Sports reporting seems like the obvious antitheses to “fake news” and “gaslight reporting.” There are replays, statistics follow hard-and-fast algorithms, and biases are mostly rivalries or grudges.
But we treat athletes like celebrities, and with that objectification also comes gossip and constant rumors. While not the same as the current “fake news” debate, gossip is based in similar roots: people and writers with individual agendas producing content that runs counter to established fact or without reliable sourcing. For the sake of this post, we will define “fake news” as simply any news that is unfounded in its information and potentially biased in its sourcing.
FiveThirtyEight, the statistics website hosted by ESPN, posted this video analyzing the rise and existence of “fake news,” mainly through the lens of their language-analysis tracker and the user-generated “news aggregation” site Reddit.
This video specifically defines “fake news” as the ways readers can gather data and make their own conclusions about language and reporting trends, and does not make any directive about how readers should go about digesting or “combating” fake news.
As for ESPN itself, the site protects itself from spreading any heavy “rumors” by keeping speculations to their subscriber-only page Insider, as well as pages specifically labeled for rumors, such as this trade tracker.
Rumor-based posts are also easily noted by their use of vague “sources.”
The Chicago Bears have actively started seeking a trade partner for quarterback Jay Cutler. https://t.co/wq18DevdfP
— ESPN (@espn) February 22, 2017
On the whole, “fake news” in sports reporting or data journalism does not carry the same connotations as it would in, say, the front pages of the Boston Globe or Wall Street Journal. But for a style of writing almost entirely based in data analytics and visual replays, perhaps it’s all the more difficult to make conjectures and “alternative” news in the first place.