As the media landscape continuously evolves and changes, the concept of a Brand Journalist is particularly fascinating.
In the Denver sports landscape, these positions seem to have become particularly common as the Broncos have their own TV staff, a respected reporter who writes about the team, and a partnership with 9News (KUSA in Denver) who has an exclusive partnership with the team and employs a “Broncos Insider” who routinely breaks stories before reporters from other media outlets.
Andrew Mason is a well-respected reporter who lends his perspective on denverbroncos.com and hosts a talk-show on Orange & Blue 760, which is in partnership with the Broncos. Mike Klis spent decades in the newspaper industry and (probably wisely, given the industry’s current state) switched to 9News in recent years. He is a respected journalist, and considered the “Broncos Insider” but his objectivity has been called into question since he joined 9News, given the close relationship the station has with the Broncos. Klis’ tweets about the Broncos often contain some kind of positive spin.
The owners of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche also own Altitude TV and Altitude 950, which are dedicated to covering their sports properties. Their TV Nuggets pregame show and radio morning show feature Vic Lombardi, who spent 17 years as a sports anchor with CBS-4 (KCNC in Denver). Chris Dempsey is a long time newspaper reporter who appears on the Nuggets TV broadcasts and writes stories which can be seen on nuggets.com. Dempsey was the Nuggets beat writer for the Denver Post and also covered CU sports, in Boulder, for the Daily Camera.
Inside the athletic department at CU, Mark Johnson is the long-time radio play-by-play voice. He was once the Sports Director at 850 KOA in Denver, but became a full-time CU employee after iHeart Radio eliminated his position to cut costs. Neill Woelk is a contributing editor for cubuffs.com. I used to look forward to reading his perspective, for many years, in the Daily Camera.
All of these reporters and announcers I’ve mentioned are very professional and highly respected in their field. I’m sure when they initially decided to pursue a career in journalism they probably didn’t think they would end up working for the team (or institution) they are covering.
As a graduate journalism student at CU, we’re often taught that part of the role of the media is to represent the people and to hold public figures accountable. I would imagine it’s difficult to hold important people in sports accountable if they are your employers or co-workers. Now, they have to walk the tightrope between being a reporter and being a borderline spokesperson.
For the teams who employ these reporters, they receive solid coverage of their organization that will likely be somewhere between neutral and very positive. The reporters and announcers are probably happy they have stable (probably even fun) jobs in an era where newspapers are dissolving and other outlets are cutting costs.
Readers, viewers and listeners get news and analysis that can be informative and entertaining, but everyone should hope that journalistic entities who are not affiliated with these teams can find a way to monetize their operations and provide coverage that is not influenced or affected by the people or organizations they report about.