The tedium of trade week

17 October 2011

Written by: Jonathon Wilkinson

AFL’s trade period brings out the worst in journalists.

Leading up to this week, many predicted unprecedented player movement in numbers which the AFL had never seen.

Instead, the past seven days have played out in similar fashion to past trade weeks, hijacked by rampant speculation with very few trades being made.

So far we’ve had exclusive reports of player agents meeting up ‘for coffee’ with various football club officials (shock horror!), the huge revelation that the Western Bulldogs were putting Adam Cooney on the trade table (which turned out to be totally wrong) and a host of sub-par or untried players being handballed from club to club.

The noise surrounding trade week is largely fueled by player managers and the media. Managers often attempt to drum up hype about their players, with aim of increasing interest and inflating their value. On the other hand, trade week is a source of easy stories for journalists, who will squeeze out the very last AFL yarn before it fades into the back of the public’s conscience over summer.

During this week, phrases like ‘I’m hearing’ or ‘rumour has it’ have been thrown around as an excuse for journalists to peddle unfounded speculation and hearsay. However, past trade periods have taught us that once it’s all said and done many of these off handed remarks don’t come to fruition. After the hype of trade week the journalists that make these claims aren’t held accountable due to the short memories of readers.

It’s poor journalism, plain and simple.

Twitter only adds to the problem, enabling journalists to publish rumours with relatively little responsibility. The need to break news quickly has been intensified thanks to Twitter, which as prominent American sports journalist, Bill Simmons, says ‘blurs the line between reporting and postulating‘.

One only has to look back to the Twitter explosion at the time Ross Lyon replaced Mark Harvey. Every sports journalist in Australia was scrambling to tweet what they were ‘hearing’ or what their ‘sources were telling them’ to be the first to announce Fremantle’s new coach.

Sports journalism is just like any other form of journalism, and therefore should adhere to the same professional standards. Sports journalists must remember that breaking news is a by product of good journalism, not it’s sole purpose. Unfortunately, this week has confirmed that for many  journalists, breaking a juicy story has eclipsed sound journalism practice.

So far, with much being said and little being done, it seems ABC sports broadcaster, Gerard Whateley, was right in saying last Sunday morning on Offsiders, that trade week ‘is the greatest waste of oxygen on the sporting landscape’.

Jonathan Wilkinson is studying the Graduate Diploma of Journalism at La Trobe University and is the current deputy editor of upstart. You’ll find him on Twitter: @JonoWilkinson

This piece originally appeared here at backpagelead.com.au.