Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The New Sports Journalism?

In case you've been asleep for the past week, we hosted the first presidential debate here at Ole Miss. (Our motto: "The Debate Starts Here ... We Hope"). Since the hundreds of visiting journalists couldn't interview the people they really wanted to (namely, Obama and McCain) they turned to what has become a disturbing trend in journalism--interviewing each other. This is what passes for political journalism these days: you interview another journalist and get his/her opinion on what's going on. (The entire cable news system seems based on this premise, including Bill O'Reilly, Hannity and Colmes, etc.).

I make this comment because I see the same things going on in sports journalism. Reporters are now quoting other reporters, who got their information from other reporters, ad nausea. I read an article in today's New York Daily News written by John Harper. The article was clearly speculative--what Harper would do if he were the Mets general manager, which would include possibly dealing team stars Jose Reyes or David Wright.

A few minutes later I was over on the Sports Illustrated site when this headline caught my attention: "Mets Open to Trading Wright, Reyes?" The story was under the "Truth and Rumors" section, but it clearly suggested that the Mets were considering trading either or both players. (Interestingly, other New York papers, including the Post, wrote that trading either player would be a huge mistake).

The point here is that if you read just the SI story you would get the idea that the Mets were seriously considering a trade, when in fact, the entire story was based on pure speculation and may be completely groundless. As a columnist, it's Harper's job to speculate. The problem is that by picking up the story (and linking to it), SI gives it credibility. And that only adds more fuel to the growing fire surrounding the credibility of Internet journalism, where the credo seems to be, "If you throw enough dung against the wall, some of it will stick." (And if Reyes or Wright do ended up getting traded, defenders of this kind of journalism will invariably say, "See ... we were right!").

I suppose this kind of journalism in inevitable given the increased demand for content across growing numbers of media platforms. But I'm old fashioned enough to believe that journalists only report the news, they shouldn't and don't make it. Harper's readers clearly understand that his writing is opinion (and many were more than disturbed at his suggestions); passing it through cyberspace makes it more difficult to figure that out.


Blogger Unknown said...

The most media coverage of the election should be shifted to the 'sports' section of the newspaper. There's precious little substantive reporting of the sort that actually serves any civic purpose.
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