I saw this Tweet, and the debate it caused, as I scrolled through social media before falling asleep tonight. In my head, I weighed what I learned in journalism classes over my four years at the University of South Carolina along with what I've learned since beginning my job in local news. I think SportsTalkSC majorly overstepped their responsibilities as a "radio network."
Let's start at the beginning. WIS, the NBC affiliate in Columbia (and sister station to my station in Myrtle Beach) tweeted this:
In the meantime, SportsTalkSC decided to quote this tweet and respond with the one at the top of this blog post. They continued to take shots at WIS by communicating with the station’s longtime main anchor. I’ll share some of those tweets as I continue explaining my stance on this issue.
Initially — here are my thoughts on the Tweet thanking A’ja Wilson:
1. If you are familiar with A’ja and her contributions to the Gamecock program, as most people in Columbia are, you understand this is something to celebrate. Thanking A’ja Wilson was a way to congratulate her on her outstanding time a Gamecock uniform. WIS was simply celebrating the career of a legend, just as they would celebrate Clemson football by congratulating them on their national championship (which I’m sure they did).
2. Yes. Journalism should be unbiased. WIS, although located in a very pro-Gamecock college town, still sends a sports reporter on the road with the Clemson Tigers every time the major sports programs are doing something great. They sent someone to Omaha for the Tigers' Sweet 16 game while sending someone else to Albany to cover the Gamecocks. However, unbiased journalism does not mean inhuman journalism. News anchors are people. News reporters are people. News producers are people. WIS doesn't take sides during the Carolina-Clemson rivalry because that would alienate viewers, but they always cheer for the hometown teams when playing other opponents, just as WLTX, WACH and WOLO do. Why isn't SportsTalk going after reporter Mike Uva for literally changing his name in his super when the Gamecocks played the University of Virginia?
,Judi Gatson, longtime anchor at WIS, is not a quiet Gamecock fan, especially when it comes to women's basketball. And guess what? That's okay. She gets to be a fan, and she also gets to be herself. She wouldn't be the success she is today if it wasn't for sharing her personality. That's what's so special about TV news. You connect with viewers. They welcome you into their home. Whether they spend 30 minutes, an hour, or 5 hours watching you each day, they feel like they know you personally. Heck -- I watched Judi for the four years I lived in Columbia, and I think she's the queen. So I'm in that group of people. Even though I've gone off on a bit of a tangent here, stick with me. Thanking A'ja Wilson was a way for the station, as a whole, to engage with their audience and share some personality.
3. Sticking with the topic of engagement - social media is still somewhat new territory, and it's changing the way stations engage with their viewers. Not only do people feel like they know their news anchors from watching them several hours a day, but they communicate with them on social media. Similar to my second argument, a post thanking A'ja Wilson was a way for WIS to engage their audience on a digital platform.
Anyway - there's my argument solely on thanking A'ja before I continue with this pettiness that ensued from SportsTalkSC. Queen Judi, who I previously mentioned, clapped back:
"You do you ... and we'll do us." A great way to put it, Judi. And basically the unspoken mantra of local news. You don't talk down about other media outlets on social media. Sure... you have your competition and you have reasons not to like them since you're fighting to be the best and fighting for viewers and yada yada yada, but hear me out. You don't troll each other on social media. It's just not cool. (If we're being honest here, SportsTalkSC isn't fighting for WIS' audience since it's a "radio network," but what happened is still wrong.) Despite your platform, we all have the same goals and aspirations: to provide good content for our audiences. SportsTalkSC - your policies and your opinions on how to report the news could be different from other outlets. Does that mean it's wrong to do anything else? No. It's not WRONG... it's DIFFERENT. And that's your problem here. You've publicly trolled a powerhouse TV station. In my opinion, you're major jerks here. Jerks that overstepped and hit Tweet before they should have. But instead of realizing you were a bully and deleting the Tweet... you made a thread. You continued to bully one of the top news stations in the state. You continued a petty argument with the main anchor, who individually has over 7,000 more followers on Twitter than your entire organization does. You've also tainted your own reputation by doing this on your organization's account. If your reporters or whoever else wanted to Tweet about this, I doubt it would get half the backlash you're getting. It's petty. It's wrong. It's sad.
After this topic blew up on Twitter, SportsTalkSC made another thread defending their posts. And this is where the argument, of whoever is behind the Twitter account, is completely lost on me:
"IN MY OPINION" -- let's emphasize that... "IN MY OPINION"
SportsTalkSC, as I continue to refer to you since it's the name of the account you're sharing your OPINION on, YOU are not a journalist in this context. If you want to dookie on WIS for THANKING A PLAYER and proceed to dedicate at least 12 tweets to the subject, rather than spending your time actually reporting the news, you're an opinion column. That's not news. You aren't sharing a letter to the editor. You aren't Tweeting on your personal account. You are quite literally trolling a news station and sharing your opinion while trying to validate that you're a better journalist than they are? Oh wait. You address that here:
They thanked A'ja Wilson. That's the extent of what you're criticizing. They didn't say "A'ja Wilson -- the greatest athlete in the state of South Carolina -- thank you." You're telling me... part of your job is to "offer opinions on the news and events in the sports world we cover." So, you're allowed to share your opinion but local news stations aren't? I think you need to look at things in context for others, just as you've done for yourself here.
End of rant. I can finally get some sleep just as my own television station begins their coverage for a new day. Goodnight, or rather good morning.
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Danielle Barilla is a graduate of the University of South Carolina currently living in Myrtle Beach where she works as a television news producer. As lover of game 7s and Olympic golds, she often roots for the underdog, which comes natural to her as a Charlotte sports fan. However, her New York/championship roots show through when she cheers for the Yankees. She loves binge watching sitcoms and teen dramas on Netflix, eating Asian food and getting too aggressive over SEC football.