Patrick Sharp story: Challenge of mainstream media reporting on personal lives of athletes

An excerpt from my latest column for Poynter.


Normally, it would have been a routine post-practice session on Sunday, March 1 for the Chicago Blackhawks. It wasn’t.

In the locker room, Patrick Sharp, one of the team’s top players, strongly denied salacious allegations that he had an affair with a teammate’s wife and other women.

“When people delve into your personal life and make up rumors and things that are completely false and untrue, it takes a toll on you,” Sharp said.

The rumors about Sharp had been floating around town for weeks. There had been rampant chatter on message boards and strong innuendo that something was up with Sharp on sports talk radio. Finally, a Chicago site called SportsMockery, reported it had “confirmed” the story on Feb. 28, and that it was a big reason why the team wanted to trade the popular player.

Yet Chicago’s largest newspapers and other major outlets didn’t report the story until Sharp put it out there with his comments after that Sunday practice. The incident underscores the challenges the “mainstream” media faces in the new landscape.

How should newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times react when the dirt starts flying? Rick Morrissey, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, says the lines are blurred more than ever.

“Just because you can write something doesn’t mean you should,” Morrissey said. “We [The Sun-Times] hold ourselves to a higher standard. We look at it harder than some of these websites that aren’t held in the same journalistic standard.”

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