The rule is: no cheering in the press box. That includes you, Steve “We’re going to the Super Bowl!” Raible. You’re covering the team, not playing for it (any more). But does it include Sharon Chan? Former Seattle Times sportswriter Glenn Nelson—a sometimes-Seattle Weekly contributor—raised that question on his blog about Chan, a Times editorial page columnist.
During Sunday’s Super Bowl, she noted on Facebook that a Boston Globe writer told her “Journalists aren’t supposed to root for either side.” Chan, in New York with her husband (another ex-Times sports writer and now ESPN 710 radio guy Danny O’Neil), fired back that the Globe writer should just shut the fuck up (the exact response: “I’m an opinion editor…(so STFU).”)
Her post was picked up by national media blogger Jim Romenesko, who later updated the item to include Nelson’s observations wondering why Chan seemed so blithe about turning Hawks cheerleader. As Nelson noted, to a journalist, reliably chronicling events, even sports, “used to mean remaining a layer or two disassociated from the thrill of victory or agony of defeat. It meant not being self-indulgent and celebratory while writing about a win, and not angry and vindictive while recounting a loss.” It meant emotionally staying above the fray.
Good journalists, even those with opinions, do struggle to maintain a balance—not impartiality, that’s always been a news media fiction, since all reporting is subjective (better that reporters shake the pretense and write from a well-researched and substantiated point of view). Nelson does allow that if Facebook had been around during his sportswriting heyday, maybe “I would have been the Selfie King. I’m certainly an enthusiastic Facebook user today, though I feel as if I’m documenting my life (for my increasingly failing memory) and not validating it. There still is enough of a journalist in me that I have trouble celebrating something I may one day have been covering.”
He knows Chan and admires her work, he says. But “I just don’t understand the public display of allegiance by someone in my industry, especially someone in a leadership position, and even less so the public trash talk. I’m not saying that in a critical way; it truly does not compute with me. I also don’t understand that she doesn’t seem fazed. I was thinking that I’d be scared to death of being fired. But that’s how much the landscape has changed.”