Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Part Three: Why is it Even Happening

Not to be overlooked in this are the people formerly known as the media. Increasingly bitter over the loss of resources and position as the sole conduits of information - come on guys, be honest with us here - they join in to nitpick.

Here is the lack of transparency on the part of the journalists. Quick to rip into GW and retweet with increasing clucking, they overlook the essential reason why the GW media relations folks have become so widely read and important.

Sunday's Denver Post provides a little perspective.  Should we be equally indignant that Lindsay H. Jones of the Post buried the lead in her story about yesterday's NCAA North Central Regional Championships?  After all, the top two teams advance to nationals, along with individuals.  But Ms. Jones focuses on the hometown Pioneer athlete -- Jorie Hall -- that was going to advance to nationals as an individual.  We don't learn until the 14th paragraph that Arkansas won the meet.  In the 15th that Arkansas and Florida advanced.  And this in a story that was 17 paragraphs long.

We never learn that #12 Arkansas upset the #1 team in the country in Florida. As one of the two media relations types at the event, should I have been upset? Is this a breech of journalistic news gathering at the level of that  accused of GW?

No. Of course not. The Post reporter was writing a feature angle on the event, trying to make something locally relevant for the paper's readers. You can see the thinking behind it - small niche competition. The day before, no advance story about the meet, just a small info box along with a photo feature.

Earlier on the day of the meet, I visited REI downtown. Wearing a Razorback polo, I was asked by one of the local residents if I was in town for the meet.  He said that he was a season ticket holder. How many would be at the meet? Oh, a couple thousand.  Having seen the arena and the lack of pre-meet publicity, let's say I was a bit skeptical.

So why the long way around this? Because there were maybe 2,500, perhaps close to 3,000 at the meet - a pretty big crowd for a NCAA hard-ticket event and a fixed cost. My point being this: the paid journalists dismissed the event with featured coverage. Maybe they should have approached it with more news seriousness; perhaps with a story about the meet - the paragraph 14 & 15 buried leads and then the feature story on Denver.

I have little doubt that 10 years ago, certainly 15, that is exactly what would have happened.  Either the Denver Post or the Rocky Mountain News would have targeted the event for a little extra coverage in their continuing circulation battles back then.

Today, the surviving Post is going to cover only the highest traffic events to maintain it's circulation. Thus, gymnastics equals niche; niche equals feature and the 5W&1H details are superfluous.

We wrote the story with that lead - Arkansas wins and upsets #1, and pushed it hard in our website. Would we have downplayed a loss? No. We've detailed our falls, our negatives. In fact, it was less than a month ago that a fantastic level of floor score - proved later to be one of the top single rounds in the entire nation - was a critical part of our story about losing at Denver. The combination of what was a record floor score and our own early trouble on bars was the story.

For argument sake, I haven't looked yet at Florida's website story on the meet, but I suspect it was straight down the middle and spent time talking about the things the Gators did well in advancing to nationals.  Do I anticipate UF making the same point we did - that for the second time this year we beat #1? No, and I shouldn't.

In the end, everyone is sensitive on this event.  The media because they are in flux.  The SIDs who increasingly find themselves in a bind both on time/resources and administrations/coaches who want the best view of their world.  Fans who just want the story, and can't get it from media - who arent covering things like they once did - and because of events like GW baseball (or to be honest, several times we ourselves have had to release a statement or deal with "bad news").

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