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Good/bad journalism

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Songbird, Jul 13, 2006.

  1. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    I got an e-mail, more of a submitted comment from a story we posted on the Web the other day:

    I believe this father was upset because we wrote how his son grounded out for the final out of an inning. It was an American Legion game, for your reference. I e-mailed him back. He's a good guy, covered his kid for three years now, and basically told him that not giving both sides of the story is "not very good journalism," that we can't just hype up Johnny McSmith every time he does well and never point out the times he doesn't do well.

    First of all, grounding out to end a threat is as part of baseball as the lovely Bud Selig smile we've all come to know and love. But not writing the kid's name just because it's high school/legion/babe ruth level seems rather anti-journalistic. Am I wrong here? I've been doing this job a long time. For the first several years I'd not write when a kid kicked the baseball or struck out in a clutch situation. But then I began realizing that it's not very fair to only give one side of the story, the rah-rah side of the story. Plus, I've never had a kid tell me his feelings were hurt by writing the facts, for good and worse.

    Any thoughts?
  2. alleyallen

    alleyallen Guest

    A lot of it has to do with the community you serve. If you're a community newspaper, there's ways to say the team (or a player) screwed the pooch without actually showing the kid up. I know others will scream journalistic integrity, the way it was taught in the classroom, but a newsroom is much different from a classroom and the rules do indeed apply a bit differently.

    What's the thought, perhaps, of mentioning an error "at second base" as opposed to mentioning an error "by Johnny Fuckup?"
  3. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    That's a valid point. Interestingly, another local father submits 9- and 10-year-old Little League All Star info and writes names of kids who make errors and such. I look at that and think, "OK, this guy gets it. He gives good and bad without taking pot shots."

    If a 9/10-year-old can read about himself walking 5 guys in one inning, can't a 15-year-old deal with reading how he grounded out to end an inning?
  4. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Oh, the 15-yr-old can deal. It's daddy who can't.

    I agree that, in a community newspaper, at certain age levels, it's OK to do a write-around.

    But this dad telling you what is "good journalism" is like you telling him how to do his job. You don't. So he shouldn't.
  5. Trey Beamon

    Trey Beamon Active Member

    I don't get it...

    The kid grounded out. What's the shame in that? He might have hit the ball hard, he might have had a great at-bat regardless.

    If he committed a bunch of errors and the reporter was piling it on, I could maybe see the outcry. By now, you'd think the kid -- and parent -- would have thicker skin.

    This is reminisicent of a girls' basketball state playoff game last year. Star player misses a shot in final seconds, a shot, that if converted, would have sent the team to the state title game. Myself and a couple other photogs proceeded to click away, tears and all.

    Before I could blink, the girl's father -- steaming mad -- approaches (just) me and says something to the effect of "you got your picture, now stop." I told him if the photo ran, it wasn't meant to put his child in a bad light, just to evoke the emotions of the moment. Not surprisingly, he didn't understand.

    When you think about it, this isn't about good/bad journalism -- it's about life. Things don't always go your way. Get used to it, kid.
  6. Jim Tom Pinch

    Jim Tom Pinch Active Member

    Simplest reasoning. I ever got on this topic:
    It happened. Write it.
    If you don't say they were bad when they were bad. Nobody will believe you when you say they were good.
  7. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    My standard response is...

    Sir, would you expect your son's name to be in the paper if he got the game-winning hit? Well, if so, then you should expect it to be in there when he hits into the game-losing out.
  8. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Funny thing is that the story this dad didn't like was on our Web site. The game happened Tuesday after I put the section to bed.

    But I covered his son on another team Saturday (the kid plays for 2 different baseball teams) and wrote some quality stuff about him, good and bad. He gave up 12 earned runs even though he threw 1st-strike pitches to 15 of 19 batters. He'd get ahead 0-2 or 1-2 and then give up RBI hits — 3 in one inning. But the kid also belted an RBI-double and danced between the bases to draw a throw from the catcher that sailed into center field, allowing him to race home.

    The dad wrote his e-mail before today's paper hit the stands, so it'll be interesting to see if he has a response after reading that story.

    We deal with crazy shit in the business every single day.
  9. zeke12

    zeke12 Guest

    Songbird, i'm inclined towardyour position, but I'm also dealing with the fact that several sports editors before me refused to write anything bad.

    Just got my ass chewed by a parent for writing that a kid got ejected from a Legion game.
    1. Close game.
    2. Kid is the SS and 3-hitter
    3. It definetly affected his coaches strategy for the rest of the game.
    4. It was a quick toss, and I implied that.

    Long story short, I told the Dad -- who's also a good guy for the most part -- that I had thought about it -- which I had -- and that since it was information that would go in a box score had I compiled one, there was no harm in mentioning it in the gamer. That seemed to pacify him.

    All that said, I write around some stuff. A hard-luck loser, I'll point out his earned runs. Kid gets shelled, I won't mention it.
    And I'll always try and spread the blame for a particularly bad performance around -- I blame the Nonut defense rather than johnny Shittypants at short who kicked four balls.
  10. HoopsMcCann

    HoopsMcCann Active Member

    i've told this story a couple of times here -- and, really, surprised i didn't get in trouble for it:

    city's two main public high schools are playing a game, an error leads to the winning run. i understand writing around some stuff, but this shit you just can't write around. it's what happened.

    get upset dad calling me the next night that i'd 'ruined' his kid's life. a basically responded that maybe his life wouldn't have been ruined if daddy had gone outside and hit him some fungos instead of bitching about the newspaper... he hung up on me and luckily didn't call the publisher
  11. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    I'm going a bit above and beyond this summer and doing full ML boxscores for the local baseball teams. That takes up a lot of time. In the story, I wrote how the kid gave up 12 earned runs for a daily ERA of 17.50, though he didn't walk a batter and struck out 2. He didn't pitch all that bad other than not placing those 0-2 pitches in the right spot. The other team was just a good-hitting team.

    As I said earlier, I spent a majority of my career not naming names for errors/missed free throws/fumbles. But you know, if we're going to rah-rah little Johnny McMuffin, we've got to be able to say little Johnny McMuffin hit into a grounder to end an inning. I have yet to hear a kid tell me he didn't like that theory.

    And Hoops, I doubt you ruined the kid's life. Guaren-fucking-tee that the dad was living vicariously through the kid and thought he was getting kicked in the nuts.
  12. dog428

    dog428 Active Member

    One of the first games I ever covered was an American Legion game several years ago. Kind of hazy on the specifics, but the gist of it was that one team was winning by a run or so in the last inning. Kid at third made an error on an easy ground ball and allowed the winning runs to score.

    I remember I took great pains to keep the kid's name away from the top of the story and buried it down deep. I don't think, when using the kid's name, that I even said it was an error. I said something along the lines of "the ball took a tricky hop and got by him."

    Anyway, not good enough for ol' dad. Sumbitch called the next day and he was hot. Guy was just going off. I took it for a few minutes and tried to explain the lengths I went to to not make his son look bad. Wasn't hearing it. Guy wanted me to meet him in the parking lot at the paper. "Just name the time, you little shit. I'll be up there." Being a young and stupid, I told the guy I'd be off around midnight. Of course, he never showed.

    Moral to the story: Don't try and analyze this shit. No matter what you do, what pains you take, you're gonna piss people off. Learn to live with it. Do your best to be fair every time out and that's all you can do. There's no rule for when to use/when not to use a kid's name. It's dictated by the circumstances. Just be fair and you'll be OK.
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