Obviously the story with the New York Jets alleged mistreatment of TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz has generated lots of conversation this week. But is the conversation rooted in the right place? It goes without saying that male and female journalists should be treated respectfully and with equal access. But the gender equality story isn't the only story here. There's also the story that the line between "journalist" and "sensationalist fame seeker" posing as a "media member" is becoming more and more blurred by the day.
It used to be that journalists broke news and reported the news. Now there are many people - male and female - posing as journalists who are simply trying to enhance their own personal brand. They want to BE the story instead of cover the story.
Leagues and teams have a very difficult job trying to determine who to issue a "media" credential to and who to decline. As someone who has worked as a PR executive over the past 18 years and has had to make decisions about who to issue media credentials to and who to turn away, there is no cut and dry answer any more.
While the mainstream media continues to die a slow death as new media evolves, bloggers and those building their audiences and influence via social media channels cannot be ignored. Reality TV shows have built solid audiences that shape opinions. In other words, there are some bloggers and social media experts who have more influence over a large audience than mainstream media journalists in today's world. Heck, there are many mainstream media journalists who get a good number of their story ideas from blogs and social media feeds. Teams and leagues can no longer ignore this fact.
Today's "media" is like the wild west. Everyone is a member of the media. Anyone with a Twitter feed, a blog or a Facebook page can cover a story, provide pictures and video and shape opinions. Does that mean anybody should be credentialed and allowed access to athletes, coaches and executives? What criteria should be used when issuing a credential?
It used to be that a journalist was credentialed if they had their managing editor submit a media credential request and several examples of a reporter's work to verify that this reporter was indeed on the up and up and a professional.
So far I have not seen a sports team or league that has been able to come up with a set of guidelines that clearly defines what the criteria should be for receiving a media credential. Bloggers and reality TV show hosts are being issued media credentials by many sports organizations because of the large audiences they have built. Just look at Super Bowl media day where there are "media" who are making marriage proposals to players like Patriots QB Tom Brady - is that person really worthy of a credential?
And when you have pro sports teams like the Golden State Warriors holding "Tweedia Day" (which by the way I think is a terrific idea), it shows us how the media landscape has changed and how new media is being embraced by sports organizations who are no longer covered by traditional media outlets like they once were, because those media outlets no longer have the resources to cover the sports world as thoroughly.
Teams and leagues have the right to decide which people receive media credentials and which people don't. If you issue a media credential to someone who wants to make news on their own and has little interest in actually reporting news, you could find yourself in a sticky situation.
I also think the days of allowing the media into a locker room to get quotes from naked athletes immediately following a game are outdated. In my opinion, athletes should be allowed a few minutes to shower and dress and then greet reporters while clothed. If you think about it, it makes little sense that in today's world of instant transmissions, that teams and leagues would allow a horde of cameras into a space where their prized products and spokespeople could be caught on camera naked or in a compromising position. Its only a matter of time until someone who has a media credential and is posing as a journalist snaps off a few pictures on their mobile device of a naked athlete and those pictures make their way across the internet. I'm surprised it hasn't happened already to be honest with you.
So this leads us back to the topic of Ines Sainz. Again, if she was mistreated or disrespected in any way, the New York Jets should be reprimanded and punished. But the question I have is should she have been issued a credential in the first place? If you Google Sainz' past efforts covering the sports world, they aren't exactly Pulitzer Prize winning. When she rides the shoulders of players in night club attire at Super Bowl media day and is seemingly more of a spectacle more interested in promoting her own brand than someone reporting news, should she have been given a media credential in the first place?
That's a question sports leagues and teams will have to ask themselves in the future as they decide who should be covering their business and who is using their business as a platform to promote their own brand.