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Making the right call

BACKSTORY | How writing about faith cost one sports reporter his job

Steve Eubanks Handout

Making the right call
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Steve Eubanks has spent the last 30 years as a sports journalist, covering college football and basketball, Major League Baseball, and golf. He never had an editor declare an interview topic off limits until last year. As Steve explains in his story, “Eyes on the prize,” in this issue, athletes are becoming increasingly bold about sharing their Christian faith. That pre­sents a problem for some news outlets.

Last year, you wrote a story for Global Golf Post about Amy Olson, who was playing in the U.S. Women’s Open while seven months pregnant. What did she tell you? When I asked Amy if she was surprised by the responses she’d gotten to qualifying, she said she was overjoyed by the positive reactions, but that she found irony in the fact that the previous year, when Roe v. Wade was overturned, outraged reporters came to her, an outspoken, pro-life Christian, for comment. A year later, almost to the day, reporters recognized that the child inside her was a baby, a human life. She went on to chronicle the challenges of being an outspoken Christian in professional sports.

I knew her comments would be controversial. They would also generate a lot of buzz. This was news. So, rather than editorialize or risk being accused of selective editing, I wrote the piece as a straight Q&A so that nothing she or I said could be taken out of context.

Your editor eventually said the interview could only run if you cut the allegedly offensive comments. You opted to quit rather than leave them out. Why did you take such a strong stand? The position was anti-news and anti-Christian, and I could not abide either. There are only two, maybe three times in your life when you’re faced with a clear, black-and-white moral choice where making the right call is going to cost you in a lasting and substantive way. The Lord tested me with this later in life. For that I feel blessed.

Based on your reporting for WORLD, Olson’s Christian beliefs are not an outlier among athletes. Have other sports reporters and news outlets been slow to pick up on this trend? They have, and I believe it’s because of an innate bias in newsrooms. Television producers roll their eyes at what they call “the Jesus plug,” when athletes profess their faith and give thanks after a game. Editors reflexively cut quotes about Christianity, ostensibly to keep from offending anyone. There’s an ironic blind spot to the fact that these edits might offend Christians.

Do you think sports news outlets will be forced, eventually, to cover faith more seriously? Yes. You can only ignore a big story for so long.

Leigh Jones

Leigh is features editor for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate who spent six years as a newspaper reporter in Texas before joining WORLD News Group. Leigh also co-wrote Infinite Monster: Courage, Hope, and Resurrection in the Face of One of America's Largest Hurricanes. She resides with her husband and daughter in Houston, Texas.


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