Athletes have good reason to want to skip press conferences
LeBron James had had enough.
During the press conference after Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, James was repeatedly asked by ESPN’s Mark Schwartz about the mental state of teammate JR Smith, including the rebounding blunder of the final seconds. contributed to an overtime loss for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Over 70 seconds and four questions, Schwartz probed the inner workings of Smith’s mind, before James finally got up, put on sunglasses, grabbed his briefcase and strode through the assembled press corps.
He uttered a single sentence: “Be better tomorrow”.
It wasn’t the first verbal entanglement between journalist and sports star, and it won’t be the last. Recently, tennis star Naomi Osaka quit the French Open for exacerbated mental health issues, she said, facing questions at press conferences required for the tournament.
These examples represent a fundamental struggle between athletes and those who cover them: contested interviews in a newsroom forum that look more like a mixed martial arts octagon than Oprah’s couch.
On the one hand, there are journalists who need quotes to flesh out stories they hope will stand out from their competitors. On the other are the athletes, who often want to be anywhere but this press room.
LeBron James: “Be better tomorrow.”
Birth of the press conference
I’m a professor of sports journalism at Ohio State. Each semester, I teach students to be good investigators and to feel comfortable asking questions in front of other writers in a press conference.
As an Associated Press sportswriter, I also feel uncomfortable in almost every press conference I cover, worried about asking a question that others perceive as superfluous or ill-informed, and sometimes cringe teeth to the questions I hear from others.
Sportswriting has included post-game interviews since publishers realized covering sports would sell newspapers in the early 20th century. In those days, conversations were up close, one-on-one, building relationships. Writers have learned to know the rhythm of the moods of athletes and coaches and how to balance them with the timelines of coverage.
The arrival of broadcast information led to an increased demand for access and the press conference was born. But the exclusive coverage club that once required a printing press and consumer publication for team access has recently expanded into the digital world to self-proclaimed publishers with a mobile device and an internet connection. .
Requirements are established between the league and the media. The NHL agreement, for example, provides that 10 minutes after each game, each club will release key players and the head coach. The NFL agreement states, “Reasonable cooperation with the news media is essential to the continued popularity of our game and its players and coaches.”
What happens at a press conference is another issue.
Yes, there are stupid questions
Taurean Prince teaches the reporter who asked how his team, Baylor, could have been passed by Yale: “They got more than us.”
Press conference interaction is more transactional than conversational. The team representatives appeal to the journalists. Journalists ask questions. Athletes do their best to answer the questions – whether they won a midseason game or lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But these questions.
A Toronto television reporter asked Bryce Harper, a non-drinking Mormon, if he planned to celebrate a home run with a beer. Harper’s response: “I’m not responding to that. It’s a clown question, mate.
A reporter asked Serena Williams why she wasn’t smiling after her quarter-final victory at the 2015 US Open, a question rarely – if ever – asked of men.
After noting that it was 11:30 p.m. and she preferred to be in bed, Williams added, “I don’t want to answer any of those questions. And you keep asking me the same questions. You’re not making it super nice.
Taurean Prince was asked after an upset in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament to explain how Yale could have possibly passed his team Baylor.
His answer: “You go up and catch the ball off the edge when it comes off. And then you grab it with both hands, and you go down with it. And that’s considered a rebound. So they got more than us.
Few sports fans can forget Allen Iverson refuting that he didn’t train as hard as the Philadelphia 76ers deserved.
Allen Iverson told reporters: “We’re talking about practice…not the game I’m going to die for and play every game like it’s the last.”
To quote sports publication Bleacher Report, “Sometimes a question is so poorly researched, badly timed, or just plain poor that you wonder what the reporter was thinking. Better yet, how does this journalist still have a job? »
Ask questions to get answers
The objective of the press conference for the media is to obtain information to feed the fans’ insatiable appetite to know about their favorite competitor or team.
Some athletes, like tennis star Rafael Nadal, recognize the role the media can play in building brand and reputation. After Osaka declined to speak at the press conference, Nadal told reporters: “Without the press…we (are not going to) have the recognition that we have around the world, and we won’t be so popular, right?”
In truth, athletes no longer need the press to communicate with their fans. They can do this directly through social networks.
Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks told a reporter during Super Bowl 2015 Media Day, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.”
Sportswriters have extraordinary access that can inform fans about understanding athletes and their performances, but they need to do better if they want to stay relevant.
If sportswriters did better research on games and topics, they could ask questions that focused on more than a single moment in time. It could become “How did this team get past you?” en “You seemed to have trouble getting under the basket compared to your last game. What did this team do differently that was difficult for you?” This would give fans a much better insight Game.
Sportswriters often ask sources to do all the work by asking them to “talk” about a moment in time – the third inning, the fourth quarter, the quarterback’s play. Being more specific with a question will get a more detailed answer.
Sportswriters might consider what it would feel like to be asked the question they plan to ask. How should a player feel when he wins or loses a big game? Journalists who have compassion for the person at the microphone and the experience they have endured get better responses.
Interviews are difficult and press conferences do not make things easier. Everyone hears your question and every reporter receives the same information, so standing out can be a challenge. Training and professional development in the art of questioning is imperative to seeing the question asked as the chess game that it is.
Before asking a question (making a move), anticipate the answer to that question (opponent’s move). Is this the desired or necessary response? If not, be prepared to ask this question another way or ask another question. And what will be the follow-up question (next step)?
Anticipating and taking advantage of moves is how you win in chess. This is also how you win at interviews.
Let’s all be better tomorrow.
This article originally appeared on The Conversation by Nicole Kraft, associate professor of clinical communication at The Ohio State University. Read the original article here.