TENNIS MEDIA AND THE WTA

by Karen

Maybe its just me.  Maybe because I am a blogger who does this out of love of the sport why I become so affronted.  I don’t need clicks in order to pay the bills.  I don’t make my living from tweeting out headlines that make people want to read what I have written.  Maybe I grew up in an era where I have always respected journalists.  Real journalists.  People who went out and did their investigations and came back and reported on what they had investigated.  People who were not afraid to go after the movers and shakers.

As most people know I am from Jamaica.  During my early years I worked at one of the largest media houses in Jamaica, the Jamaica Gleaner.  That newspaper has been around since the 1800s.  I grew up reading articles by the great Wilmot Perkins, Morris Cargill, Dawn Ritch and many others.  These were journalists who had integrity.  I have to say that after reading those journalists, and ensuring that my little blog has some amount of integrity, I continue to be aghast at what passes for journalism in tennis circles.

Tennis journalism has always seemed to do whatever it feels like doing.  It exposes those that it does not like or care for (see Neil Harman) and it belittles what others are trying to build (see Melissa Isaacson’s article on the return of Serena Williams to Indian Wells) and covers up those that it considers a part of the fraternity (see the concealing of the name of the reporter who asked the ridiculous question about forgiveness at Serenas’ pre-tournament press conference).

Part of what contributed to the debacle of Indian Wells 14 years ago was led by the media and how it chose to report the story.  Durign the years when neither Venus or Serena played the BNP Paribas Open, journalists, some of whom can’t seem to afford a tournament ticket on their own dime lay in bed with the tournament and wrote nasty articles about the Williams Sisters. In this the year of Serenas’ return to Indian Wells, at a time when tennis is embarking on its own truth and reconciliation tour, here comes the most nonsensical set of questions asked to a player, done only to fuel speculation and create a dangerous rift between Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens.

It is disconcerting to me as a black woman that white tennis media continue to fan the flames, or try to stir animus between 2 black women.  It is disrespectful to both women and only continues the narrative that black women seek only to have battles amongst each other and cannot be colleagues who compete and are respectful of each other. 

If it was a case that tennis media, made up mostly of old white men, were really all about being good journalists who want the best for the sport, they would not hesitate to name the idiot amongst them who decided that a really good introduction to his question was to intimate, nay state unequivocally that “both sides” were to be blamed for the 2001 debacle of Indian Wells. 

I am disappointed in Sloane.  Truly disappointed.  On an occassion such as this where Serena Williams has been preaching forgiveness and striving to create her own narrative and for a player such as Sloane who has been struggling for going on a year to win matches, the response to the question about social media and her relationship (or lack of it) with Serena Williams should have begun and ended with the fact that she and Serena are colleagues. 

Social media can be a cruel place.  It is akin to schoolyard bullying.  As a blogger and fan of tennis, I too used to feel bullied when persons would subtweet me.  It is a nasty way of telling everyone that you are not important enough to be heard.  That was 5 years and a lifetime ago.  Today, I could give a shite whether anyone reads what I write.  After all, my life does not depend on it.  I am however very grateful that people follow me on Twitter and read my rantings.  I am grateful for the many social media friends that I have made via Twitter.  In this day and age when persons value themselves more about their social standing rather than their accomplishments, it is unfortuante that a player such as Sloane, a talented player and someone who many persons of colour expect to do well in her professional career, should feel the need to lash out during a press conference about those fans, and in particular fans who she believes are alleged Serena Williams fans.  

Tennis writers have a responsibility to not only provide those of us who do not have access to the sport in the way that they do that they give a true and honest representation of the sport.  Media in other sports provide context, information and do not resort to gutter reporting in order to generate interest.  Tennis is an interesting beloved sport.  The women of the WTA bring their own sense of intrigue in their matches.  They do not need journalists to craft a different narrative, especially when that narrative is about females behaving badly. 


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