Sports is full of unwritten rules… You don’t bunt late in the game to break up a no-hitter. You don’t run up the score or you pull your starters if you’re up big late. You kick the ball out of bounds to allow an injured soccer player a chance to catch his breath.

You won’t find any of them in any rulebook, yet, they are almost universally known by everyone with more than a passing interest in the sport.

The same can be said of the unwritten rules about the men and women who cover the sports that we watch.

You don’t interrupt the on-field post-game interview if it’s with the rights holder (otherwise you’ll be beaten by Holly Rowe). You don’t ask for autographs when you’re working press. (Actually, that’s written in several places, but also understood in all.)

And one of the trickiest ones… you don’t go “jock-sniffing” when you’re working.

And so we come to today’s kerfuffle when former Kansas City columnist and radio talk show host Jason Whitlock tweeted a picture of radio host Steven St. John and new Chiefs head coach, Andy Reid from this afternoon’s press conference. The context of the picture or how Whitlock got it are not clear, what is clear was Whitlock’s judgement of the picture as he preceeded the picture with “The Media…”

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Whitlock, here, implying that the media in Kansas City are jock-sniffing softies who might take their excitement about the Chiefs’ chances to turn their fortunes around more softly.
The dialogue on Twitter has included mid-day hosts on 610, Danny Parkins, Carrington Harrison, the feed of Whitlock and a slew of others. (Update: Carrington didn’t comment directly on the controversy, just that the photo below of him and Mizzou HC Pinkel existed.)
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What do I think about it? The picture, obviously, is probably a bad look for St. John, probably just for the timing of it. However, why can’t reporters have a healthy relationship with the people they cover? Why is this rule unwritten?

I did a quick search for reporters in google and came up with just about every news reporter who has gotten their photo taken with an influential member that they cover. It becomes a line for your resume. This one features some politicians named Reagan and Bush and some reporter named Cronkite yukking it up. Not sure what the fuss is here.

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Furthermore, technology may be to blame here, also. St. John didn’t tweet this photo out. He might’ve just gotten it for his own personal use. However, if more and more mobile phones automatically upload their pictures to online photo services like instagram, twitter or google+. If someone has subscribed to their feeds, you could see the photo, even though the taker hadn’t “sent” it.

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Regardless, it’s a little bit embarrassing for St. John, but hardly the end of the world. Tons of media have had their photos taken with head coaches, managers, etc. And it wouldn’t be the first time someone has broken an unwritten rule when posting photos of the media.

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