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With 8-word response, Zach Johnson delivered invaluable journalism lesson


Zach Johnson’s Sunday press convention on the Open reminded the sportswriting world of a invaluable lesson.

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It was the type of query you ceaselessly hear at press conferences. The type that always elicits brief, cliche-filled responses.

That’s largely as a result of the question was much less a query than it was a command — and those that voluntarily sit for question-and-answer classes may pretty anticipate that they are going to be…requested questions.

On Sunday afternoon on the Open Championship, the inquiry was directed at U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson, who had simply completed his fourth spherical and appeared getting ready to having the calculus of his roster modified by a shock main champion named Brian Harman.

“We don’t know precisely what’s going to occur this afternoon, however may you speak about Brian?

”Certain,” Johnson mentioned, not lacking a beat. ”Are you able to ask me some questions on Brian?”

It didn’t take lengthy for Johnson’s response to permeate Sports activities Twitter, the place garden-variety media cynicism and journalist-dunking are favourite pastimes. However the trolls weren’t alone of their criticism; journalists and journalism lecturers chimed in, too, maybe within the hopes of turning the alternate right into a teachable second for the following era of question-askers.

“My @Cronkite_ASU college students all know my biggest #journalism #interviewing pet peeve – the TALK ABOUT query,” tweeted Brett Kurland, assistant dean at Arizona State Unversity’s Walter Cronkite Faculty of Journalism & Mass Communication. 

“’Discuss’ questions make me cringe,” added Mike Wells, a journalism lecturer on the Media Faculty at Indiana College.

“Super reply to the worst journalist query ever … the “speak about,” wrote Nick Daschel, a sportswriter for The Oregonian.  

It’s unlikely Johnson was searching for to grow to be a journalism-school hero, nor do I feel he was attempting to show these reporters earlier than him any kind of lesson. Finest I can inform, he was merely being himself: powerful minded and confident, and unafraid of the occasional awkwardness that comes with these qualities.

In a handful of non-public interactions I’ve had with Johnson, together with a pair of interviews within the final a number of months, I all the time have discovered him blissful to speak. I’ve not, nevertheless, discovered him keen to be a quote-machine at my behest. Ask query? You’ll get an earnest, considerate reply. Ask a nasty one? You’ll get, effectively, a nasty reply.

As for the question-asker on this occasion, I sympathize with him. Whereas the ”speak about” is a capital offense within the skilled sportswriter’s handbook, I’ve additionally attended sufficient pressers to know that some questions simply should be requested, and it may be onerous to sound considerate with all of them.

Each sportswriter has a narrative of a query gone awry. I actually do. And whereas my expertise didn’t end in a social-media firestorm, it did end in a tail-between-legs stroll to the Augusta Nationwide media heart that nonetheless makes me cringe to consider. We’ve all been there — even these of us who wish to act like we haven’t.


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There aren’t any “unhealthy guys” on this state of affairs — simply two folks attempting to do their jobs. Errors occur, and on this career they (often) are usually not deadly. This episode additionally is an indication of a wholesome relationship between our topics and also you, our viewers. That’s an inherently good factor, notably after these previous couple of months.

These are unusual occasions for golf journalism. Participant relations with the media have proven frays within the wake of an unpleasant and divisive 12 months. In simply the previous couple of weeks, a gaggle of gamers staged a public condemnation of a columnist, and one participant, Lee Westwood, wrote a bit criticizing the tone of a golf outlet’s protection. Stars more and more are declining media availabilities all collectively — a mirrored image of each the chaos within the sport and a rising sense that the juice could not all the time be well worth the squeeze.

This isn’t true, after all. Many of the golf media does very good work, and the various sensible voices within the room deserve credit score for his or her honesty and integrity. However as those self same media members know all too effectively, it doesn’t take a lot B.S. to undo a complete lot of excellent.

One of the best path ahead? As I see it, it’s for golf journalists to attempt to make each participant availability worthwhile, each to our audiences and to the gamers themselves. Let earnest conversations and thoughtfulness rule, not the pursuit of an affordable quote or a headline.

Arduous questions should and ought to be requested, however let’s all pledge to verify they’re, you already know, precise questions.

The creator welcomes your ideas (and questions) at james.colgan@golf.com.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is a information and options editor at GOLF, writing tales for the web site and journal. He manages the Scorching Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and makes use of his on-camera expertise throughout the model’s platforms. Previous to becoming a member of GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse College, throughout which era he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Lengthy Island, the place he’s from. He may be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.

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