"Political reporting is a lot like sports reporting. People are always looking for the controversy. To stir stuff up, cause that's clickbait. Most people don't think that way." – @BarackObama #ManningCast pic.twitter.com/x29Olw6E9G
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) October 25, 2022
“Obviously, in the country right now, sometimes people get sick and tired of politics because there’s so much yacking and bickering. Political reporting is a lot like sports reporting,” the former president explained during the ManningCast. “People are always looking for the controversy, to stir stuff up, ’cause that’s clickbait. It attracts attention.
“Most people don’t think that way. Most people are just trying to figure out how to do right by my family, on the job. And when we don’t participate, then we leave it to folks whose business it is to divide,” Obama continued before promoting IWillVote.com to encourage voter turnout.
Obama is correct in claiming controversy and clickbait attracts attention, which is why sports and political media will both craft headlines to generate interest in hopes of recruiting clicks. But while there is some truth on Obama’s statement, there is also plenty of overlooked hyperbole in comparing sports media with the political press.
In recent months, Obama has hit the campaign trail and warned the public about disinformation caused partially by the loss of local journalism, claiming it’s weakening the country’s democracy.
Although sports media can still be clickbait, it separates itself from the fourth estate in its ability to deal with facts. Sports features less disinformation thanks to tangible stats and scoreboards that are not questioned. The Bears beat the Patriots 33-14 on Monday Night Football, and everyone in sports media will agree that is a fact. Even when politics features a scoreboard such as an election result, a portion of the news media will refuse to accept it as fact.
One side of political media will claim climate change is not real while another will argue climate catastrophe is just a decade away. Imagine if sports media operated similarly? ‘Who is better, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? Well, Manning is better because Tom Brady has not won a Super Bowl.’ As ridiculous as sports debate shows can be at times, they still don’t stoop to the low levels of political media.
Sports talking heads can tirelessly debate Michael Jordan vs LeBron James or whether Tom Brady is the greatest of all time, but neither side will question their stats or ring totals. Political and news media will continue struggle to have reasonable discussions until they can agree on the set of facts needed to have a productive debate.