If you read this column regularly, hopefully you feel informed and entertained and presumably you have an interest in MMA matters beyond what goes on inside of a cage. A large part of that equation is monitoring how the MMA-media, promotions, and fighters interact with each other.
However, it is possible that these issues have never been more thoroughly examined than in the recently released “2017 MMA Journalism Report” conducted by the newly formed website MMAMediaWatch.com
According to their website, “MMA Media Watch is a media criticism and news publication featuring in-depth original reporting and commentary on the combat sports journalism industry.”
Essentially their aim seems to be to serve as the ultimate watchdog of the watchdogs.
They have made quite the initial splash with their survey of reportedly 89 active MMA journalists.
“The 2017 MMA Journalism Report” covers an extensive amount of contemporary industry issues, but is admittedly presented with very little context. Although they have added some further analysis on their website and claim that more will be done in the future.
Here is some context and analysis from an outside observer (me) after an initial reading of the report.
First off, some self-aggrandizement: MMATorch got 1.9 percent of the vote for “WHICH OUTLET PROVIDES THE BEST UNBIASED, ETHICAL JOURNALISM?” (tied for 8th with ESPN and two others). And the same total in “WHICH OUTLET FAILS TO DELIVER UNBIASED, ETHICAL JOURNALISM?” (tied for 8th with ESPN) So, I guess someone thinks we are doing something right and something wrong.
•Seventy-one percent of those surveyed do MMA journalism as a hobby: This explains so many of the issues that are often ascribed to MMA-media. Such a relatively new industry houses so many contributors that participate as a secondary focus. It is difficult to apply the highest ethical standards to something that does not pay the bills.
•Thirty percent have no formal training: Journalism is a unique field that does not require formal training, but it is rare to find a respected practitioner without some level of higher education training. One would be hard-pressed to find an ESPN staffer without any formal training. The value in journalism education comes from experience, not necessarily instruction. However, the modern participatory nature of digital media has changed the game. The niche that is MMA fits together with an untrained media.
•100 percent were fans prior to covering the sport: This may seem obvious, but it does illuminate some interesting aspects of the industry. All who are covering the sport have some sort of connection to MMA before becoming a media member. This is not universally that case in other media driplines. Not every political or business reporter has followed their respective beats prior to it being assigned to them. Furthermore, there is very little seamless placement into MMA journalism. While this is true of all of sports journalism, there are even fewer formal avenues for student MMA journalism.
•Just under two percent (1.9%) make over $150,000 per year: Whoever you are, your buying dinner if we ever meet!
•MMA Fighting voted most ethical and unbiased: This is not surprising, MMAFighting.com is unquestionably the king of MMA-media, but it is encouraging to see that professional jealousy has not clouded the perspective of the voters.
•FloCombat voted least unbiased and ethical: This is also not surprising, but receiving 43.8 percent of the vote is rather telling. FloCombat doubles as a fight promoter and media outlet. While their coverage is usually of high quality, it does have limitations. As a promoter, they are in a difficult place when it comes to addressing the deeper systemic issues within MMA. To their credit, FloCombat conducts a plethora of interviews with high profile fighters. The issue here is that those interviews often come across as public relations pieces. None of this should discount the quality of FloCombat, but the reader should be aware of what they are consuming.
•Twenty-three percent have been ordered to kill stories due to fear of promoter repercussion: This is perhaps the most unfortunate item in this report. So long that nothing reported is inaccurate or crosses a reasonable expectation of privacy, a reporter should not be impeded by a superior. Fear of reprisal should never be a concern for a journalist. Unfortunately, the power is currently in the hands of the promoters. The UFC’s proclivity to ban journalists who do not espouse their agenda puts editors in an undesirable position.
•Seventy-seven percent believe that there is a need for an MMA journalism association, but only 52 percent believe that it can actually happen: Much like the mythical fighter’s association, an MMA Journalism Association is hindered by a lack of collective action. The report gives several obtained quotes as to why attempts at organizing will fail. Ultimately, they boil down to the interest of the individual over the interest of the whole. This is an issue that gets raised publicly from time to time, but eventually fades. However, those who cover mainstream sports are afforded protections that MMA journalists would ultimately long to have. Unfortunately, it may be the case that serval high profile incidences must occur before unified action is taken.
Full PDC of the report: CLICK HERE
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: MEDIA & BUSINESS: Dana White’s dysfunctional dig for truth coming out of UFC 210 weekend
(Robert Vallejos writes a new Specialist column for MMATorch titled “Media & Business” focused on, you guessed it, the media coverage of MMA and the business side of MMA. He is fascinated by the presentation, business decisions, media strategy, and press coverage of both UFC and MMA as a whole, and will bring that curiosity to explore and delve into that side of MMA to his weekly Specialist column here at MMATorch. He explains his approach: “As a sport in its relative infancy, MMA does not receive the same level of scrutiny and informed analysis from the sports media as other more established entities. This is why it is vital for independent outlets such MMATorch to grow, while featuring a variety of voices. Unlike mainstream outlets, MMATorch is not beholden to any organization. Therefore I believe it is essential for individuals such as myself to explain not only the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’ of MMA.”)