Monday, June 15, 2009

What Does Yav Know Anyway?

When TigerBlog used to cover high school sports back in the day, he used to be fascinated to hear comments about how this reporter hated that school or that reporter loved that coach and that's why the coverage was always so slanted. In reality, it was rarely true or even in some cases completely the opposite.

When TB made the jump from the newspaper to come here to TigerBlog HQ, he made it a point to reach out to the sports editors at the local papers he did not work at to ensure them that there would be no bias towards the paper he'd just left.

TigerBlog took one class in journalism in his life, back when he was either a sophomore or junior in high school. His memory of the class is pretty fuzzy, though he remembers a nice teacher who meant well and who ultimately didn't teach much practical journalism knowledge, save for the main point that journalists are supposed to be objective.

As an aside, most of what TB learned about journalism, he learned while working in the early 1980s at the Trenton Times, learned it from people like Bob Tennent and Harry Chaykun and Bruce Johnson and Jim Gauger and Rick Freeman and especially Harvey Yavener. Those six had about 100 years of newspaper experience by that point; it's a shame that the newspaper business has evolved to the point where most of those guys ended up taking buyouts.

Getting back to the today's point, the subject of objectivity is a fascinating one, and it has so many direct offshoots that apply to today's media.

TigerBlog knows first hand that by simply covering teams on a regular basis, you develop some sort of like or dislike for the team itself, the coaches, the players, their fans. It's natural. The key is supposed to be not showing that like or dislike pubicly in any way. It's a lesson not enough in the modern journalism field remember or learned in the first place.

Still, that's always been a part of writing. Today's issues go so far beyond that issue.

With the explosion of writers (sports, politics, anything) who have made the jump from newspapers or magazines to being on radio or television, another line has been crossed. For starters, there is Yav's message from 25 years ago: "the news is the news; your covering the news is not news." In other words, don't make yourself part of the story. Today, the most famous writers are the story.

TigerBlog took some degree of pride in being an anonymous face at games when he covered them. In fact, TB is pretty sure that Steve Tosches never knew who he was for the entire first season he covered Princeton football. There was something proper about that.

Now, you can't have a story about UConn's basketball coach's being discharged from the hospital without the accompanying "ESPN's Andy Katz reports that Jim Calhoun has left the hospital." Today, some of the most famous people in sports are not athletes or coaches but are instead media members.

Of course, this takes us to the subject of conflicts of interest. It used to be that you wrote for the newspaper and it came out every day and that was that. Now, you're on TV and the radio and write for a few websites in addition to your regular job.

Look at Mark Eckel of the Trenton Times, and lest you think we're about to pick on Mark, keep in mind that he's TigerBlog Jr.'s godfather. In addition to working at the Trenton Times, Mark is also on the radio several nights a week in Philadelphia and a contributor to numerous other sites. Suppose for a minute that Mark learns exclusively that, hypothetically, the Eagles are going to release Brian Westbrook (and they can do this before any game against the Giants that they want). Suppose it's 11 a.m. The paper is already out and isn't coming out against until the next day. Maybe he's going to be on the radio. Maybe he writes for a few football sites. What's his responsility now? He can't possibly hold it for the paper, because the world will know by then one way or another.

Actually, Mark is only tangentially with the paper still, as the Times, like most every other paper, has undergone restructuring. His day job now is as athletic director at Trenton Catholic Academy (formerly McCorristin High or, before that, St. Anthony's High). TCA has made two personnel moves since Mark took over, hiring a baseball coach and a soccer co-coach. Both of these stories got major space in the Trenton Times. Will all high school coaching moves do the same?

How does all this impact Princeton? Our main function used to be to assist other news outlets; now we are a news outlet, with and TigerBlog. This will only grow in the future as we develop more and more internal outlets for content.

What's our obligation now to the media? We want fans to come to our sites for information, for any number of reasons. Some is to control the message. Some is revenue driven, with an ability to show corporate sponsors the number of eyeballs that make it to our site.

TigerBlog remebers a picture taken during the 1994 Princeton-Dartmouth football game in Hanover. It showed David Patterson, the great Tiger linebacker, as he chased down a back through the snow flakes. It's definitely in the top 10 of Princeton pictures TB has ever seen (No. 1, of course, is the one of Mitch Henderson with his arms extended with a despondent Toby Bailey behind him after the 1996 Princeton-UCLA game).

TigerBlog wanted to use that picture on the cover of the 1995 football media guide, which he did. The first time TB saw the picture, though, his thought was that he didn't want another outlet to run the same picture before he had a chance to on his guide. Then he realized how silly that was, because here at TigerBlog HQ, we weren't competing with any other outlets.

How the times have changed.


Anonymous said...

How about posting that picture of Dave Patterson?

Princeton OAC said...

TigerBlog will find the picture and put it up in the next week or so. TB remembers that the sun was out when the game started and that the field was covered with snow by halftime. The game itself remains one of the wildest football games TB has ever seen.