Or do the so-called gatekeepers of the Fourth Estate get it wrong again and again and again? Look, we live in a far more open world where bloggers of any stripe – however few their readers – can attempt to set things straight when the mainstream news media messes up.
Not long ago that wasn’t the case.
That said, even in its much depleted state, there’s no denying that what one local blogger describes as “the dead tree media” is more than merely alive and kicking, it continues to rule local news roosts.
Sure the Kansas City Star and Lawrence Journal World are facing incredibly tough times on the financial front. However their readership and web traffic continues to dwarf the sum total of the the Top 10 area independent websites and blogs combined. So while there have been hundreds, closer to thousands, of employee layoffs and the newspaper’s “dead tree” product has been downsized to a startling degree, but if it wasn’t for their basic reporting (and sometimes dopey opinion pieces) what would local bloggers even have to talk and complain about?
The odd murder, kidnapping, robbery or TV news investigative piece?
Unfortunately, even with all the downsizing and tidal waves of red ink, the mainstream print media has been so busy playing “Dutch boy” at their leaky advertising dikes that they’ve yet to come to terms with the obvious reality that they need to put out a more street smart product.
There still just are too many limp wrested hangers on from the Golden Years of Newspaper Profits mailing it in and waiting for their Social Security checks.
I spoke with a local editor recently who acknowledged that the newspaper newsroom is still probably five or seven years away from being in a position to field an aggressive team of younger, edgier, more clued in reporters. That even with all the layoffs and retirements, there still are far too many Baby Boomer reporters and columnists holding back the evolution and progression of the Star into what management wants it to become.
That’s less the case at the Journal World where its problems have more to do with being lorded over by a good old boy publisher who inherited the newspaper and survives by hiring a revolving door of young, underpaid writers who are seldom there long enough to mature into experienced journalists before being forced by economics to move on in search of a decent paycheck.
Two examples in today’s newspaper offerings – while small in the scheme of things – illustrate the point.
The 13th ranked U.S.Mens soccer team played a brilliant game yesterday against 4th ranked Portugal, resulting in a 2-2 tie. And while many, if not most, American football, baseball and basketball fans consider a tie tantamount to a waste of their time, an increasingly large body of soccer fans here now understand the sport and recognize that a well played, see-saw game can be intensely exciting.
For example, I watched a thrilling Mexico-Brazil game last week that ended in a zero-zero score.
It’s like this; there’s no such thing as a zero-zero baseball, basketball or football game and were there to be – given how those games are played – it would be unthinkably boring. However that doesn’t translate into soccer (unless you have zero understanding of the game).
Unlike baseball, where most of the players are basically standing around most of the time, soccer is a fast paced, highly fluid game. From start to finish every single player on the field is in high gear, hatching any number of strategies and plays that unfold moment by moment.
And unlike football, which takes nearly four hours to play a one hour game, soccer takes less than half of that time to play a full 90 minutes.
In basketball – one can argue and many do – the back-and-forth scoring is so constant and repetitious that the only critical part of the play often comes in the last 10 or so minutes of the game.
In fact, higher scoring soccer games – three or four goals – often result in less excitement. Because if a team gets ahead by two or more goals, it’s often pretty much game over.
Practically anybody following the U.S. team at this year’s World Cup knows that the real question that was being asked before yesterday’s game against Portugal was, would the U.S. being able to get a tie in order to keep the team’s hopes of advancing alive. Further, there was no shortage of knowledgeable soccer experts who expressed great doubts that it could, especially with some of the key injuries the team had suffered.
So in the scheme of things – despite their disappointment in the not winning after leading with less than 30 seconds to go – the 2-2 tie was a huge victory for the Americans.
Now check out the ridiculous headline atop the Journal World sports page:
“USA Loses, 2-2”
Seriously, who copy edited that? Anyone, anyone?
Now let’s take a look at a long overdue Star editorial criticizing KU Athletics for ripping off 120 of the most prime seats at Allen Fieldhouse that currently go to students. That in relation for the KU student senate voting to reduce the fees students must pay by a measly $350,000.
Clearly the editorial paints KU sports in a bad light, but why not spell it out?
Star sports columnist Sam Mellinger rightfully called KU out for being petty, but rather than post his column in the actual newspaper for all to see, it was relegated to Mellinger’s far less read online blog.
“This is a symbolic show of power, no matter the company spin, a multi-million dollar corporation taking a surgical and purposeful push back against tuition-paying students,” Mellinger blasted. “This is petty revenge, the older sibling who should know better justifying a slap across the face with, “He started it.”
Yet even Mellinger appears to have missed the obvious.
The same athletics department that laid seven figures on an Atlanta law firm to wipe out a tiny tee-shirt vendor in Lawrence that dared to sell blue shirts that read “Muck Fizzou” and “Our Coach Can Eat Your Coach,” and that forced a senior citizen Lawrence librarian to either cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars or lose her longtime court side seat, used the move by the student senate as an excuse to put the grabs on some of the most prime KU basketball seats in the building.
And while far be it from me to render an exact interpretation of the athletics department’s priority point donation system, its top tier “HOF” donor level for the 2013 Fund Drive is listed as $61,376.
So let’s just say if donors at that level were allowed to BUY two of those prime student seats, that would equate to $3,682,560 in new revenue. Not bad, huh?
Even if donors were allowed to buy four seats that still comes to nearly $2 million, which beats the heck out of losing a paltry $350 K.
And what about the principle of the matter?
That KU is a college campus supported by state funds that wouldn’t even have a basketball team were it not for the students who pay through the teeth for their educations?
Isn’t what makes college sports exciting the fact that you have all these crazy college kids chanting F Bombs on kickoffs and wearing PG13 T-shirts poking fun at rival schools like Mizzou and K-State? You know, showing what passes for school spirit these days.
Or is there even still such a thing, given the current crop of superstar players basically paid for via the lure of luxury apartments and one-and-done college careers followed by potential multi-million dollar NBA contracts? As opposed to mundane things like college diplomas.
Why not take journalism to the next level and call out the fat cats running college sports for what they are, money changers with little regard for anything more than their own fat paychecks?
People like excuse maker/athletics department mouthpiece Jim Marchiony who took down just under a quarter of a million dollars in the department’s 2012 tax filing.
Do you know how many quarter million dollar a year PR paychecks there are in the state of Kansas?
Or athletics department head Sheahon Zenger who pocketed more than $450,000 that same year. A year in which failed former KU football coach Turner Gill – who was fired in 2011 – was paid more than $4 million. And basketball coach Bill Self was paid $4.5 million while”major gifts” schmooze hound John Hadl received more than $300,000 – think of it, 300 grand a year and your job title is “major gifts.”
The bottom line:
The lowly KU students were thrown a $350,000 bone, which enabled the fat cats in Paycheckville to re-seat them in nosebleed (where they probably won’t have to worry about anybody seeing them waving furiously in those tacky T-shirts) and get their paws on however many more million dollars from what former KU basketball coach Roy Williams referred to once as “the wine and cheese” set.
What a country!