The Front Page: The Pressure of Pressers

Issue 26: Actually, athletes don’t owe journalists anything.


On Monday, shortly after announcing she would be boycotting press conferences, Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open completely. Her first statement evoked outrage from the French Tennis Federation and journalists alike. Roland-Garros issued a $15,000 fine for not attending the obligatory pressers, and publications criticized her “diva behaviour.”

The tennis player—currently ranked number two worldwide, by the way—shared in a tweet that she has experienced depression since 2018 and that speaking to the media exacerbates her social anxiety. Sports columnist Jonathan Liew writes that Osaka’s decision speaks volumes about the failures of the press conference, “a cynical and often predatory game in which the object is to mine as much content from the subject as possible.” 

But it’s not just press conferences—and certainly not limited to Osaka. Historically, journalists have a serious problem with abusing non-white female athletes. Take, for example, the racist caricature of Serena Williams at the 2018 U.S. Open. Or any one of many articles about Gabby Douglas’ hair. Or, earlier still, the race and femininity-focused coverage of Florence Griffith-Joyner, a five-time Olympic medalist.

It’s easy for reporters to slot themselves into defined “roles” within the industry, and sport journalism is no exception—little has changed about the postgame locker room chat in the past few decades. Still, just as transactional journalism is dangerous in community reporting, athletes don’t owe us anything, no matter how much we think we know about backhands, bridges, or 100-meter hurdles. 

Frankly, journalists should learn how to ask better questions, or get ready to stop asking them altogether. As Jemele Hill reminds us: “These days athletes would much rather tell their own stories than let reporters do it for them. Not long ago, players couldn’t win any power struggles against the media, much less their own league. Now they can.”


The Objective is an all-volunteer network of writers that publishes reporting, first-person commentary, and reported essays on communities journalism in the U.S. has typically ignored. Want to read more? Subscribe to our newsletter, The Front Page.


Q&A: Nikki Usher and "News for the Rich, White, and Blue"

How do metro papers deal with their tradition of “objectivity” after a disaster? Dr. Nikki Usher interviewed the journalists at the Times-Picayune years after Katrina to find out. “We are the story,” said one reporter. “It’s different than being a combat reporter because a combat reporter gets to go home.” 

Usher’s newest book explores how place affects objectivity and how community improves news coverage, with the optimism that we can use this information to reimagine a more equitable newsroom. 

Here is a snippet of the conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity. You can read more here. 

The Objective covers the steps forward and backward of equity within newsrooms. Do you think “place” also plays a role in how equity is prioritized in newsrooms?

Oh, absolutely. And I think that what's happening is, as journalism in the US becomes increasingly a story of well-resourced organizations, these news organizations are also embedded into [those] larger … social inequalities and geographic inequalities. 

I think you see that the most with D.C. I have a chapter in the book that is focused on Washington correspondence and the difficulties of [mediating place]. On one hand, most of the folks can’t even go back to visit the places they're covering because of budgetary concerns, right? And some of them aren't even from the places that they cover. And yet they're tasked in Washington with essentially being the unelected representative of the public back home. That's a really difficult negotiation to live and work and do “Washington” while still thinking about “not Washington.”


A bit more media

Emily Wilder and the successful disinformation campaign
“Opaque and inconsistently enforced social media policies” aren’t the most concerning part of Emily Wilder’s firing from the Associated Press, argues Janine Zacharia. The real problem, she writes, is that the wire service knew Wilder was the target of a misinformation campaign and gave way to it, rather than protect an employee. 

“You can’t be neutral to inequalities” 
For NBCU Academy, Gwen Aviles writes how the media's racial reckoning further challenged the industry’s relationship with objectivity. “By the time Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, many journalists were beyond angered at an industry where calling out racial injustice could get you labeled as biased and lead to termination.”

CNN removes Rick Santorum 
More than a month after the Native American Journalists Association issued its statement calling for Santorum’s removal, CNN is cutting ties with the commentator. NAJA also called on CNN to issue an apology for racist remarks made during the network’s 2020 Election Night coverage.

Centering communities with movement journalism
Where traditional outlets have often failed, public and nonprofit media are stepping up to serve their communities. Nicole Froio reports how movement journalism, which “aligns with goals of social change and liberation from oppression,” has taken root in mainstream newsrooms. 

A guide to digital security
Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani of ReThink Media has created a free guide that journalists can use to protect themselves and loved ones from doxxing and other online threats. Before using paid services, you may be able to preempt attacks by using search engines and changing your passwords. 

Alden Global Capital acquires Tribune Publishing 
Non-union employees of Tribune Publishing newspapers—including the Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel, among othershave been offered buyouts following the recent acquisition by Alden Global Capital. In the months leading up to the sale, union members across the newspaper chain fought to protect the company and its journalists from the hedge fund with “Project Mayhem.”


What’s happening

*$$$ denotes a paid event. What events should we feature? You tell us. Send an email to contact@objectivejournalism.org.

  • 0 days until … Latino Media Summit 2021. If you missed yesterday’s kickoff, there are still two days left of this free, bilingual event hosted by CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.

  • 4 days until … The Future of Journalism, the Fate of Democracy. This two-part series kicks off on June 8 with a conversation featuring Penny Abernathy, Greg Moore, Karen Rundlet, Margaret Sullivan, and Phoebe Stein.

  • 12 days until … NAHJ 2021: International Training Conference and Career Fair. ($$$) This year’s virtual convening will take place from June 16 to July 17, with more than three weeks of “pre-training.”

  • 13 days until … Covering Health Care — Covid and Beyond. This series installment focuses on “how to inoculate your health coverage from manipulation, misunderstanding or downright misinformation.”

  • 21 days until … the inaugural NLGJA Student Conference. ($$$) Members can attend for free, and non-members can sign up for $25. The two-day virtual convention includes “networking sessions, informational breakouts and an Internship & Career Fair with top recruiters.”


And finally, a few resources

Looking for a job? Here are a few places to look: INN | ONA | JournalismJobs.com | 10 Jobs and a Dog | NABJ | AAJA | NAHJ | NLGJA | @WritersofColor | MEO Jobs | Freelance Journalist Rates | StudyHall XYZ | Opportunities of the Week ($)   

How about a style guide? Trans Journalist Association | Diversity Style Guide | Tribal Nations Media Guide | NABJ Style Guide | Disability Language Style Guide | AAJA Guide to Covering Asian America | NAHJ Cultural Competence Handbook

If you’re a new reader, you can subscribe here. As always, if you like what you’re reading, forward this to a friend (or your boss). This issue is by Holly Piepenburg with editing by Curtis Yee.

Want to get in touch? Email us at contact@objectivejournalism.org.

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