Black Friday. The origins of the name are unclear, but a general consensus seems to be that it refers to the day out of the year where retail businesses begin to operate “in the black” (turn a profit). Retailers from Amazon, to Gap, to Baby Gap, to Athleta, the women’s athletic clothing store owned by Gap, all offer large discounts and incentives to attract shoppers on the single largest shopping day of the year. On this most recent Black Friday, our good friends at Flotrack joined in on the fun.
Now, this isn’t meant to talk about the generosity of Flotrack’s Black Friday deal (buy an overpriced year of Flopro and we’ll send you a hat), or to talk about the cost of Flopro (again, overpriced). There will be opportunities in the future to talk about sponsored content, subscription vs pay per view, and economics based issues with Flopro. What really irked me about Flotrack’s Black Friday offerings was the copy that was written to advertise the “deal”.
Here’s the excerpt in question:
“From now until the end of of November, when you sign up for a yearly subscription of FloPRO – you receive a FREE Run Junkie hat! FREE.
These are the hats that you’ve seen on top professional athletes like Trayvon Bromell, Shalane Flanagan, Nick Symmonds, Emma Coburn and more! As well as some of your absolute favorite FloTrack celebrities.”
The issue here doesn’t come into play until the last sentence, and no it’s not the possibility that the Flotrack staff are Sith Lords (the only ones who deal in absolutes), but more of an issue with the term “Flotrack celebrities.” Specifically, re: what the hell does that even mean?
As far as a I can tell, which to be fair was only a quick perusal of the staff page for Flosports, Flotrack does not employ what the casual, or even die hard track fan would consider a “celebrity” by any stretch of the imagination. With that in mind, the only people seen wearing Run Junkie hats that aren’t athletes would be the members of the Flotrack staff. Through the power of deduction, it appears that they are the “Flotrack celebrities” mentioned in the ad.
There’s a pretty strong ongoing debate in this country as to what a celebrity actually is. How does someone attain that status? Can you be a celebrity just because you say you’re one (the Kardashian method)? I’m not going to argue whether or not the Flotrack writing staff are actually celebrities in my eyes (they are not), because what’s really important here is that “celebrities” is the distinction they give themselves.
Herein lies a large central issue: There is a glaring identity crisis at the heart of Flotrack’s coverage for the last 2+ years. They want the fame of being an authority on track and field and yet they fall dreadfully short of living up to what that means.
This is not to say that you can’t be a journalist and have some level of celebrity. There are several figures whose work in the field of journalism has earned them a substantial following: Anderson Cooper, Hunter S. Thompson and Barbara Walters are a few examples. When we think of these people we must consider that what made them who they were is that they earned their status in the public’s eye. The current staff at Flotrack wants the fame first, but why should they have it? Their coverage is awful, and their opinions are misguided. They add nothing to the current discussion of events in running outside of rephrasing and summarizing articles written by more credible sources. The lack of truly original news would be an issue to any news source, but they’re not a news source. They’re a group of self-congratulating clowns who believe that because they’re the ones visible in front of the camera, they’re more important than what they’re talking about. They are more concerned with music videos and pushing their own individual fame than they are with being correct. They want to attend meets and have the benefits of being “journalists” solely so that they’re seen there by others. Their first priority with announcing is to let you know how many people they can name rather than give any insight beyond a heat sheet or what your eyes can see. And guess what? That’s okay. They can be the loud voices drawing attention to themselves, but don’t call it journalism.
At the end of the day, Flotrack can call themselves celebrities. More so, they can call themselves whatever the they would like. Legally speaking, they are adults and this is a free country; however, they need to understand that being a public figure does not mean one is infallible, and it certainly does not mean that one is beyond criticism. If anything, it puts one on a larger platform where more often than not one will be receiving plenty of criticism.
Now, not all criticisms are correct or valid, but simply blocking out the mean voices because you are not fond of what is being said is to be petulant and unbecoming of what Flotrack claims to be. A large part of journalism is producing work that will be judged and criticized. Publishing anything is the submission of your work into the court of public opinion. You will not always be correct, but you do need to hold up some air of integrity. Blocking people on social media because they disagree with your views and claims does not help your case. Making tweets so obliviously offensive (including one about the 1985 Iowa State women’s cross country team) and then deleting them without even an apology does not help your case. If you will not own up to your mistakes, what credibility do you have? It would seem that Flotrack’s “celebrities” want the fame, but they don’t want the responsibilities that come with it.
So, Flotrack, go ahead and call yourselves celebrities, but if you want to be held up in the public eye you need to accept all that comes with it. If you want people to respect, admire, or even to just care about what you have to say, do something to earn it. Furthermore, if you want to be considered journalists, realize that the story is what you are covering, and not the fact that you’re the ones covering it. We hope that you will give it a try sometime, but excuse us if we won’t be holding our breath.