Although USC popular culture characterizes the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism as one large sorority — whether you would like to be a part of it or not — it would be intellectually dishonest to paint the school as a cohesive sisterhood. Tucked away in this campus’s most bustling corner, you’ll find Wallis Annenberg Hall, the contentious home of two species in constant rivalry: the “annenbaddie” and the sports journalism bro.
I like to think of the “annenbaddie” as an Annenberg student’s innate form — only an Annenberg baddie could acquire their radiating glow, possess a signature style and, if not partial to femininity, at least have a deep admiration for it.
Undermining the straight men of Annenberg, my freshman year mind subconsciously created the imaginary sports journalism major. It took multiple conversations with friends, my mouth continuously agape, for me to believe there was no sports journalism major in Annenberg. The course of study was a figment of my imagination, created to rationalize the existence of straight men within our school.
While grieving the shattered idyllic and femme-centered Annenberg I crafted in my mind, I grew dismissive of the so-called sports journalism bros. Why are you, as a straight man, in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism? So distant from this demographic of people, I struggled to see them beyond their game rundowns and score tallies.
But after assessing my various annoyances with the film boys of the School of Cinematic Arts or the sickly-looking Timothée Chalamet wannabes of the Roski School of Art and Design, I was forced to critique my ideas of the sports journalism bro.
This process was accelerated by my growing resentment for the trend of straight men commodifying femininity to seem desirable to women, coupled with my “Real Housewives of Atlanta” addiction and, thus, an appreciation for Nene Leakes’ philosophy that straight men should at all times, “Stay outta women’s business.”
Suddenly, I had a newfound appreciation for the sports journalism bro’s voluntary exile. Their topical distance increasingly began to feel less threatening and more comforting. And, once I really started looking into the craft, I began to recognize sports journalists’ willingness to explore larger social discussions, even with an audience we wouldn’t necessarily assume is receptive to it.
From boycotts undertaken by entire teams, scathing tweets written by the likes of Lebron James or political connections made by sports anchors who aren’t afraid to broach serious topics, the sports journalism world is increasingly forced to confront the role of racial identity and discrimination on and off the field.
“We saw it, especially a lot over the last year, whether it’s boycotting games or whether it’s kneeling during the national anthem,” said Nathan Ackerman, a sports co-director at Annenberg Media. “Just using postgame interviews and press conferences as a platform to talk about social justice, racial inequality, things like that.”
Reagan Griffin Jr., editor at Annenberg Media’s “Black.” desk echoed the value of exploring racial politics and other hard-hitting topics through sports.
“My beat, you could call it, would be sports with a specific focus in the intersections of Blackness and other societal mechanisms,” Griffin said. “Whether that be politics, social justice, economics, that’s where my interest has been piqued as of late … how we can view the world around us within the context of sports?”
Many of these male sports enthusiasts were also critical about the absence of non-men — see: annenbaddies — from the fold of sports journalism, recognizing it is often due to long-standing barriers and not a lack of interest — me being the exception.
“Women have to assert their ethos more,” Griffin said. “[For example], the whole trope of the woman who likes sports is [she’s] always asked, ‘Oh, what sport do you like?’ There’s a lot more questioning.”
Both Ackerman and Griffin pointed toward the field’s reckoning with the framing of athletes as one of the most valuable conversations needed among reporters; not only because it evoked discourse on the potentially dehumanizing impacts of media — I’m looking at you TMZ — but also because it evoked discourse on racial biases. The phrases, “That guy’s an animal,” or “She’s not human” were especially on Griffin’s mind.
Despite his personal affinity for these broader topics, Griffin defended students who don’t cover stories under a large framework, such as those who simply show up to the basketball game for the recap. These students, he said, imbue USC with its prideful sports culture and carry on a legacy of intoxicating story-telling within sports journalism, invoking NBA analyst, TV personality and thriving Twitter meme, Stephen A. Smith, as an example of this ability.
“When you look at some of the most impactful stories of all time, a lot of them are just game stories,” Griffin said. “And the sort of eloquence that some people have — the gift that some people have for just painting the picture of what a game was — I think that’s something that is really enthralling for me.”
Considering these confrontations, conversations and narratives in the realm of sports journalism, it would be a disservice to the journalistic tradition to write off the sports journalism bro. When someone can write beautiful three-act prose about middle-aged men strolling along a golf range, how could we possibly not give them their kudos?
And, while the efforts toward upholding in-depth story-telling, or simply riling up USC’s audience are commendable, the real value in the sports journalism bro is his willingness to spark important discussions on humanity, gender and race in his own medium instead of imposing this burden onto the non-men in their newsroom. It’s certainly more comforting than adopting superficial symbols of femininity to signal their supposed deviation from toxic masculinity. What more could an annenbaddie ask for?
Disclaimer: Nathan Ackerman previously served on the Daily Trojan’s masthead.
Amina Niasse is a junior writing about USC stereotypes, archetypes and trends. She is also an A&E Editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Trojan Psyche,” runs every other Wednesday.