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Crossing the Line: The Relationship Between Fighters and Journalists

Crossing the Line: The Relationship Between Fighters and Journalists

A story being circulated around the newswire yesterday had to do with one of my peers in the pool of MMA media, Eric Holden, making a number of unprofessional comments to female fighters Stephanie Skinner and Cassie Robb via text/social networking. According to both women, who provided screenshots of the messages in question, Holden was overly sexual in their conversations. Meanwhile, he has maintained his comments were taken out of context and purely meant in a joking manner rather than as genuine flirtations/propositions.

Though the truth likely lies somewhere in-between, the reality is the nature of his conversations with the women was clearly far more casual than professional and definitely done in bad taste. However, in a business like journalism, having personal connections with the people involved in the industry being covered is an important part of the process. Though Holden took a bold step or three over the line by throwing the word “boner” into the mix and asking Skinner/Robb, a lesbian couple in addition to being fighters, about their thoughts on a threesome, where exactly does that invisible strip of appropriateness start and stop in less obvious situations?

Speaking for myself, I prefer to be friendly with Mixed Martial Artists but not friends with them. I treat them with due respect and humility, and I try to be personable, but I never want to feel compromised when it comes to reporting a story or offering up a well-deserved criticism. I also want the understanding to be mutual. One’s reputation is important in any line of work and even more so when it comes to being part of the MMA media based on the general perception of what we do.

That being said, I’m a realist, and I know we are all human beings at the end of the day. In that regard I can grasp the possibility of people with like minds, regardless of their professions, becoming platonically or romantically linked. I would be lying if I said I don’t quietly root for the occasional fighter I’ve interviewed or felt a tinge of sadness when they stumble, but that’s as far as I’d ever want it to go.

In the end, I believe the answer about “how far is too far” boils down to judgment and common sense. It shouldn’t be difficult to separate a conversation with a buddy at home over a few beers from one involving a relative stranger over an email change even if there’s some level of rapport. Without a basic filter in place credibility will quickly go out the door in the eyes of readers, peers, and potential employers, and little good can come of that.

  • MCM says:

    Interesting read Brendhan, although to be honest, I hadn’t heard anything about Eric Holden until this article. It brings up a lot of questions as to what constitutes a “Journalist” in MMA though. For instance what makes Eric Holden a Journalist as opposed to, as he puts it, some guy with a blog? At what point does Ariel Halwani become Dan Rather?
    Unlike traditional sports, MMA journalism is done mostly through the internet and social media and access to the biggest names in the game are relatively unfettered. As you’ve pointed out, this can create a situation where those that are supposed to hold a level of impartiality become too close to fighters and that can have an affect on both of their careers. The instance you noted above may be a simple case of unprofessionalism, but look at what happened between LazytheSavage from (blog or MMA news site?) and Nick Diaz when Nick walked out on Braulio Estima on their BJJ tournament.

    MMA came along at such a paradigm shift in information dissemination what with Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Mobile technologies etc. that a lot of the traditional norms of journalism have fallen by the wayside as the profession is flooded by those with little training but unprecedented access to both story and audience. It’s a brave new world for journalists in all fields these days and I applaud you for standing up and being a professional in a sea of amateurs.

  • MCM says:

    sorry for the ramble, it’s late and I have bourbon.

    BTW, I keep getting Error code 503 almost every time I click on a story.

  • AlphaOmega says:

    Ha MCM You had to say that you never got the code when I reported it, you jinxed yourself.

    I also agree with MCM, very good story and I agree with your policy, Brendhan, on keeping it friendly, but not personal, I think really that’s the safest for all.

  • MCM says:

    right? I should’ve kept my big mouth shut.


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