When it comes to politics, few things are as instructive of partisan behavior as watching sports. The two may not be the same, but boy howdy do they rhyme.
This applies also when talking about politics and the media.
Anyway, Southern Tech recently made a controversial hire for its football program. He wasn’t controversial because he’s a bad coach, but because of some stuff that went on off the field that he probably knew about.
The Colosse Herald ran an opinion piece critical of the hire, and a news piece that spent 70% of the article talking about The Scandal. That seems a bit excessive to me, but only somewhat. The Scandal is half the story, in my view, maybe a little less. Other aspects of the story, such as the fact that he is a Packer alum and that he and his wife met at Southern Tech as well as his coaching career itself were all worthy of more note than they got. But though my judgment may differ, reasonable minds can differ on whether we’re talking about 40% of the story or 70% and at some point I have to admit I am a bit of a partisan here.
Anyway, I was on the forums and not surprisingly most people there took a different view. They were talking about canceling subscriptions and how the Herald owes it to the community to support the team. Some pointed out that’s not how journalism works.
Others pointed out that maybe the article wouldn’t have been so critical if Sotech hadn’t become so unfriendly to the media lately. This was used by sub-partisans against the athletics director who has taken a more restrictive attitudes towards the press. Others pointed out, retaliation is not how journalism works.
For the most part, though, there was the expectation that the media should be able to rise above shabby treatment by the Southern Tech athletics department, but also that it should understand the local market and cater to it by being supportive of the team.
Anyhow, this reminded me somewhat of criticisms of various attempts on the left to boycott the New York Times. A lot of the arguments come down to view that conservatives are never going to buy the paper so they should cater to the preferences of those that do (or they should pay a price). This is conducive to journalism when they are objecting to hiring a conservative columnist, for example, but it’s highly questionable when it comes to what political things they choose to cover and how they choose to cover them.
This is not inconsistent insofar as if you are a liberal and believe that reality has a liberal bias, then anything but what might be perceived by everybody who isn’t liberal as bias is in fact bias in the other direction. One of the nice things about the sports politics discussion is that fewer people are under time impression that such higher truths are in play. More people actually know they’re partisans.
Of course, on some level they are absolutely right about what the news outlets should be doing. It probably is in the best interest of the New York Times to cater to their audience and the audience with greater potential. They sometimes miss some of the nuances (ie just because Krugman gets forwarded more often than Stevens that doesn’t mean they’re financially better off getting more Krugmans and fewer Stevenses). As conservative viewers are siphoned off by expressly conservative outlets, the center of the media commons moves to the center left. And as such, the center-left becomes the audience they need to appeal to.
As the outlets get squeezed, they may need to work harder on the audience they have. The implications of that – especially to the extent that this has already happens – are a double-edged sword.
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