He also sees Alex Rodriguez as a unique case, because the Yankees third baseman is a New York celebrity who has crossed over beyond sports.
"A-Rod is no different than an actor or actress in Los Angeles," Melchior said. "Boston and New York are very unique marketplaces for sports and the media. Sports is a lifestyle in New York and Boston, and it's not in L.A. or Miami."
Even so, Melchior notes that the New York tabloids (specifically The New York Post) broke the story of Rodriguez spending time with a stripper in Toronto. The blogs just followed the story where the tabloids took it.
So where is this going? Melchior doesn't think we're far from the day when cameras are peeking into athletes' homes with the same regularity that they are outside those of actors and actresses.
He sees several possible triggers:
How can a mainstream sports journalist compete in this changing environment, without compromising his personal ethics?
Shaun Powell, a long-time sports columnist for New York Newsday, is trying to abide by the same not-so-simple rule. He draws the line at whether an off-the-field issue relates to an athlete's performance or team chemistry.
But how do you know? That's the trick. Powell acknowledges that "with the A-Rod situation, he actually played good baseball" while dealing with adultery rumors and facing a divorce. Powell said he never has felt direct pressure from editors to write about the lurid details of an athlete's personal life. But he has felt a nudge to address such issues in a tasteful way, particularly if they have been reported elsewhere.
"If an athlete addresses it directly, and says 'This has been bothering me, and I am trying to fight through it,' then you have the green light," Powell said. "If he says no comment, then you don't. But no sensational splash. Touch upon it, address it and move on. I think I am going to remain a dinosaur. I still think there's an audience that doesn't want to read about it, doesn't care about it, and just wants nuts and bolts. I think there is room for everybody, for everything."
Melchior and those like him are still trying to carve out a larger place.
"Ninety-five percent of typical sports fans still think Chris Berman is cool," Melchior said of the pioneering ESPN broadcaster who has been widely mocked on the independent blogs, with the help of long-lost video that shows Berman acting unprofessionally. "That means we're not out there yet."
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