Whenever the youth ask me how to break into sports journalism — which they don’t because I’ve never been approached to speak to a class, because most adults furl their faces puzzlingly when I tell them I work for Deadspin — my advice is to play sports. Not to fall in love with the games or anything sentimental like that, but rather to give your insight validation, make connections with athletes who will go further than you, but could further your career, and it looks good on a resume for the media outlets who “cover” sports and also have benefits.
If you can latch on as, say, a kicker or punter, even better. There’s minimal risk of getting hit, and that allows you to retain enough brain cells to build a media empire ad hoc.
“Hey, I’ve got like $300K, and Aaron Rodgers’ phone number. How much do you think it’d cost to record him on a Zoom call?”
And on the seventh day, Pat McAfee, journalist, was born.
Now, I’m not naive enough to think there isn’t a little pay-for-play happening across all of sports journalism, or dumb enough to think a lot of sports figures view media hits the same as Cameo appearances, but it’s extremely triggering to hear McAfee openly admit that he pays Rodgers, and Alabama coach Nick Saban, to come on his show.
The New York Post reported that the Jets’ QB makes seven figures per year for Tuesdays with Pat, with Saban is in that ballpark for his regular Thursday spots, as well. The Post’s source? McAfee himself.
“Aaron has made over $1,000,000 with us, for sure,” the ESPN personality told the Post via DM.
During my first semester of college — and this is not a J-school story (just saying) — a bunch of my high school buddies joined a frat. Seeing as I was about as prepared for university as McAfee was to be a journalist, I asked them a simple question:
“So, it’s just a club, and you pay to bro out, and live, with those douchebags?”
I didn’t put it quite like that, but they nodded in agreement as if nothing was wrong. You’d pay for sex, right? So why not pay for friends? That’s essentially what McAfee — and the industry as a whole — are doing.
Athletes are turning the business into a post-playing career clubhouse, for athletes, populated by airheads, and run by greedy corporations that value access over objectivity. Throw in a little name recognition, and a lot of bravado, and any outlet will give you a chance (or seven).
Think about the life of a modern athlete, and it’s no wonder every one of them is tailor-made for today’s world of sports media. They’ve been trained to talk to cameras since high school, have friends on the field and in the “newsroom,” are forced to change careers by their 35th birthday, if not sooner, and think ratings are just another dick-measuring competition.
It’s either coaching or media, but if you want to be a coach, doing some media doesn’t hurt either. McAfee made $15 million across eight seasons as an NFL punter, more than a lot of journalists make in a lifetime, and used those resources to get access that Joe Blogger cannot. That’s the simplicity of it.
When Ryan Clark described Tua Tagovailoa as thick as an Atlanta stripper, he apologized not because he didn’t do any reporting, or even stop to ask why a guy who’s dealt with injuries his entire career would get bulkier, but because when he decided he was going to do TV — meaning sports journalism — he made two promises to himself:
1. Respect all NFL players, coaches, executives, and staff members.
2. Earn and keep the respect of those very same people.
My guy, those are in direct conflict with what it means to cover a beat. That said, he learned from the best, so who can blame him?
Pat McAfee is either genius or incredibly f*cking stupid, yet ESPN’s onboarding PowerPoint should contain at least a couple of slides on ethics. “Here’s an example of a leading question. This is what’s called victim blaming. A settlement does not mean an athlete ‘won’ a sexual assault case. Fact-check your sources.”
As far as I can tell there are three basic ways to break into the biz, and you can type this down, aspiring sports journalists of America:
1. Play professional sports
2. Befriend professional athletes
3. Go to school for journalism
Sean Beckwith added a tagline so the kickers to his pieces aren’t buried below five different mobile ads
Original source here
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