Thursday, November 18, 2010
Sports Reporting and Homerism
As you undoubtedly remember, I gave my presentation on sports reporters going "to bed" with the teams they cover, also called Homerism. There were a couple of examples I gave but the big one at the top spurred the most debate. Here is a recap of the events of that first example:
In 1995, the University of Nebraska won the National Championship. Championships are a big boon for a coaches recruiting process and head coach Tom Osborne was excited to start this recruiting season. As national signing day (Feb. 1st) approached however, Osborne had a problem, the Omaha World-Herald (Nebraska's largest newspaper) was set to publish a story that showed that 13.2 percent of the players on his team had committed misdemeanors and/or alcohol related incidents while a study showed only 6 percent of non-football undergraduates were accused of the same. Osborne was obviously not thrilled and asked the newspaper to "soften" the story and push its publishing date back after signing day. The paper said okay...and hid the front-page story in the sports section, moved the lead to the 15th paragraph, and published it 3 days after national signing day.
So that's a cool little story that spurred some debate amongst all you splendid students.
While it seems like an easy issue at first, (I mean seriously...who wouldn't have just published the story?) we then talked about how news organizations can have their hands tied financially with the teams they cover. Lots of money goes into those TV contracts and making those people mad is bad for business. Not only is management scared...but sports reporters are constantly in a world of being part of the "in-group." If you're not in...the team wont talk to you and you then become the worst sports reporter in town.
Basically what the discussion came down to was the acceptance that homerism is a problem in today's sports reporting world, sports is a different bread of news, and maintaining objectivity is hard, but also a must. However, my naive mindset says that if you're honest and forthright from the get-go, they can take your criticism without punishing you. Any thoughts on that? Any more examples of homerism you've seen?