May 23, 2024

GUTS AND GLORY | All on the same team: Why sports journalism still matters despite tough hit in recent years

GUTS AND GLORY | All on the same team: Why sports journalism still matters despite tough hit in recent years
Art by Royce Nicdao

While scrolling on Facebook, the almighty algorithm suggested a basketball page to me. 

The claim on the post was that Justin Brownlee suggested that Renaldo Balkman would be Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s stand-in import as the team awaits for an official word on his eligibility due to his failed doping test result in the recent Asian Games.

It was easy to see why. Veteran sports journalist Quinito Henson did say in an earlier interview on Power and Play that he got word that Ginebra was about to get an import who already played in the PBA and whose surname starts with the letter B.

Blackwater Bossing’s Jaylen Bond or Staphon Blair? Terrafirma Dyip’s Kyle Barone? San Miguel Beermen’s Brandon Brown? Rain or Shine Elasto Painters’ J’Nathan Bullock?

There were not many with direct links to Ginebra or Brownlee or coach Tim Cone for that matter. 

Will Cone throw it back and get his former champion imports in Marqus Blakely or Denzel Bowles?

I’m sure I was not the only one who scrolled through Wikipedia to see all possible Bs that would take Brownlee’s spot for the time being. The administrator of that Facebook page did the same and the link he chose was the San Miguel Alab Pilipinas connection between Brownlee and Balkman.

It made sense. They won a championship together in the ASEAN Basketball League and battled for a PBA Commissioner’s Cup championship. The page ran away with it—and got the likes and the shares. And then got it wrong.

It was never Balkman. It was Tony Bishop, the former import of the Meralco Bolts who faced off against Brownlee and Ginebra in the 2022 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting a page about basketball on Facebook. These add to the discourse and help hype players and leagues. However, like in hard news, there’s a big problem when it comes to spreading incorrect/imagined information. 

Nameless and faceless people on Facebook invent rumors to draw attention. The more shocking, the better. Their game is simple: Get enough followers via new likes and shares and then try and turn this into profit via video plays, brand partnerships, or even online gambling links.

This is why sports journalism still matters. Showing up during games, doing interviews, and putting in the legwork still matter. When The Dean shared the information on Power and Play, it was because he had links to an unimpeachable source. He would not have said so if he did not trust the source of the information because it would hurt his reputation if proven wrong. 

Unfortunately, this is not the case for other online entities as they could just delete the wrong post and forget it ever happened. No harm done. New followers are already in the bag. There have even been times when false information will be credited to an accredited member of the media even if they never said anything of the sort, just to make it appear like the information was valid.

While it’s true that the glory days of sports websites are now behind us, there’s still a need for them to exist. Gone are the days when Grantland was the first website we opened in the morning to see what new issue Bill Simmons had brought up. Gone are the days when you scour multiple websites after a big Gilas Pilipinas win as different writers will offer different perspectives.

The number of trusted sources of sports information has taken a brutal hit in the past few years, even more so recently, which is quite unfortunate. While different sports outlets are seen as competitors, it’s always somber when one gets shut down, with competent people getting waylaid by the cutthroat side of business. After all, one less sports outlet means one less ally in upholding the truth. Because in the grand scheme of things, we’re all on the same team.

Website traffic has slowed down considerably and we have not been as quick to chase the audience where they are now. The landscape of sports consumption has changed a lot, with sports outlets still trying to navigate it with various strategies, trial-and-errors, and yes, gimmicks.

But at the very core of it is still—and will always be—journalism. Sports writers still put in the work, sports photographers still show up, sports editors still plan out their content, and these hard-working media members have the added responsibility of fighting the misinformation now prevalent online. Sports outlets always practice vetting, agenda-setting, and gatekeeping—all key tenets in journalism. Most of all, journalism ethics are observed.

Several sports outlets still exist and it would be best to fact-check with them everything you see on Facebook or X or Instagram or TikTok before you believe.

It’s a tough world out there with many entities and content creators fighting for attention but in the end, what matters is the truth or the quest to get to that truth.

(PM)