Reporter Britt McHenry was just suspended from ESPN for one week after her temper tantrum against a tow truck cashier went viral. The real story here isn’t that she lost her cool or even that she acted like she was auditioning to be the blonde Heather from the movie Heathers. The story is about perspective, and how much a reporter’s perspective affects the news that they deliver. We have all been in a situation where we want to explode when our car gets towed or some other inconvenience hits. It ruins your day. But everyone knows the cashier didn’t tow your car–and yelling at her is like yelling at the ball boy when the line judge makes a call against you. As my dad loves to say that’s Bush League stuff, purely amateur.
If Britt McHenry doesn’t understand that, how can we trust her professional perspective while she is reporting on what she hears in a locker room? Well according to Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden, we can’t! Back in November Britt McHenry reported that quarterback RGIII had lost control of the team locker room. McHenry said that as RGIII tried to address his team and the media, boisterous yelling forced the cowed QB to move to another room. But many sources, including Gruden, said McHenry completely misread the situation: the yelling wasn’t directed at RGIII. But doesn’t a reporter rely on judgment and knowing what’s what? Clearly the more negative/controversial perspective grabs more headlines and more clicks, accurate or not. ESPN will keep parading out the Stephen A. Smith or the Skip Bayless perspective until they cross the line and then they will be suspended for a week or two. As for Britt McHenry, the ironic thing is her unprofessional temper tantrum aimed at the wrong person may end up being the best career move she ever made.