2012 Zenger Awards

Happy Friday to you, followers. Hope you had a great “Signing Day” week.

Today, I provide my quasi-wrap up of the 2012 recruiting cycle by offering a counter-punch to Longball’s Tebow awards from a few week’s back.  So, if you want to check out who wins this year’s coveted Zenger award, then click on the old Jumperoo…

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Followers, because our relationship together spans many, many moons..

you can all be comforted by the fact that I know you in the true cosmic sense of the word.

And because I know you all so darn well, I know what you are thinking at this very moment…

Right now, you are thinking and wondering… “What the hell is a Zenger?”

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Of course, a Zenger, is not a “what..”

A Zenger is a “who.”

And so, if you are wondering “who” a Zenger truly is, then your answer is as follows:

  • John Peter Zenger published the New York Weekly Journal in the 1700s. He wrote unflattering things about the British government, and in 1735 he was arrested and tried for libel. He was found not guilty, since what he wrote was based on fact. His case not only helped influence the American Revolution, but established one of the litmus tests for libel.

So, there you have it.   A Zenger represents a reporter so committed to reporting the “truth” that she or he will risk persecution in order to serve the greater profession of journalism (not to mention the public good.)

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Now, why are we issuing the Zenger today?????

Well, because after following Twitter for too many hours over the past week or so, I have become increasingly troubled about the status of sports journalism and its status as legitimate part of the journalism profession.  And while I do not have the time to raise this concern in a coherent (or potentially responsible) fashion, I’m going to proceed like I always do:

I’m going to embark on a widly tangential rant by way of a 31,000 word manifesto!!!!

And the target of today’s rant is directed at a few choice people.

I start first with my good friend and pseudo-colleague, Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee.

 

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Now, before I use Joe Davidson as a means of furthering my own idiocy, I think it’s important to provide a bit of context.  And the context is this:

I lived in the greater Sacka-tomatoes area for nearly 15 years.  And throughout the time of my residence there, I was a faithful subscriber of the Sacramento Bee.

And, as a part of being a reader of that paper for over a decade, I’ve become pretty familiar with Mr. Davidson’s work.  And let me say this about Joe (and high school beats in general):

  • As a former “great high school athlete,” nothing is more exciting than waking up at 6:00am on weekdays or weekends to see if your name got in the paper.  And truly, given that 99% of the high school sports population never receives notoriety at the college or pro level, having the opportunity to get a bit of ink is a wonderful fixture of growing up.  And Joe has always done a really nice job of providing kids and their families with a high level of coverage.
  • Joe has used his platform at the Bee to create opportunities for kids who would not get those opportunities were it not for his writings and advocacy.  What I mean by that is as follows:  Joe has done a good job of highlighting kids who have been overlooked by major schools and has been instrumental in giving them sufficient exposure to get a second or third look from the big boys, and in some cases, getting them into JC’s.  And if you know about the characteristics of many communities around Sacto (e.g., they’re struggling!), you know that those efforts create positive pathways for kids and families who really need it.
  • Joe and the editors at the Sacramento Bee were VERY supportive of Paul Wulff.   In fact, there were more features and blips about Wulff and the Cougs then there were about CAL and Stanford dating up to last year (2010 season). So, there’s that too.

So, now that everyone knows that I don’t have a personal vendetta about Joe or the Bee, let’s proceed with “the facts:”

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On Sunday, Joe served as MC for 5-Star recruit Arik Armstead’s announcement ceremony at his church—the same ceremony where Arik made the decision to attend the University of Oregon.  Within seconds of the announcement, Joe tweeted Armstead’s decision and then issued a story on the Sac Bee’s website shortly thereafter.  “Big deal,” right?

Over the next two hours, Mr. Davidson tweeted his own story multiple times.  By the time that he had tweeted his work for the 5th (or was it 10th?) time in a few hours, I started to think, “Hmmmmm.” (and yes, for me, that is a deep thought).

Two hours after “breaking” the initial story, Joe started to re-tweet messages from followers lauding him for his incredible work reporting “the news.”

(Keep in mind now that Joe wasn’t just “covering” the news,  he was actually MC’ing the kids announcement ceremony.)

Fast forward to Monday morning, Mr. Davidson woke up at some early hour and by 7:00am he’s back at it, re-tweeting seemingly every positive bit of feedback given to him by the cyber-universe.  And included in his re-tweet was a comment by a fellow reporter—the venerable Marcos Breton—

who characterized Mr. Davidson as “the Obi-Wan Kenobi” of sports journalism–presumably based on his “coverage” of Armstead’s announcement.

Mind you, at this point, I’m starting to get a bit appalled by Mr. Davidson’s repeated attempts to put himself at the center of a story that: (a) Was clearly not about him; and (b) Represented the lowest hanging fruit of all time…

And so, in true idiot fashion, I decided to voice my displeasure regarding his apperant megalomania by tweeting him the following Tweetage:

CougSutra Coug-A-Sutra

RT @sb_joedavidson WOW, I am really good >RT @MarcosBreton Man, JD is God..<RT,RT @sb_joedavidson Boy, I nailed the Armstead story. #WeGetit

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Of course, Joe’s response to my tweet was a hearty “Thanks, Mom” and then he immediately proceeded to go back to re-tweet another 5 compliments of his work.  Then, within moments of Joe thanking his “mother,” (ME) the venerable Marcos Breton issued the following statement on Twitter:

MarcosBreton Marcos Breton

@sb_joedavidson @cougsutra I blocked that bozo. I have zero tolerance for twitter idiots. If you don’t like something, hit unfollow. Simple

(Retweeted by CougSutra)

 

Mind you, Mr. Breton was half-right in calling me a Bozo (he should have referred to me as “Mr.” Bozo). 

But what really bothered me was the “If you don’t like it , don’t read it” response. 

You see, Marcos Breton made a name for himself because of his pretty amazing coverage of Latino immigrants, including professional sports players.  At the heart of Breton’s work has been a penetrating societal critique. In this sense, Breton hasn’t just penned his stories to say “Hey, if you don’t like the existing market, go find another one. (even if its the best or only one in town)” 

Instead, Breton’s work has effectively communicated the following,  “Hey, there are some things that are really wrong out there that deserve to be changed.  But, for these wrongs to be addressed, journalism must offer a critique powerful enough to elicit the public’s imagination.” 

And truly, I always liked much of Breton’s work because that’s what good journalism does:  It describes issues and events in ways that enable regular folks to think more deeply about them.

And so we get back to Mr. Davidson and the world of recruiting…

You see, in a subsequent story, Davidson noted that Armstead chose Oregon, in part, because Oregon represented the only football program that “stayed clean and positive” throughout the recruiting process.

Of course, I can’t tell you what exactly Arik meant by that because there was no follow-up.  Instead, the conclusion offered by Davidson centered on Armstead’s “high character”…As in, “In all my MY years, I have not seen more high character guys than Shaq and Armstead.” (I am paraphrasing here, but not by much….)

So, while Davidson knew that the schools recruiting Armstead had spent sometime in the gutter, Davidson provided the reader with no understanding about (a) The gutter or its features; (b) The people playing in the gutter; (c) The implications such gutter games pose for first-generation college students and their families; (d) The implications that such alleged gutter games have for institutions of higher education and their paid agents.

Instead what we got was (a) Information without much context or analysis; (b) Self-congratulations about being the first to report news on an event in which the “reporter” presided.

Now, I ask you: 

What is the difference between the reporting and management of said events and being a paid fan or Paparazzi?

What is the difference between the type of coverage we saw generally during the recruiting process (e.g. “I’m hearing that Dozier is leaning to….”) and what we would read on TMZ.com, Hola!, or In-Touch magazine if the subject were other types of celebreties?

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But wait, there’s STILL more…

In the face of criticism on Wednesday night, the Spokesman-Review’s Christian Caple responded to a negative tweet by telling an un-named Tweeter to quit following him if he didn’t like his content.  Moments later, Ian Furness re-tweeted the same message with near thunderous gusto…..As in, “If you don’t like the way that I report the news, then maybe you aren’t entitled to it..”

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You see, I happen to believe that the key to a vibrant democracy is a Free Press, one that channels the example of Zenger by being staunchly critical of the government, mainstream institutions, and business pratices, if for no other reason to guard against corruption, malfeasance and the creation of tyranny.  And, frankly, I find it loathsome when government officials or business leaders think that they can dodge tough questions and, in turn, not allow the press (and in turn the public) to hold them accountable.

What’s more,  just like it is the responsibility of the press to question and report on the happenings of “the establishment,” it is equally important for the public to freely question and/or challenge the press. After all, there are few things more representative of tyranny and corruption than a press that doesn’t ask or report on tough questions, be it because they are too partisan to ask the right set of questions; afraid of being alienated by their sources; or simply afraid of hurting a decaying business model (such as the newspaper).

And so to all you journalists out there who still value your profession,  please join me, if for but a moment, and perform a (self) gut check regarding your performance re: your profession’s primary values.  That is, do you believe that?:

  • Stories should be written about people, issues, and events; they should NOT be about the reporter.
  • A free and vibrant press should include a critique of the very people and institutions that represent the primary sources/interests of the journalist and her/his sources/associates.
  • Receiving critique of your work from the public is a part of having a responsive, accountable press as well as a democratic society.

And if not, then what does sports journalism stand for these days?  

So, with that all in mind, I hope that the next wave of “recruiting stories” from JOURNALISTS in 2012-2013 are more Pulitzer-like than Paparazzi worthy. I hope to see more critical analyses of recruiting and its implications for sports as big business during a time in which public higher education is dying on the vine. And third, well, I hope to see, well, um…..I can’t remember the third thing..OOPS.

Anyhow, with that Cavalier spirit in mind, the 2012 Zenger goes to Ted Miller who brilliantly promotes AND critiques the industry that feeds him 360 odd days a year!!!!

So to Ted we say, “Congrats man,” this Zenger’s truly for you…….

And to Bobby Condotta, Bud Withers, and our dear friend Vince Grippi, congrats on being nominated by our Executive Board.

But to Joe, I can only say:  “Say it Aint So, Joe!”

Say it Ain’t So!

Enough for today…Back to my meds…

Go Cougs!

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