'Sports Matters' panel says ethics are critical when maintaining trust from readers and sources

By Earica Parrish

March 2, 2015

The Newhouse Sports Media Center at Syracuse University recently hosted a daylong symposium called "Sports Matters," examining current issues in sports and sports media. The first panel “Ethics in Sports Media: Is it OK to Lie?" included the following speakers (pictured above, from left to right):

  • Marcus Hayes ’90, sports columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News
  • Lynne Adrine, director of the Washington, D.C. capstone program at the Newhouse School and director and producer for ABC News in Washington
  • Scott Pioli G’05, assistant general manager of the Atlanta Falcons
  • Shalise Manza Young ’99, New England Patriots beat writer for The Boston Globe

The panel addressed the social responsibilities of sports writers to the public as well as to the teams they cover. They also talked about the pressures that media professionals face when weighing what is ethical as well as how social media affects reporting and writing.

The panel debated what role the reporter plays in regard to the team he or she covers. Joel Kaplan, associate dean for professional graduate studies at the Newhouse School, moderated the discussion. Kaplan says it’s not the writer’s job to be a team’s publicist, but to report regardless of whether or not the story will hurt a team’s image.  

The journalists also talked about when it’s appropriate or important to write about details of a professional athlete’s life, when those stories might not be related to the game or the sport.

“There’s a real human factor that I think a lot of readers and fans, and some journalists overlook,” Hayes, of the Philadelphia Daily News, says.

Manza Young, of The Boston Globe, says of reporting on the Patriots that it’s up to the journalists to decide which beats and stories are more newsworthy than others. One consideration is you don’t want to lose trust from the public or the team, she says.

 “You’re in this relationship really with the players and with the coaches to a certain extent, and you need them to trust you,” Young says.

Social media has affected sports journalism greatly. With so many sports fans and journalists using social media, it’s sometimes difficult to know who knows what. The definition of a sports journalist has become blurred, says Adrine, of ABC News. Everyone also needs to recognize that what people tweet about isn’t always accurate.

“People believe that because they have a (social media) platform…they think they’re acting like journalist when they haven’t checked out a thing. They just put out an opinion,” Adrine says. 

Earica Parrish is a sophomore magazine journalism major at the Newhouse School.

Photos by Chase Guttman, a freshman photography major at the Newhouse School.