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Advice on an awkward situation

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Kytra, Apr 7, 2007.

  1. Kytra

    Kytra New Member

    This is someone you all have at least heard of who is posting under a different name. Information you need to know is I'm young and female.

    We have a semi-pro football team in our town, and I was doing a story on them this week. I was waiting for an interviewee to show up and was chatting with one of the other players who was there. We talked for a couple of minutes, and he said he'd like to get to know me better. I told him I'd be around for most of the season to chat with him, and he went "no, I mean, like talk talk."

    He asked for my cell phone, and I gave it to him because I was feeling kind of awkward and wanting the situation to go away. In retrospect, it wasn't the best decision in the world, but there's nothing I can do about it now.

    He's called twice (at least, I think it's him - it's a withheld number on my cell phone and he didn't leave a message), and I wasn't able to pick up either time. I'm wondering if I should at all.

    I really don't know the ground rules about talking to an athlete I might cover in a social setting. I'm not covering the team on a regular basis, but I may have to write feature/breaking news stories on them throughout the year if the need arises. He seems like a nice guy, but I'm really concerned about treading into ethically questionable grounds here.

  2. sportschick

    sportschick Active Member

    Personally, I'd stay away from social settings with him. Women are under a microscope in this industry, esp. when it comes to our away-from-work dealings with people with cover.

    I know it is just semi-pro, and the guys aren't getting paid to play. But you can't get your reputation back.
  3. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    1) Don't cover the team and go out with him.
    2) Cover the team and tell him you can't go out with him.
  4. Dan Rydell

    Dan Rydell Guest

    Too late now, but you shouldn't have given him your cell number. In that kind of situation, say no and ask for his instead. Keeps it cool and defuses the situation in a way he can handle.

    I would be careful here. Not good to date a guy whose team you're covering. Next time you see him, explain the conflict of interest here.

    If you want to date him, that's your call, but that might cause problems, at least while you're on the beat. If you don't want to date him, you have to make that clear.

    And if any problems arise out of that, don't keep it to yourself. Tell your sports editor and handle it from there.

    And remember, don't give your cell number out. Take the other person's instead. Always a safe bet with someone you don't know yet.

    Hope this helps. And good luck.
  5. JBHawkEye

    JBHawkEye Active Member

    What she said.

    It is best to be away from social settings from the people you cover. Sometimes, it's unavoidable. But if you can, avoid the situation.
  6. JBHawkEye

    JBHawkEye Active Member

    And, good luck with this.
  7. Kytra

    Kytra New Member

    Thanks guys.

    Just to clarify - I'm not the beat writer for the team. We have someone else on that. But everyone on staff is expected to chip in on stories on anything if the need arises, and I may have to cover them again this year. I just don't know yet.

    SC and JB - You're exactly right about the microscope.

    Dan - I didn't think of that about the cell number. Honestly, once he asked, I didn't want it to become a scene and attract attention. I should have done what you suggested, and I will if it ever happens again.

    I'm thinking the best situation is the next time I catch him in person, I'll explain the conflict of interest and apologize for not mentioning it the first time.
  8. Elliotte Friedman

    Elliotte Friedman Moderator Staff Member

    I had a long talk with a female reporter about this once. Real good-looking, bright woman who found it very difficult to meet a decent guy. I mean, she dated some real losers. (Not me, for all of you ready to whack the hanging curveball.)

    An athlete asked her out at a charity event. She said yes. I told her she was nuts, going to ruin her career, etc. We are good friends and had a long conversation about it.

    Her rationale: A lot of men were 1) intimidated that she knew more about sports than they did, 2) trying to test her about her knowledge like some assholes do (she actually had one guy come up to her and say, "If you answer this trivia question, I'll take you to dinner") or 3) just interested in dating a TV celebrity. She felt this athlete was a nice, decent guy and in good shape, which is what she was looking for, so why not? The fact he was a pro player was not the appealing thing to her.

    I told her that whatever the reason, if it got out, she'd be in trouble. She didn't care. Now, it didn't work out, but she was unapologetic about it. And I do believe that she wouldn't date just any athlete. This guy was/is a pretty upstanding citizen.

    So, I see how it can happen. I think the key thing here Kytra, is that you clearly aren't interested. Just explain to the guy that it's a bad idea professionally, and that's why it won't work. Like any relationship (or non-relationship), be honest.
  9. Kytra - let me try to be real with you.

    It is semi-pro football - so I'm imagining that the guy isn't making more than $70k and that the coverage in your paper is not "extensive' (maybe to be honest - the paper covers the team because the team advertises upcoming games on occasion).

    If you are covering said team - I'm assuming you aren't making major cake either (you could probably make just as much as a bartender at a nice restaurant in fewer hours).

    If you are attracted to this guy and he to you - date him.

    Its not rocket science and you are not committing some egregious mortal journalistic sin. Its your life and life and happiness come first.

    If you don't want to date him - don't use the conflict of interest as a cop out. Just be honest.

    Good luck and best wishes
  10. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

    What sportschick said.

    A good litmus test: If you were covering politics, would it be wise to see a politician you cover in a social setting? Absolutely not.

    Same with an athlete, especially with the, um, "openness" of the locker room banter.
  11. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Elliotte's friend makes some good points, but I don't see the situations as similar.

    Keep this one professional. You're early in your career and you never know how something like dating or even hanging out with a player/coach/admin/fellow sportswriter could come back to haunt you. This is a very small industry, and people move around all the time.

    I understand wanting to be smooth in an awkward situation, so you gave him your number. But don't talk to him socially. Especially if there's a chance you will be writing about his team. If he pursues it the next time you see him, explain that he's a nice guy but you want to maintain a professional standing.

    If he (or anyone you encounter in the course of business) is truly your soulmate, there will be plenty of time for that after you or he has moved on.
  12. If you really believe that - then you will probably end up all alone.

    After she has moved on because she finds that writing sports stories for a paper for peanuts isn't worth it? Is that the sort of "moved on" scenario you have pictured?

    Joseph Campbell once said "follow your bliss" and no truer career advice has yet been spoken.

    kytra - follow your bliss and your heart and all will be well. Screw what people think.
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