‘Fake it till you make it’ might not be what they teach in journalism school, but Charissa Thompson has been forced to lean into the aphorism on live TV.
Sideline reporters have a tough job, they’re tasked with getting insight from players and coaches who usually don’t want to offer up any information. Thompson, however, has a trick for sideline reporters. If the coach isn’t giving you any useful information to repeat on a broadcast, just make something up.
Earlier this week, Thompson joined Barstool’s Dan Katz and PFT Commenter on Pardon My Take, and during the interview, she explained how to give a sideline report when you have nothing to report.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) November 16, 2023
“I’ve said this before,” Thompson noted. “I haven’t been fired to saying it, but I’ll say it again. I would make up the report sometimes, because A, the coach wouldn’t come out at halftime, or it was too late and I didn’t want to screw up the report. So I was like, ‘I’m just gonna make this up.’
“Because first of all, no coach is gonna get mad if I say, ‘Hey, we need to stop hurting ourselves, we need to be better on third down, we need to stop turning the ball over and do a better job of getting off the field.’ They’re not gonna correct me on that. So I’m like, it’s fine, I’ll just make up the report.”
As Thompson noted, she has discussed this before on her podcast with Erin Andrews. Nearly two years ago, Thompson and Andrews both admitted to taking liberties with some of their sideline reports. But while Thompson previously alluded to paraphrasing or embellishing what coaches told her, this time, she admitted unambiguously to completely making up a sideline report.
Is this a common practice for all sideline reporters? Most coaches don’t seem enthused with their in-game media obligations, so they probably don’t mind when Thompson or any other sideline reporter does the work for them. But what about the sideline reporters who haven’t had to make up a report? Do they like the fact that the audience will now wonder whether their reports are factual, fabricated, or wholly made up?
Don’t expect broadcast journalism schools to add a class on how to fake a report to their curriculum, but this only reaffirms how unnecessary most in-game interviews with coaches are. Occasionally, a coach might say something notable or emotional enough to garner the audience’s attention. But usually, the coachspeak they offer is generic enough that it can be predicted and curated by reporters.
Update: Amazon, where Thompson currently works as a host for Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football, responded to a request from Daniel Kaplan on if Thompson will address this on air with “She was telling a story from 15 years ago.” Thompson also apologized and attempted to clarify her remarks in an Instagram post on Friday morning.