“Who” is what matters: Good or bad?

The worlds of sports and news, news and sports, seem to be more and more blurred. Whether something is a sports or news story is just one more thing that’s changed over the last several decades.

I’m not quite old enough to remember when sports writers would refrain from running certain stories that put a popular owner or player in a bad light. At least that’s what I’ve read was the case back in the “good ol’ days,” before we became a nation of information gluttons. As one who was schooled and taught to never ignore a good or important story if it put an advertiser, public official or celebrity in a bad light, I like to think we’re well past that time. I’m pretty sure today’s social media wouldn’t allow a story like that to hide.

That all came to mind when I read a recent blog entry by Doug Ottewill, editor-in-chief for Mile High Sports Magazine in Denver. This media outlet does a good job of covering any and all things sports-related in Colorado’s capital city. As a subscriber to their daily email newsletter, I’ve found several such missives to be well thought out, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with the author’s opinion.

Ottewill’s entry, “Not everything is fit for social media,” was a well done piece on how Denver-area law enforcement agencies treat local athletes who run afoul of the law. In this time of domestic violence suspensions of NFL athletes and the recently-begun murder trial of a former NFL athlete, such incidents often are hot button topics that go beyond the sports world. Usually deservedly so, IMHO.

Who Flickr 201121In the case of Ottewill’s piece, a Denver Nuggets star basketball player was arrested on suspicion of DUI and he made the case that the Denver Police Department tweeted out that fact because the player was a high-profile athlete and no other such arrest for a more everyday citizen would not have been treated the same.

No longer is it innocent until proven guilty; it’s embarrassed until anything is proven. Just ask Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson.

Ottewill stated his opinion piece was not intended to focus on the right or wrong of Lawson’s actions, nor to condone drinking and driving. He only questioned why the Denver PD felt the need to promote Lawson’s arrest. Ottewill quotes a Denver PD spokesman as saying it was done after media inquiries.

But Ottewill points out that several media outlets had already posted the fact of Lawson’s arrest when the police department tweeted out the news.

That’s the part that still feels dirty. That’s where it looks more like “look who we got” than “service and protection.”

Ottewill spoke to Arapahoe County Sheriff Dave Walcher, who said his department takes the opposite stance and does not base the release of arrests made by his deputies on who the suspect is or what they do for a living. It’s the nature of the crime, the sheriff told Ottewill.

Suspicion of DUI, in this case, is not a crime that Walcher or his staff would deem “tweetable.” When Broncos linebacker Von Miller was arrested in Arapahoe County for an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court for a traffic violation, there was no tweet from the @ArapahoeSO account.

The most high-profile story I covered was Kobe Bryant’s sexual assault case in Eagle County. (I could write another blog entry about my feelings on how that case was covered, but I digress.) As every reporter is taught, you want five things in each story: Who, what, when, where and why. In cases like this – perhaps unfortunately and unfairly – the who is the most newsworthy part of the story.

And in today’s celebrity- and athlete-obsessed world, it looks like we’ll see and read plenty more of these types of stories. But as Ottewill summarizes, it seems in our social media-driven times, this won’t be the last case of over reach.

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