In the sports world, most people know Undisputed– that show where Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe yell at each other all day long about their insane sports theories and opinions. It’s stemmed much further from sports news and focused much more heavily on pure entertainment based on the way they behave, the things they say, and the content they bring to the table. However, yesterday the Undisputed cast crossed the line when Shannon Sharpe called Falcons WR Julio Jones on air and essentially interviewed him without permission.
Sports journalism, like in other areas of journalism, has boundaries you don’t cross. One of the most important ones involving this wonderful thing that we heavily value called privacy. When Shannon Sharpe decided to call Julio Jones and talk about his current feelings about the Atlanta Falcons on air, he needed to first inform him that he was on live TV, but doing so could possibly alter Julio’s answer, so the hosts decided to wait until after they got their “insider information” until after the fact, which is unbelievably wrong and is indicative of Julio’s not knowing he was on national television.
Interviews, especially ones that involve speaking about your employer and possibly other interested employers (the Falcons and other trade suitors) can be extremely personal. Being in a one on one situation with a trusted friend/colleague versus being on live TV is very different for obvious reasons.
If Julio Jones had decided to come to the studio or do a live video meeting to discuss his trade situation, then that would have been much different. This would have required an agreement on both sides to talk about a personal business matter in front of a national audience. Julio would have been both aware of the circumstances and willing to discuss them. However, Sharpe decided that it would be “okay” if they called the Falcons’ star and wring the information out of him before letting him know he was on their show and completely break the code of ethics that journalists are supposed to follow.
As of right now, there are no reports confirming or denying whether Julio knew what was going on, but by making a phone call, the star WR likely saw this as a friend calling a friend to see how they were feeling about their employment situation. Since it’s been nearly 24 hours since the incident and there’s been no reports of Julio knowing he was on air, it feels safe to say that he had no clue. Otherwise, Fox (the network that runs Undisputed) would have jumped on that knowledge and it released it for their own PR department’s sake.
Given the gravity of a mistake this big, most journalists or reporters wouldn’t have jobs if they pulled a stunt like this. Whether Skip and Shannon see themselves as sports journalists or not, they serve the public knowledge and information on the sports world, and this behavior should not be passed as okay.
When entertainment begins to be favored over actual, professional journalistic work, that’s when the line is crossed. You get malpractice, screaming matches, and big personalities making crazy statements rather than civil, professional, and analytical discussions. Have we really just accepted this obnoxious behavior in other media outlets to the point where star personalities can break rules and privacy laws in order to drive traffic to their show?