How Derek Jeter’s Genius Creation is Changing Sports Journalism Forever

Joe Skinner

Be correct.

Be first.

Those are two tenants of journalism that are drilled into journalists.

So when what will be known as one of the biggest free agencies in NBA history occurred in the summer of 2016, the reporters and tweeters of twenty-four hour sports networks didn’t leave one lead unnoticed, one source uncalled and one rumor untweeted when it came to the decision of superstar Kevin Durant.

The news of his signing with the Golden State Warriors shook the NBA down to its core.  Chris Broussard, Marc Stein, Adrian Wojonarowski and Brian Windhorst battled for four days during the Durant saga of meetings and rumors to be able to claim the breaking news as their own.  But none of them can.

He didn’t call a press conference, he didn’t tweet them out himself, and he didn’t organize an overblown, unnecessary, live ESPN special like another notable-but unnamed-talent in the NBA.  That claim goes to the rising online media outlet The Player’s Tribune.

“The player himself is announcing away from us [media] more or less,” Sporting News writer David Steele said.

On October 1, 2014, a mere three days following his retirement from professional baseball, Derek Jeter became the founding publisher of The Player’s Tribune.  In the ‘About’ section of his website, the mission of the Tribune is to “provide athletes with a platform to connect directly with their fans, in their own words,” in order to “provide unique insight into the daily sports conversation.”

Since then, the website has given athletes to give first-person narratives and uncensored content to be published directly to the website.

“[However] it doesn’t stop us from doing our job,” Steele said.  “With Kevin Durant, we still wanted to know what his contract was going to be [and] how long.”

This has consequently given athletes an outlet to break news about themselves, as several have already done.  Kevin Durant wasn’t the first to announce his free agency decision on The Player’s Tribune in 2016, Mike Conley announced he was signing the biggest contract in NBA history and return to the Memphis Grizzlies and Hassan Whiteside published that he would be resigning with the Miami Heat as well.

Kobe Bryant, David Ortiz and Steve Nash all announced their retirements on the site, but in addition to the personal articles, The Player’s Tribune also takes on hard-hitting editorials and opinion pieces.

Larry Sanders wrote on his decision to leave the NBA, Jose Bautista defended his bat flip in the 2015 ALDS, Andrew McCutchen discussed the troubles for low income families and the barriers in youth baseball and New York Liberty players Swin Cash, Essence Carson and Tanisha Wright tackled being female professional athletes along with race and gender barriers.

“I don’t think [the Tribune] is going to be a major deterrent for us in getting stories,” ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian said.  “It does worry me that other players would go to the Tribune rather than go to ESPN, they feel safe there.”

The opening of this unique medium for athletes takes on the ‘middle man,’ the sports media.  As much as the media prides themselves on factual and punctual information, a rouge organization will-willingly or not-ruin the reputation for the industry for a time (I’m looking at you Al Jazeera America).  Whether or not the athlete believes that they are being deceived or their words are being twisted, they now have another option when it comes to breaking news and unbelievable perspectives.  The athlete has a more accessible opportunity to be heard, and Derek Jeter banked in on the million-dollar idea.

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