You see stories all the time about professional athletes buying million-dollar homes. And oftentimes, those stories include details about the new property that could allow readers to draw conclusions in regard to its location. Rarely, though, do media outlets go ahead and publish the address of the home in question.
The Seattle Times did exactly that last week, reporting that Richard Sherman had purchased the $2.31 million home that used to belong to Jamal Mashburn in nearby Maple Valley, while including the address in said report.
Unsurprisingly, Sherman is pissed. From CBS Seattle:
Most of the outrage at the Seattle Times is coming from Sherman himself who says he is being bombarded with fans hanging out around his house wanting autographs — or wanting to just “hang out.” The attention has gotten so out of control that Sherman is now refusing to speak to the local press.
From a legal standpoint, this is kosher. In fact, property owners’ addresses are available to the public in that county. But what about from an ethical standpoint?
Common practice in journalism is to publish addresses within hard news stories on timely events. That’s why addresses are included in the majority of stories regarding homicides or domestic violence incidents that took place inside of homes or businesses.
But in those cases, technically, a reporter is passing on information that the public deserves to — and arguably should — know.
But with fluff stories like the one involving Sherman and his new home, the information is not pertinent. In fact, it has no value whatsoever to the story. And so not only is it bad journalism, it’s also bad etiquette.
Sometimes, we need the media to shine a light on something that is public record but would otherwise fly under the radar. But this wasn’t information the public needed, and by haphazardly exposing that info to a wider base of people (who now want to hang out at Richard Sherman’s house), the Seattle Times screwed up.
The media’s role is to represent the public and relay key information to the public. But in a poll at CBS Seattle, 83 percent of those people felt it was “sleazy of the Times to provide that information to a mass audience.”
That’s an indication you’re in the wrong.
Now, this will blow over. It’s actually quite easy to find out where most superstar athletes live, and most of them are left alone the vast majority of the time. Sherman is a hero in Seattle and Super Bowl fever hasn’t worn off. So when people inevitably stop camping out near his driveway, this story will die. But damage is already being done to the fifth estate in the Seattle sports world, so it would be smart for the Times to apologize in order to expedite the healing process.