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Code of the West

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by jgmacg, Jun 27, 2006.

  1. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    It is unquestionably the consensus on the board that a sports columnist must be willing to face the people he or she writes about. This is usually described as some sort of high noon showdown in the locker room.

    I can see the merit of this if we're talking about beat writers, of course. But why all the ur-cowboy machismo about columnists facing down their subjects the day after a piece runs?

    Setting aside, as much as possible, the Mariotti/Guillen flap, explain to me the columnists' code of the West.
  2. As a tumbleweed blows through SportsJournalists.com.
  3. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    It's not a showdown. You are just making yourself available if the person wants to vent. They may actually respect you for it.
  4. MU_was_not_so_hard

    MU_was_not_so_hard Active Member

    Exactly. It works the same for beat writers, too. If you're going to write something, especially if its new, don't duck and hide.
  5. spinning27

    spinning27 New Member

    I don't think there's any "code."

    There's no rule that a columnist has to show up and face the music.  But if they choose not to after ripping somebody, it seems cowardly.

    But that isn't even really the issue.  It's the columnist who doesn't show up period that pisses people off.

    I'm a college beat guy for a metro paper.  One of our columnists comes to a fair amount of practices, comes to games that he doesn't write about, is generally recognized as having informed opinions because he's around the program a lot.  The other columnist never shows up at practices, only comes to games he's writing about, and it's clear from reading his columns that he's basically uninformed about what's going on.

    Does it matter to the readers?  Most of them probably don't know the difference.  But it matters to people within the program, etc.  If I'm a columnist, I want to be the guy a coach or player comes to when he's got a story to tell or something to complain about that might make for a good column.  The only way to get that stuff, though, is to be the first columnist I described and not the second.
  6. Gold

    Gold Active Member

    I was a stringer for news side, and I worked with a regular reporter, who did stuff during the day.

    However, if she wrote things she knew would generate a reaction and upset city council or school board members, she would call me and say she was going to the meetings to look them in the eye. She would get me switched to another meeting so I wouldn't lose any hours.

    Integrity - That's the way it's supposed to be.
  7. There are a lot of reasons why a columnist must show his face, especially after writing something critical. But one reason stands out above all others: Professional courtesy to your beat-writing co-worker.

    If the columnist doesn't show his face regularly, the beat writer(s) take all the crap and (can) have their relationships damaged because of what someone else wrote.

    I could list a million more reasons, but that one there is reason enough.
  8. Editude

    Editude Active Member

    The columnist should be among the best reporters on the staff. That means gathering information, not just firing off from the comforts of the couch. It doesn't mean going to all the games, if there are other ways to back up opinions, but it does help to be a presence as well at various sites and levels.
  9. spinning27

    spinning27 New Member

    I haven't really had any relationships damaged because of what a colleague wrote, but I have had people engage me in some uncomfortable discussions about a certain column or series of columns. It's uncomfortable because when they start bitching about why so-and-so columnist is never around, it gets awfully hard to defend.
  10. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I think there's also a point about talking to the person you blast *before* you write about them.

    That's only good and fair reporting.

    I am sure that didn't happen in the Mariotti situation and generally doesn't happen enough.
  11. tyler durden 71351

    tyler durden 71351 Active Member

    Yeah, ideally you should talk to anyone who has mentioned by name in an article or column you write. At the very least, you should make an all-out effort to talk to everyone you mention by name
  12. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I don't think it's the columnist's role to gather information, there are beat reporters who fill that role. I've worked with columnists who did break news as a result of relationships they had built with powers-that-be outside the locker rooms. But I believe their primary purpose is to comment.

    Now as to informed opinions, I think there are various ways to achieve being informed, not all of them including working the locker room. A good beat writer is going to be using the phone a lot, and so is a columnist. A good columnist in a market with a lot of pro and college teams is going to be humble enough to realize he's a generalist, and he's going to rely on beat writers to brief him and sometimes feed him stuff. I don't have a problem with a columnist writing from home as long as he's giving me more substance than can found on talk radio, in other words not just writing off the top of his head but doing some research.

    I think it's not required that restaurant critics and theater critics and op-ed pundits show up every time they write something critical, but the locker room is a more macho environment and sports columnists do look bad if they fail to show up after an especially scathing piece, one that questions someone's integrity or courage or whether the coach or athlete ought to remain employed. If the columnist just writes that someone had a bad game or made a bad call, I don't think it's necessary to show up the next day.
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