This is the coolest GIF of the past month.
(via bubbaprog and his mocksession site, which you really, really ought to follow and bookmark. He also does screencaps of TV shows and political conventions, and much of his sports-related stuff ends up on Deadspin.)
One of my big things about Poynter is that their folks seem to have spent so much time teaching journalism and media ethics that it’s been too long since they practiced it — and this bit in its latest column for ESPN.com on the Jeremy Lin headline incident proves it.
Never mind that ESPN traffics in cliché in general — please see all those anchor catchphrases we knew and loved from Patrick, Olbermann, Levy, Steiner, Mayne, Kilborn, Eisen among others (and in Berman’s case, loathed) — but obviously the Poynter folks have not sat in on a television news consultant meeting or a writers’ workshop (one usually led by management) in a long, long time.
The first thing consultants and many managers will drill out of a writer is interesting vocabulary because we are writing for people who are not our peers and thus do not traffic in our vocabulary and/or references. This is actually useful advice: it helps the writer to write like someone would speak, but the flip side is that new and interesting turns of phrase are actively discouraged while cliché is disdained at the same time. (I have received a list of suggested “phrases to avoid” or outright banned terms at every place I’ve worked at, and at past stations, I’ve even been told I’m writing for children.)
This leads to mordant jokes about trying to work in words with more the four syllables. (One of my co-workers and I had one of them yesterday: I joked about using “audacious” while he wanted to use “cavalcade.”) In essence, you go back on tired phrases and writing two sentences when one is perfectly fine because you don’t want to lose the viewer. So on a deadline when time is tight, you’re going to churn out the first phrase you can — and the temptation is even worse on the graveyard shift. (This is not to defend Anthony Federico or Max Bretos: that alarm bell about “chink” ought to ring loudly, though Bretos’ case seems very harsh because there are good odds he’s ad-libbing.)
N.B. I really, really wish the Poynter contributors listed on the right would assign bylines for the individual column or blog. It really seems even more distant and institutional for a royal “we” without any idea of who’s really talking here and why he or she has come to the conclusions he or she has.
Poynter’s Jason Fry & Kelly McBride, writing in the ESPN ombudsman column about the network’s coverage of the PSU fiasco.
I actually think that ESPN (and just about everyone else) getting beat by the Harrisburg Patriot-News is a good thing. Stories like these and the coverage reporters do in these moments are justification for the continued existence and patronage of smaller papers, which are the first to feel the brunt of cutbacks in the media industry — meaning less local coverage of local government and institutions.
The reporter most out in front of this for said paper is Sara Ganim, who is the paper’s crime reporter — not necessarily a sports person. And therein lies the problem for ESPN, one the Poynter folks can’t really touch on here because it takes too long to unpack — but let’s give it a shot. ESPN may have the largest stable of sports journalists, but it’s safe to say the majority of its folks are likely not well versed in how to handle a story that involves sport but expands outside that arena. It is good at having its sports beat people head to pressers and such about the game, grab sources about a team’s preparation, etc., but it’s not well suited to investigating matters where sport becomes real, hard news with actual victims as opposed to winners and losers.
(It’s worth noting that during last night’s coverage that the people ESPN went to on the ground were mostly ABC News people, who were working on it for their platforms.)
Toss in the inevitable weirdness when you have to cover a bizarre and vile story out of a program whose sporting events you broadcast, and it’s no surprise Bristol was late. In short: Poynter shouldn’t be shocked that ESPN was slow on this, because the majority of the people working for the organization don’t appear to be wired to work on a story like this. Its initial response is geared toward what such a scandal means for this week’s game or the program in general, not toward the human end of things — which would suggest that it find the victims that Sara Ganim did. Large networks aren’t geared toward those local ties, and it doesn’t matter how many top-notch sports journalists you hire; people are more likely to talk to the local paper first.
Could you do something with the magazine other than a fackin’ Boston issue? It’s not like you slurp Boston & New York teams every damn day on SportsCenter.
(Before you ask, I subscribed because it was a fundraiser for a friend’s kid. I was being an awesome dude.)