What’s the Point?

By Todd A. Smith

            What is newsworthy about leaking an athlete’s low Wonderlic test scores?  Reporters did it in 2006 with quarterback Vince Young and now history is repeating itself with defensive back Morris Claiborne from LSU.

            The Wonderlic is a test given by National Football League executives at the Draft Combine every year to test a football prospect’s cognitive abilities.  It is a series of fairly easy questions that examines how fast people think on the fly and it is “supposed” to translate to performance on the field.

            Nevertheless, Dan Marino reportedly scored 16 out of 50 and is arguably one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks.

            It has been reported that Claiborne’s Wonderlic test score was a four out of 50.  Such information should be kept confidential but was somehow leaked by a journalist who does not know the first thing about ethics and integrity.  According to ESPN.com, Pro Football Talk is credited with being the first to report this “development.”

            Claiborne’s agent Bus Cook said of his Wonderlic test scores: “I haven’t talked to anybody about it.  All I know is that [Claiborne] was from a complicated defensive system and he flourished in it.  I’ve never seen any sort of deficiency in him…And if it’s true, how does that get out?  I thought the commissioner was going to put safeguards on this information and there would be severe discipline if it ever did get out.”

            In actuality, severe penalties from the league are not enough when it comes to the leaking of low Wonderlic test scores.  Lawsuits for invasion of privacy are in order in my humble opinion, although we know no future millionaire is going to waste his time suing an unethical journalist.

            On the contrary, as a media professional I know how important the job of a journalist is.  We are often asked to report on uncomfortable situations for the betterment of society. 

We are taught that only when something is newsworthy and/or society is at danger are we to report on private matters of American citizens.  We are to refrain from disclosing an individual’s sexual behavior, health information, mental capacities and sometimes their legal history.

Often I tell young budding journalists to only tell someone’s sexual business, for example, if their sexual behavior puts children and women in any physical danger (i.e. rape or child molestation).  That information would indeed be newsworthy.

However, leaking a football player’s Wonderlic test scores does no benefit to society; it only embarrasses this young man in front all of America.  That information is only newsworthy to the NFL teams who are considering drafting him. 

Since when has embarrassing celebrities become the purpose of journalism?

America’s obsession with tabloid garbage leads “journalists,” and I use that term loosely, to think that bringing down people who are at the top of their profession is something to be proud of.  Unfortunately, in our culture it does sell newspapers and magazines and increase television ratings.

Business reasons not withstanding, it is time for journalists to return to an era when we were respected and added something of value to American culture. 

Furthermore, it does not take someone with high Wonderlic test scores to figure out that the garbage that is often published is detrimental to our culture, not beneficial.  

Smith is publisher of Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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