I found this article really interesting for a lot of reasons but one of the biggest being that it hit really close to home for me. As a lot of people know, I recently graduated from DePaul University with a journalism degree and have been looking for a job ever since. I am also a pretty big Blackhawks fan and it would be a dream of mine to cover the team for a living. However, I have always struggled with the fact that I would have to remove my personal fandom from my work and I wasn’t always confident that was something I could do. I began to think about what that would mean for me. Would I have to completely eliminate my emotional ties I have to the team? Would I just need to work harder to make sure my bias doesn’t come out in my reporting? Or would it depend on who my employer was? I really wasn’t sure.
Once the season began and the excitement grew as the Blackhawks were setting the record for most consecutive games without a regulation loss and the city, actually the country, seemed to be overcome with hockey fever, particularly Blackhawks fever, I began to understand what being a fan versus being a professional journalist and a fan really meant.
Studying journalism all through college, you learn about having a critical eye, seeing the whole picture, removing biases and to always be asking questions. Growing up as a fan of sports it is only natural to create emotional attachments to a team, it’s players and their well-being. Combine those two things and passion for sports journalism is the result. I realized as I was watching the Hawks throughout the season, I was noticing what could be improved on the ice as well as what they are doing well. Over the course of the season, particularly the post season, I have been out watching a lot of games at restaurants and bars and as I listen to how the common fan reacts, the majority of what I hear is either all positive and all the bad things that happen are because of a bad call or bad luck, or they are all negative and it’s all because “Crawford sucks” or “Kane doesn’t pass” or “they’re too slow.” Now I’m not trying to toot my own horn and say because I studied journalism I know more or am a bigger fan but it has taught me to watch the game differently. I’m not just looking at what is happening with the player controlling the puck and I can see where things break down for both teams and where their strengths are. I notice what is causing a momentum shift or when a team looks out of sync. All these things allow me to experience the game in a completely different way from the common fan. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that fan isn’t emotionally invested or feeling the loss the same as I am but I feel I am watching a different game.
Ultimately, the point I am trying to make through all this is that while I know I still have work to do, I feel that being a fan of a sport makes me a better journalist because I can objectively look at the positives and the negatives and come to conclusions. I would never say the Blackhawks lost because “Crawford sucks,” or that they won because of a lucky call. There are so many other factors involved. As a professional journalist or media personality I don’t think wearing a tie with a teams emblem on it or a Toews sweater while reporting on the team is appropriate. You never want to give your audience a reason to question if the information they are receiving is unbiased. If you truly want to feel as though you are representing your team in some way, I think the farthest you should go is what Susannah Collins did in the first round of the playoffs when she wore a black suit with a red shirt underneath. It was subtle yet it showed her allegiance to her favorite team. In that particular case, she also was working for a network that had particularly strong ties to the team she was covering which likely allows for some wiggle room.
The most important thing is that the information is honest, good or bad, and unbiased. The second a journalist is off the clock, feel free to throw on a sweater and a hat and walk down Michigan Ave listening to Chelsea Dagger but when the spotlight is on, don’t give anyone the opportunity to question your reliability or your credibility.