Across the Universe: ‘Deflate-gate’ represents worst of modern journalism
Perhaps more often than I should, I give the media the benefit of the doubt whenever it comes under fire for the way it covers the news.
After all, for every Jayson Blair blunder (the New York Times “journalist” fabricated stories in 2002-03, leading to “a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper”) and Don Lemon lapse (the CNN anchor was named one of the worst journalists of 2014 by the Columbia Journalism Review for his rather incredible ability to cram both feet in his mouth), I like to focus on the tremendous work my colleagues regionally and nationally have done to inform residents of things that interest them.
Then, “Deflate-gate” enters my lexicon.
Really? I mean, really? Long story short, here’s the timeline of events: New England Patriots destroy Indianapolis Colts in AFC title game; Twitter “report” suggests Patriots may have used under-inflated balls to their advantage; media outlets and pundits pick up story and immediately opine the Patriots should be punished (even though nothing has yet to come out that they were at fault); Patriots and fans fire back and accuse media and world of being New England haters; NFL rules 11 of 12 Patriots balls were illegally under-inflated; press conferences featuring New England star Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick denying any wrongdoing are attended by literally hundreds of media; thousands of Internet jokes and memes about balls being touched, fondled, etc., explode; and the media, led by ESPN, covers it all with a level of veracity that deserves its own definition in Webster’s dictionary.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything blown so far out of proportion in my life when it comes to continuing coverage of a story. By Wednesday of last week, ESPN, which constantly heralds itself as the worldwide leader in sports and continually defends its journalistic integrity, actually created a “Deflate-gate” landing site on its web page, an online hub dedicated specifically to the “scandal.”
On its face, it’s an interesting story, and as I have said all along, if the Patriots indeed are found guilty of cheating, they deserve some sort of punishment. An example should be made of them — their coach, management, whoever is most at fault — so a culture of cheating is not something to which our youth should aspire to rally around. But for ESPN (and, admittedly, some other outlets — even CNN, Fox News, etc., have covered this) to stoop to levels only TMZ and tabloids reach is just embarrassing.
To see our national media get sucked so hard into a story like this, and then for it to get the attention it’s received, it does make me feel a bit frustrated when I work hard to defend my reporting and blogging colleagues so much these days. Then again, perhaps hypocritically, I’m writing about it, so what does that say?
Still, when all is said and done, this has to go down as a black eye in terms of journalism. The folks at the Columbia Journalism Review have to be licking their chops already for 2016. Oh, as for the final score of Super Bowl 49? My prediction is 35-21. And astute readers should be able to figure out who I think will win.
(Hint: The first word of every paragraph above)
— Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Reach him for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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