Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A test of morale

Obviously, the Minnehaha-DeLaSalle game didn't work out. The DeLaSalle coaches wouldn't give the green light. That makes two games we were turned away (although one was out of everyone's control) that would have made for great television. Calling games and streaming them online has turned into an experiment on human behavior. Given that I study behavioral patterns of people all the time, this is turning into a big learning experience.

Speaking of behavior, the cynicism I'm dealing with from my co-workers isn't helping my morale or interest in continuing high school broadcasts after this season. I spoke with Heinz about a game plan for the upcoming Central-South Twin Cities game (the fifth straight time the two teams will play each other and the eighth overall since 2005). Talk of the controversy about Tayler Hill's scoring record came up and I recited everything that was reported in local media outlets (every newspaper and TV station in the metro area). His response was that it was all made up.

I understand the need to obtain information, but when you're not available to get it, I don't feel that everyone else is making up quotes and other information that isn't correct, although the South A.D. did tell me the Pioneer Press made an error about the attendance of last night's South-Roosevelt game. TV stations get their ideas from newspapers frequently and vice-versa. It was accurate reporting (and lack of hometown bias) that busted the U of M men's basketball team years ago for academic fraud. Unfortunately, there are the Janet Cooks and Jayson Blairs that tarnish the reputation of the profession, but not everyone thinks of journalism as making it up. If we're talking cynicism, who's to say I'm not fabricating every detail I recite. I don't, but this is a potential danger of cynicism: you don't trust anyone. As such, he claims that I would be the first to reveal information about Tayler Hill's college selection process or the scoring record controversy (that will likely end in a few games). Sorry to burst your bubble, but I'm not.

Heinz has also commented on my reporting and interviewing style. While he has admitted that he does this sometimes to rile me up, I wonder if I have the right approach in the wrong field. Sports, by default, is designed to be entertaining. However, as I said in my last post, asking people what their favorite pizza topping is won't get you anywhere. I try to have fun with these people, but I always ask serious questions designed to make people think about themselves as players and as students. I have a limited amount of opportunities and don't want to give these people free passes. As such, I emphasize what's happening in the game since that's the most relevant piece of information. It's old by the time we televise, but if we were looking for pure entertainment, I'd be doing another type of show.

My naïvete or Heinz's lack of journalistic training could be altering both our perspectives, but I don't know if it's worth continuing to call games if the cycle of cynicism and obsession with entertainment versus breaking the story continues. When you're on the same beat as other reporters who have a bigger budget and resources available, the goal is to find a way to stand out from the others, which is what I've attempted once I became comfortable with doing play-by-play. However, you can't always get everything and have to trust the work of others when that happens. Everyone's looking for that break, but there is some team play that goes on in journalism and I feel I'm the only one who understands this.

Then again, given what's happened with some teams this year, perhaps there are few who actually care about how good reporters like me cover the field. Perhaps I'm stuck on an old-school model. Sometimes I wish I knew the answers without having to second-guess myself.

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