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Is A Pro Athlete Coming Out Really Front Page News?

May 13, 2013

Credit Washington Wizards

When Washington Wizards Center Jason Collins announced in a "Sports Illustrated" article that he is gay, it was a huge deal in the media.

And, Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's "Sense Making Project" said the coverage was justified.

"This is big," explained McBride. "We have been waiting for this moment in the United States for a good three or four years."

That "moment" is the first male member of a major professional team sport -- basketball, baseball, football or hockey -- to come out as gay.

And, though Collins is not what you would call a franchise player, McBride said his trailblazing announcement was really big news. She said it will pave the way for an even bigger name in professional sports to come out in the near future.

However, McBride wondered if it's healthy for all media to move to cover one story -- like the Jason Collins announcement -- at the same time.

"I'm not sure that's it's healthy journalism, but it's definitely where we are in media today," explained McBride. "First of all, there are a gazillion sports journalism websites and media outlets and they all were, obviously going to react to this news. Because, it was really big news. But then you have all the non-sports journalism sites also reacting. I mean, I think every nightly news program did a story on it. Every newspaper had it... many of them on the front page the next day."

McBride said there are good reasons and bad reasons for that kind of pack news coverage.

"One is a good, healthy journalistic reason. This is the marketplace of ideas and journalism should be responding and reacting to the biggest stories that are being talked about in the marketplace of ideas. But the other reason is that these days in journalism with the internet we can see which stories are trending and which stories are getting a lot of clicks. And there is very much a desire or even a push to be part of that because those stories get more eyeballs and when you have more eyeballs you can sell more advertising."