April 19, 2024

This did not go as expected. And it didn’t go how it should have gone.

Basketball star Caitlin Clark, fresh off leading the University of Iowa to a spot in the national championship game in women’s college basketball, was the first overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever earlier this week. On Wednesday, she had her introductory news conference in Indianapolis with the local media. IndyStar sports columnist Gregg Doyel introduced himself in a way that has drawn massive criticism, and led to not one, but two apologies from Doyel.

Here’s what happened:

Doyel started his first question by saying, “Real quick, let me do this.” At that point, Doyel used his hands to form a heart sign — something that Clark often does on the court to her family.

Clark responded by saying, “You like that?”

Doyel said, “I like that you’re here. I like that you’re here.”

Then Clark responded by talking about the hand sign, saying, “I do that at my family after every game, so.”

Then it got creepier when Doyel said, “OK, well start doing that to me and we’ll get along just fine.”

Almost as soon as it happened, Doyel was crushed online. He was accused of being creepy, sexist and worse. He tweeted an apology, saying, “My comment afterward was clumsy and awkward. I sincerely apologize. Please know my heart (literally and figuratively) was well-intentioned. I will do better.”

Then he wrote a column, saying he was devastated to learn that he is “part of the problem” when it comes to covering women in sports. He wrote, “In my haste to be clever, to be familiar and welcoming (or so I thought), I offended Caitlin and her family. After going through denial, and then anger — I’m on the wrong side of this? Me??? — I now realize what I said and how I said it was wrong, wrong, wrong. I mean it was just wrong. Caitlin Clark, I’m so sorry.”

As a former sports columnist, I think I know what Doyel was trying to do. Local sports columnists try to have a somewhat familiar working relationship with the star athletes in town. Doyel was trying to rush the connection from introduction to familiarity.

But what do they say about the road to hell being paved with …?

Doyel badly bungled his introduction. He insulted Clark specifically and disrespected women in general. He has been publicly humiliated, and likely will have to wear this for a long time, if not the rest of his career. Some would say deservedly so. He did apologize — although some questioned that. Perhaps this can be a teaching moment for all who cover sports, particularly women in sports.

Veteran journalist Jemele Hill, who has spent much of her career covering sports, had a thoughtful response on X, writing, “This was a terrible moment for Gregg Doyel, a journalist I’ve known practically since I first started reporting professionally. Obviously something that never would have been said to a male athlete. I said this some time ago, but another upside of Caitlin Clark’s popularity is that it is going to finally force the sports media to grow up. Sports media has been extremely complicit in marginalizing and infantilizing women’s sports. A lot of the commentary and coverage is now coming from people who have little experience covering female athletes (not sure Doyel fits that category) — which is probably frustrating to the people who have been covering them for years.”

Media meddling

Jury selection Thursday in Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York was a bit messy, partly because of the media’s role.

Before 12 jurors were ultimately selected, two jurors were dismissed, including one because she expressed concerns after family members, friends and colleagues asked if she was a juror in the case. She said those close to her warned she could be identified, leading to harassment down the road.

The judge in the case had warned the media about revealing too much information regarding those in the jury and jury pool.

According to NBC News’ Adam Reiss and Dareh Gregorian, Judge Juan Merchan ordered the press not to report on various descriptions of the prospective jurors, including physical descriptions and their employment history — both current and former.

Merchan said “we just lost” what “probably would have been a very good juror for this case” because media reports described just enough about her that she might be able to be identified. Merchan said he has the “legal authority” to stop news outlets from reporting jurors’ information.

Several news outlets have been reporting various details about the potential jurors. The judge especially zeroed in on two questions on the jury questionnaire: “Who is your current employer?” and “Who was your prior employer?”

The New York Times’ Jesse McKinley, Kate Christobek and Matthew Haag wrote, “The judge conceded that the information about employers was necessary for lawyers to know. But he directed that those two answers be redacted from the transcript.”

Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Shayna Jacobs reported Trump’s team had been digging through old social media posts of potential jurors. They did so in search of any bias against the former president.

The Post wrote early Thursday (before the 12-person jury was selected), “Behind the scenes, Trump’s defense team is scrambling to find and review potential jurors’ social media accounts, and when they find ones critical of the former president and presumptive GOP presidential nominee, they are racing to show them to the judge to try to get those people dismissed. The turnaround time for such work is tight — lawyers on the case have been given lists of names of potential jurors, some of whom they have to start questioning in a matter of hours, according to a person familiar with the work, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal operations.”

Trump’s team has been trying to make a claim that they’re dealing with an unfair jury pool, and they believed it was a smart strategy to scour old social media writings. The Post wrote, “That is not a particularly novel strategy among wealthier defendants who can afford to pay for such work, but it is unique in that it is being applied in a case involving Trump, someone about whom millions of Americans have gossiped, joked, criticized and praised for years — meaning there is far more potential social media material for his lawyers to seize on.”

Here is more media news, tidbits and interesting links for your weekend review …

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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