I had an interesting chat with Stacey Woelfel, KOMU Columbia (Mo.) news director and the former chairman of the RTDNA, about Michael Sam. Sam is, of course, the star football player at the University of Missouri—which owns KOMU—who came out as homosexual on ESPN February 9. Sam told his Missouri teammates about his orientation last year, and it struck me that what was front page, bold face news in the major national outlets was not covered in the local media last year.
Woelfel says a couple of his reporters approached him last year about the news value of Sam coming out to his teammates, but Woelfel told them it did not merit investigation. "I said, I don't think it is [a story] if he did it privately," says Woelfel. "I'm not in the business of outing people—it's not part of my news approach."
It's interesting to see how Sam was left alone on that front by the local media; Woelfel says he does not believe the local sports blogs, some of which are quite rabid, broke the news of Sam's sexual orientation either. I thought of former Mets star Mike Piazza addressing the media in 2002 to state that he was not, in fact, gay. "I can't control what people think. I date women," Piazza said in the world's strangest press conference.
Woelfel cops to some frustration when the national outlets had the scoop—on something the Columbia, Mo. media had known for quite a while. "As a news person, you can't help but think, we got scooped on something we knew for a year," he says. "It's a gut reaction, but then the brain kicks in, you cogitate on it, and [realize], we passed on it for a reason."
Sam has mostly faded from the Columbia news rundown for the moment, but will dominate the local news cycle when the NFL combine kicks off Feb. 22, and when it is draft time. Alas, KOMU won't be attending the combine. "The NFL is pretty stingy with those credentials," says Woelfel.
Such is life in a non-NFL city market, he says.