Happy Friday to you, followers. Hope you had a great “Signing Day” week.
Today, I provide my quasi-wrap up of the 2012 recruiting cycle by offering a counter-punch to Longball’s Tebow awards from a few week’s back. So, if you want to check out who wins this year’s coveted Zenger award, then click on the old Jumperoo...
Followers, because our relationship together spans many, many moons..
you can all be comforted by the fact that I know you in the true cosmic sense of the word.
And because I know you all so darn well, I know what you are thinking at this very moment…
Right now, you are thinking and wondering… “What the hell is a Zenger?”
Of course, a Zenger, is not a “what..”
A Zenger is a “who.”
And so, if you are wondering “who” a Zenger truly is, then your answer is as follows:
- John Peter Zenger published the New York Weekly Journal in the 1700s. He wrote unflattering things about the British government, and in 1735 he was arrested and tried for libel. He was found not guilty, since what he wrote was based on fact. His case not only helped influence the American Revolution, but established one of the litmus tests for libel.
So, there you have it. A Zenger represents a reporter so committed to reporting the “truth” that she or he will risk persecution in order to serve the greater profession of journalism (not to mention the public good.)
Now, why are we issuing the Zenger today?????
Well, because after following Twitter for too many hours over the past week or so, I have become increasingly troubled about the status of sports journalism and its status as legitimate part of the journalism profession. And while I do not have the time to raise this concern in a coherent (or potentially responsible) fashion, I’m going to proceed like I always do:
I'm going to embark on a widly tangential rant by way of a 31,000 word manifesto!!!!
And the target of today’s rant is directed at a few choice people.
I start first with my good friend and pseudo-colleague, Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee.
Now, before I use Joe Davidson as a means of furthering my own idiocy, I think it's important to provide a bit of context. And the context is this:
I lived in the greater Sacka-tomatoes area for nearly 15 years. And throughout the time of my residence there, I was a faithful subscriber of the Sacramento Bee.
And, as a part of being a reader of that paper for over a decade, I’ve become pretty familiar with Mr. Davidson’s work. And let me say this about Joe (and high school beats in general):
- As a former "great high school athlete," nothing is more exciting than waking up at 6:00am on weekdays or weekends to see if your name got in the paper. And truly, given that 99% of the high school sports population never receives notoriety at the college or pro level, having the opportunity to get a bit of ink is a wonderful fixture of growing up. And Joe has always done a really nice job of providing kids and their families with a high level of coverage.
- Joe has used his platform at the Bee to create opportunities for kids who would not get those opportunities were it not for his writings and advocacy. What I mean by that is as follows: Joe has done a good job of highlighting kids who have been overlooked by major schools and has been instrumental in giving them sufficient exposure to get a second or third look from the big boys, and in some cases, getting them into JC’s. And if you know about the characteristics of many communities around Sacto (e.g., they’re struggling!), you know that those efforts create positive pathways for kids and families who really need it.
- Joe and the editors at the Sacramento Bee were VERY supportive of Paul Wulff. In fact, there were more features and blips about Wulff and the Cougs then there were about CAL and Stanford dating up to last year (2010 season). So, there’s that too.
So, now that everyone knows that I don’t have a personal vendetta about Joe or the Bee, let’s proceed with "the facts:"
On Sunday, Joe served as MC for 5-Star recruit Arik Armstead’s announcement ceremony at his church—the same ceremony where Arik made the decision to attend the University of Oregon. Within seconds of the announcement, Joe tweeted Armstead’s decision and then issued a story on the Sac Bee’s website shortly thereafter. “Big deal,” right?
Over the next two hours, Mr. Davidson tweeted his own story multiple times. By the time that he had tweeted his work for the 5th (or was it 10th?) time in a few hours, I started to think, “Hmmmmm.” (and yes, for me, that is a deep thought).
Two hours after "breaking" the initial story, Joe started to re-tweet messages from followers lauding him for his incredible work reporting "the news."
(Keep in mind now that Joe wasn’t just “covering” the news, he was actually MC’ing the kids announcement ceremony.)
Fast forward to Monday morning, Mr. Davidson woke up at some early hour and by 7:00am he’s back at it, re-tweeting seemingly every positive bit of feedback given to him by the cyber-universe. And included in his re-tweet was a comment by a fellow reporter—the venerable Marcos Breton—
who characterized Mr. Davidson as "the Obi-Wan Kenobi" of sports journalism--presumably based on his “coverage” of Armstead's announcement.
Mind you, at this point, I’m starting to get a bit appalled by Mr. Davidson’s repeated attempts to put himself at the center of a story that: (a) Was clearly not about him; and (b) Represented the lowest hanging fruit of all time…
And so, in true idiot fashion, I decided to voice my displeasure regarding his apperant megalomania by tweeting him the following Tweetage:
Of course, Joe's response to my tweet was a hearty “Thanks, Mom” and then he immediately proceeded to go back to re-tweet another 5 compliments of his work. Then, within moments of Joe thanking his "mother," (ME) the venerable Marcos Breton issued the following statement on Twitter:
MarcosBreton Marcos Breton
(Retweeted by CougSutra)
Mind you, Mr. Breton was half-right in calling me a Bozo (he should have referred to me as “Mr.” Bozo).
But what really bothered me was the “If you don’t like it , don’t read it” response.
You see, Marcos Breton made a name for himself because of his pretty amazing coverage of Latino immigrants, including professional sports players. At the heart of Breton’s work has been a penetrating societal critique. In this sense, Breton hasn’t just penned his stories to say “Hey, if you don’t like the existing market, go find another one. (even if its the best or only one in town)"
Instead, Breton's work has effectively communicated the following, “Hey, there are some things that are really wrong out there that deserve to be changed. But, for these wrongs to be addressed, journalism must offer a critique powerful enough to elicit the public's imagination.”
And truly, I always liked much of Breton’s work because that’s what good journalism does: It describes issues and events in ways that enable regular folks to think more deeply about them.
And so we get back to Mr. Davidson and the world of recruiting...
You see, in a subsequent story, Davidson noted that Armstead chose Oregon, in part, because Oregon represented the only football program that “stayed clean and positive” throughout the recruiting process.
Of course, I can’t tell you what exactly Arik meant by that because there was no follow-up. Instead, the conclusion offered by Davidson centered on Armstead’s “high character”…As in, “In all my MY years, I have not seen more high character guys than Shaq and Armstead.” (I am paraphrasing here, but not by much….)
So, while Davidson knew that the schools recruiting Armstead had spent sometime in the gutter, Davidson provided the reader with no understanding about (a) The gutter or its features; (b) The people playing in the gutter; (c) The implications such gutter games pose for first-generation college students and their families; (d) The implications that such alleged gutter games have for institutions of higher education and their paid agents.
Instead what we got was (a) Information without much context or analysis; (b) Self-congratulations about being the first to report news on an event in which the “reporter” presided.
Now, I ask you:
What is the difference between the reporting and management of said events and being a paid fan or Paparazzi?
What is the difference between the type of coverage we saw generally during the recruiting process (e.g. "I’m hearing that Dozier is leaning to….") and what we would read on TMZ.com, Hola!, or In-Touch magazine if the subject were other types of celebreties?
But wait, there's STILL more...
In the face of criticism on Wednesday night, the Spokesman-Review’s Christian Caple responded to a negative tweet by telling an un-named Tweeter to quit following him if he didn't like his content. Moments later, Ian Furness re-tweeted the same message with near thunderous gusto.....As in, "If you don't like the way that I report the news, then maybe you aren't entitled to it.."
You see, I happen to believe that the key to a vibrant democracy is a Free Press, one that channels the example of Zenger by being staunchly critical of the government, mainstream institutions, and business pratices, if for no other reason to guard against corruption, malfeasance and the creation of tyranny. And, frankly, I find it loathsome when government officials or business leaders think that they can dodge tough questions and, in turn, not allow the press (and in turn the public) to hold them accountable.
What's more, just like it is the responsibility of the press to question and report on the happenings of "the establishment," it is equally important for the public to freely question and/or challenge the press. After all, there are few things more representative of tyranny and corruption than a press that doesn't ask or report on tough questions, be it because they are too partisan to ask the right set of questions; afraid of being alienated by their sources; or simply afraid of hurting a decaying business model (such as the newspaper).
And so to all you journalists out there who still value your profession, please join me, if for but a moment, and perform a (self) gut check regarding your performance re: your profession’s primary values. That is, do you believe that?:
- Stories should be written about people, issues, and events; they should NOT be about the reporter.
- A free and vibrant press should include a critique of the very people and institutions that represent the primary sources/interests of the journalist and her/his sources/associates.
- Receiving critique of your work from the public is a part of having a responsive, accountable press as well as a democratic society.
And if not, then what does sports journalism stand for these days?
So, with that all in mind, I hope that the next wave of “recruiting stories” from JOURNALISTS in 2012-2013 are more Pulitzer-like than Paparazzi worthy. I hope to see more critical analyses of recruiting and its implications for sports as big business during a time in which public higher education is dying on the vine. And third, well, I hope to see, well, um.....I can't remember the third thing..OOPS.
Anyhow, with that Cavalier spirit in mind, the 2012 Zenger goes to Ted Miller who brilliantly promotes AND critiques the industry that feeds him 360 odd days a year!!!!
So to Ted we say, "Congrats man," this Zenger’s truly for you.......
And to Bobby Condotta, Bud Withers, and our dear friend Vince Grippi, congrats on being nominated by our Executive Board.
But to Joe, I can only say: “Say it Aint So, Joe!”
Say it Ain't So!
Enough for today...Back to my meds...
Just back from Night with the Cougs. First things first. CML said that Sam Jones will be a DL, He also said Austin impressed him not only with his accuracy but with the fact he checked at the line so much. He had long conversations with his dad, the coach, about that. Our Dline coach is INTENSE. I tried to talk to him about Coug Nation and he lectured me about stepping up. Coach Simmons is WAYYY better than tosh bag, he was non stop texting 2013 recruits. I tried pinning coach Breske down on scheme and he just said let's just have fun. If I can figure out how to send pics I will try to send for posting with explination (help requested) tomorrow. Moos is every bit the salesman advertised and more
If you can't figure out how to get pictures off your phone, we can figure that out via e-mail...I'll try to get things up on the site tomorrow!
Looking forward to it...
You know Sutra, it's people like you, who waste so much of your lives writing long/obtuse/interesting blog articles for no money, just so we have something to argue about, that make life so much fun!
@WallaCoug Love the Walla rants...Its one of the things that keeps me going...
Mind you, there is no way to capture all of the nuances of a profession in a single post. And, as you all know, I am no journalist.
But part of what is missing today is a balance between straight up "reporting" and writing editorials.
Personally, I believe that the best journalism does inform and illuminate and it does help us think more deeply about issues. But it doesn't do so through biased reporting, but by providing layers of context through the inclusion of diverse sources and diverse source material.
Journalists who don't do the legwork to get a VARIETY of sources or who are too cautious about t'ing-off the sources they have, can't paint those portraits. So, they either provide scant analysis or they deliver ideology/dogma.
I'm going to ask Vince if he'll do a guest post on the subject. He never will, but its worth asking...
I am split as to how much I agree with you.
that nearly all "journalists" today try to be as important as the story. Hey, fame gets you money. Anonymous AP journalists don't.
that journalists need to be critical viewers.
that journalists should try to "describe issues and events in ways that enable regular folks to think more deeply about them." That is generally code for slant things to persuade to my side of an issue or leave out arguments for the opposite side. Also, it's condescending to "regular folks" who are apparently the vast majority (in your/journalists' minds) who are to stupid to make opinions if given "just the facts ma'am". This is one of the biggest detriments of modern journalism in my mind.
Also, another note of slight disagreement: your definition of whom the media should be critical of should include more than just government and business leaders, but also many other groups who are far from innocuous and hold great sway. That would be unions (yes I am a teacher), environmental advocacy groups, I'm sure you would add churches--although I think we already get criticized/scrutinized like crazy, shoot--let's just say all highly-funded advocacy groups. Agree?
That said, I don't mind the slant SO LONG AS IT IS NOT PORTRAYED AS NEUTRAL. Report on the story. Just let me know what you support and where you are coming from. Any reporter, no matter how neutral they try to be will slant stories to their point of view. Why? Because they don't really understand why other people would choose the other side. They may understand some arguments for it, but they don't believe the arguments don't hold water. They don't hang around those people. They don't have the same life experiences as people from the opposite side of the argument, whatever it be. A reporter filters the facts and presents what is in his mind the salient ones, arranging the most important and/or attention grabbing facts at the beginning. Undoubtedly, what he believes are most important, differs from what a reporter on the opposite side of an issue believes are most important.
A good example is Mitt Romney's latest gaffe. Lefties most noted that Romney said that he didn't care about the poor. And whether he meant it that way or not, the quote would be a major problem with the American people to believe or even just say in any context "I don't care about the poor."
Those on the right, looked on the statement also with horror, but from a totally different perspective. They focused on the follow-up statement, "They (the poor) have a safety net. If it's broken, we can patch it." To conservatives, the safety net is the problem. It is more of a trap than a net. Once you're in it, it does not let you go, but makes you dependent, makes you less desperate for a job and self-reliance. Enslaves you to a government check or food stamp card for sustenance. It destroys the desire for liberty and the individual. Not to mention the fact, a key conservative idea is to stop spending and shrink the debt, and "patching a safety net" does just the opposite.
Both sides could be fair here, yet they have different perspectives, and report on different things.
@WallaCoug As am I, hence in my feeble attempt at proving objectivity I included a conservative in the putting the example of putting one's self before the story! I know that Mr. Limbaugh illustrates through the absurdity!
I've always been of the opinion that "sports journalism" is an oxymoron, but some peeps like Ted are definitely trying to make that not so. Good on him for that. The Pac-12 is very well served indeed.
Ok, so first of all... I am in charge of the History lessons around here. Quit treading in my pumpkin patch, Sutra!
Very good piece. I find it ironic that it is posted on a site that rotinely blocks people (myself included) you make comments critical of articles that have been posted here in the past.
@WestsideCoug If they blocked people, I think I would have been blocked long ago.
@WestsideCougAhh, I don't think so my friend. We aren't pretentious enough in these parts to do such a thing..
@WestsideCoug Can we even block people? I feel completely comfortable saying that we have never "blocked" anyone and we never will.Technically, we block the Kahn by physically restraining him in a small space without internet access. This is not a policy we can apply to most readers.
@WestsideCoug Honestly, we have never banned a soul and I don't think we would know how to do it if we wanted to! If you have had login problems to the site or something like that, definitely let us know because that shouldn't be happening. I know the spam filter is pretty strong (hence the reality of not having Ugg boot ads!) so maybe your IP showed up on list? Anyway, we don't do that here. Comment away!
@WestsideCoug That's not us, Westside. You're referring to another site. The only one who has been blocked from this site is me and the Cougla Khan.
@WestsideCoug Actually, the fact that we don't block anybody represents our best--and perhaps only--redeeming quality.
No a non related note, who is going to Night with the Cougars in Tri cities? I will be there stalking CML and Moos. I promise to tweet any breaking rumors and mention how awesome I am. NOT! I will try and get pictures though.
I will limit my animus on the Fourth Estate because if I don't I will crash the penguin site by the length of my vitriol. The complete abandonment of double sourcing in favor "breaking" news is only the beginning of the problems facing informative and unbiased reporting today. The line between reporting and editorial pieces has not just been blurred by most but has all but vanished. I like a little bit of personality in articles but it seems now that if a reporter is questioned he takes it as an attack and responds like it recess in third grade. From Dan Rather to Rush Limbaugh, the inability to separate one's self from the story means that the end result is not news but is instead nothing more than self aggrandizing and a rush to be first, not right. On forums like this blog that is what we expect, in a published and "professional" platform it is unacceptable. That said, in today's nanosecond response society we will have a hard time putting the Genie back in the bottle. It will fall to the individual to educate themselves and place a restraint on the desire for instant satisfaction.
@Stiffmiester BULLYA! Damn I wish that I could have condensed the post into a paragraph like this one. At least someone with a WSU degree is smart......
And Bravo to JD for not running from this post ( he re-tweeted it). Good for him and the Bee.
Good write-up Sutra, don't forget to Tweet about ten links to this amazing article today!I also get a kick out of the people on Twitter that critique opinion. One unnamed "Recruiting Expert" didn't like the way the way I said something after Dozier committed to Cal. My comments were not harsh and were reflective that I just don't try to lose sleep over a 17 year old kids decision. I was seemingly the only one who didn't bash the length of his "thank you speech," saying Dozier deserved his 20 minutes after all the heard work he has put in over the years. This asshat and others like him clearly think the only the way that's acceptable to think or say something is how they formulate it in their head. That's why USS Mariner is not deserving of a Zenger.
I love the Twitter Police.
So wait....In a post to give an award to Ted Miller, I don't actually get anything about why Ted Miller got the award outside of "who brilliantly promotes AND critiques the industry that feeds him 360 odd days a year!!!!"? I can't get any examples of how Ted Miller does such things, what in his writing exemplifies this? I appreciate that you really dislike how these other journalists are not living up to these expectations, but this reads like Ted is the girl you made out with to piss off the ex: The recipient was an after-thought to the anger over unmet expectations.
@Kirt FYI. This is Miller's Zenger winning performance: http://espn.go.com/blog/pac12/post/_/id/31703/after-all-the-talk-the-real-work-starts-for-graham
I'm not angry. I mean the only thing that could possibly make me angry is to wake up in the early morn to find somebody respond to my incoherent analysis with a healthy dose of thoughtfulness. How dare you!
Now the reason why Miller won the award? Well, good question. We gave it to him based on the way that he handled several recent bits of news, including ASU's coaching situation, Oregon's potential (non) mess, and so forth. We also thought about Withers due to his being 1,000 yards in front of everyone else re: Wulff and Leach.
I didn't provide examples because the piece already bored me to tears as is. Plus, its not that I didn't want to spend more time researching something that doesn't pay me a dime, its that I didn't want to spend more time researching something that doesn't pay me a dime.