Banner
    Can Twitter Detect Bias Among Sports Journalists?
    By Hank Campbell | October 18th 2012 03:47 PM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

    View Hank's Profile
    Most people regard journalists as biased, though it is most evident in the bias of journalists at places politically different from the consumer - in the US, MSNBC viewers regard Fox News consumers as biased while Fox News consumers regard everyone else as biased.

    Science media does not have this issue because everyone votes the same way politically and it makes no difference; except on political issues that attract political demographics, like GMOs or climate change, science media can stick to science. What about sports?  Can a sports journalist be biased?

    They can. It just may not be evident when it comes to their sports coverage.

    The Penn State sex abuse scandal provided evidence of rampant bias in sports journalism, say  Clemson University and University of Louisville researchers scholars.  There is no excusing the crimes of convicted sex criminal Jerry Sandusky, though efforts to blame Joe Paterno for apparently inventing child abuse by not doing enough to stop it seemed a bit much. That behavior by sports journalists, and more, led the sports journalism scholars to declare that sports journalists were no longer objective in their coverage.

    Who knew they ever were?  

    Sports journalists did not go into sports journalism because they wanted to be objective journalists, they went into it because they loved sports and were inspired by Roger Kahn or whoever and wanted to tell stories about sports. But who didn't share some outrage that Sandusky used his authority and prestige to abuse kids and wasn't shocked that a Penn State athletic program, presumably with a sense of morality if not a desire to protect their business, wouldn't do something to stop it? The story was bigger than sports - and so was the coverage.

    All fair, but sports journalists were over the top in their coverage, say professors Marion Hambrick and Jimmy Sanderson.

    "Twitter seems to elevate sports journalists' willingness to step outside of their professional spheres," Sanderson, assistant professor in Clemson's communication studies department, wrote in a statement. "Many of the journalists uttered commentary that would be unlikely to appear in more traditional platforms, and in this respect, sports journalists seem to be mimicking athletes in creating social media controversies."

    And a lot of what got repeated was inaccurate, they say - but that is the price for instant coverage of media events so not much of an issue.  Being inaccurate as not as much of a concern as being irrelevant in the modern world where newspapers and three television networks no longer control media.

    Personal interactions are the wave of the future.  "Meet The Press" still gets viewers, but they are mostly over the age of 50. Sure, that means journalists may look less objective on occasion but very few believed they were anyway.

    Citation: Jimmy Sanderson, Marion E. Hambrick, 'Covering the Scandal in 140 Characters: A Case Study of Twitter’s Role in Coverage of the Penn State Saga', IJSC Volume 5, Issue 3, September 2012 pp 384 – 402