed? Any women or people of color? If not, why not?
  • It’s likely that very few people at the Post, or even in Washington at large, knew Robert Winnett’s name before you announced him as the Post’s next editor-in-chief. Clearly, you believe he is capable and qualified, but why should we believe that a journalist who has spent little time in Washington or America and has never run an organization as large and complex as the Post, is the person best qualified to direct the news coverage of the leading newspaper in the nation’s capital? Why do you think he has never been asked to helm a British newspaper?
  • You’ve spent a good deal of your career working for news organizations owned by conservative figures, including Rupert Murdoch. Will you commit to preserving the Post’s tradition of political neutrality in its news coverage?
  • When was the last time you communicated with Jeff Bezos? Have you had any discussions with him about the developments of the past week? Has he expressed support for you?

And finally, this is the question I would be most interested in if I were a Post staffer:

You’ve announced the creation of a “third newsroom” for “service and social-media journalism.” How many people will work for it? What is “service and social-media journalism”? Given its apparent importance in your overall plan, why have you offered so few details about it since announcing it?

When Lewis told staff just last month that the Post had lost $77 million in the past year and had seen a 50% drop in audience since 2020, he announced the “service and social media journalism” plan to be a major part of his “Build It” project.

It sounded intriguing and there was lukewarm praise for the idea, if for nothing else than it sounds like a new and long-overdue attempt to attract the audiences the Post has been unable to reach. It is a nontraditional plan to reach nontraditional audiences.

But, as Farhi correctly notes, so much remains unknown, specifically: What is service and social media journalism?

Speaking out

Earlier this year, David D. Smith, executive chairman of the Sinclair broadcasting chain and a contributor to conservative causes, bought The Baltimore Sun.

Now, apparently, Sinclair stories — those from Sinclair-owned Fox45 in Baltimore — are being published by the Sun. And staffers at the Sun are not happy about it.

, blasting the practice and saying journalists at the Sun were not notified it would be happening.

The Guild wrote, “We are concerned that the nature of the relationship between Sinclair and The Sun has not been made clear to us or to our readers. And one of the first articles published from Sinclair failed to meet The Sun’s standards.”

the Guild was referring to was published on June 3 and written by a Fox45 staffer. The Guild said the story “repeated references to ‘illegal immigrants,’ a term that is not used in The Sun, per industry best practices from the Associated Press, which do not condone referring to people as ‘illegal.’ This error was later corrected, but the story’s framing remains concerning.”

( that did use the phrase “illegal immigrants.”)

The Guild also cited other issues and then demanded the following from Baltimore Sun management:

  • Hold a meeting with all staff members to address our concerns and explain the long-term strategy for the paper, and any agreements with Fox45 or Sinclair.
  • Stop the sharing of articles, photos, videos and social media content from Fox45 and Sinclair until such a meeting can be held.
  • Ensure that all stories published in The Baltimore Sun adhere to the same journalistic standards that we are held to as union members, including The Sun’s Cultural Competency Guide created by the newsroom’s Diversity Committee.

Fighting back

Mississippi Today reporter Anna Wolfe celebrates winning the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting in May 2023. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

In 2023, Mississippi Today and reporter Anna Wolfe won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for a series called which, as the Pulitzer Prize Board wrote, “revealed how a former Mississippi governor used his office to steer millions of state welfare dollars to benefit his family and friends, including NFL quarterback Brett Favre.”

In July of 2023, that former governor, Phil Bryant, sued Mississippi Today and CEO Mary Margaret White for defamation. In May, Bryant added Wolfe and Mississippi Today editor-in-chief Adam Ganucheau as defendants.

Also in May, a Madison County judge ordered Mississippi Today to turn over notes that could reveal confidential sources. But Mississippi Today is appealing to the Mississippi Supreme Court in a case that is more complicated than it sounds.

, Ganucheau wrote, “Given this glaring overstep and our steadfast effort to protect our journalists and our sources, we declined to turn over that information, citing a First Amendment protection called ‘reporter’s privilege.’ Reporter’s privilege, which is recognized by 40 states based on numerous legal interpretations of the United States Constitution, serves as a basis of protection and privacy for journalists and the sources who share important information with the press.”

Apparently, however, Mississippi is not one of those 40 states. Ganucheau wrote, “But last month, the court issued an order that because Mississippi’s appellate courts have never recognized reporter’s privilege, our citation of the privilege did not necessarily stand as valid reason to withhold our information from the plaintiff.”

He added, “With our appeal, the stakes are incredibly high: The Supreme Court could guarantee these critical rights for the first time in our state’s history, or it could establish a dangerous precedent for Mississippi journalists and the public at large by tossing aside an essential First Amendment protection.”

Ganucheau goes on to explain that the threshold to force a news organization to turn over sensitive information is very high. He wrote, “Under the reporter’s privilege, a plaintiff in a defamation suit should first prove that what a journalist reported was false, defamatory and based upon unreliable sources before documents are turned over to anyone. Those standards have not been met in the 13 months since Bryant first threatened this lawsuit against Mississippi Today. There has been no evidence presented to demonstrate our reporting was false because it wasn’t. There has been no evidence presented that our reporting was defamatory because it wasn’t. There has been no evidence presented that we relied on an unreliable source because we didn’t. For those reasons, we should not be compelled to turn over privileged information.”

Media tidbits

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Aaron Tilley with
  • CNN’s Lauren Izso and Michael Rios with
  • Reuter’s Steven Scheer with
  • The Associated Press with
  • NBC News’ Erik Ortiz with
  • The Boston Globe’s Aidan Ryan with
  • Here are the .
  • Sunday night’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals on ABC between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks drew 12.06 million viewers, according to Fast Nationals from Nielsen. That marked the most-watched NBA Finals game since 2019.
  • A Colorado TV sports anchor rips into baseball player Kris Bryant for being injured. Awful Announcing’s Michael Grant writes,

Hot type

  • The Washington Post’s Albert Samaha and Gus Garcia-Roberts with ”

More resources for journalists

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

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