If you listened closely, you probably heard an odd buzz floating through the air around the state of North Carolina yesterday. I know that I contributed to it. What you were hearing was the elevated voices of the collective non-UNC-graduates in the area expressing their astonishment with what greeted them in their Sunday newspapers (followed by snide remarks highlighting the very reason why incompetent and biased newsrooms are insolvent and dying under the weight of their own performance).
When I opened Sunday’s Charlotte Observer with more anticipation for a Sunday paper than I’ve felt in years, I was as flabbergasted with what I saw…as well as with what I didn’t see. I wasn’t alone – as this thread, and this thread and this thread highlighted on our message boards yesterday.
I don’t know the composition of Sunday’s N&O; but, the MAIN story on the FRONT PAGE of Sunday’s Charlotte Observer was that DEAN SMITH is getting old. God bless Dean Smith; but, really? We need thousands of words on the front page to tell us that an 80 year old man has deteriorating health and memory? Perhaps the very fact that it is an epiphany to the news room that an 80 year old is losing his memory helps explain why the average subscriber isn’t understood by today’s newspapers.
I could spend my afternoon developing a long entry on this topic…but, a lot of quality talent comprises the NC State ‘blogosphere’ and there is no reason for us to re-create the wheel that ‘Riddick & Reynolds’ has already started building with this piece:
I was too young and too far removed to remember how the N&O damaged its relationship with State fans. I was 12 in 1989, living outside of the N&O’s subscription zone in rural Cumberland County. When I enrolled at State, I began to hear the pointed opinions on the paper from State fans and alums. I read up on it, trying to get a better understanding of what they were feeling, but honestly there’s a difference between re-reading accounts and articles years later versus waking up every morning in the midst of the story to see a new scandalous article (the vast majority of which would later be proven false). I suppose I’m afforded a somewhat-less vitriolic viewpoint of the N&O as a result.
Flash forward some 20 years from the Valvano mess to today, where the UNC football program currently finds itself vigorously being investigated by the NCAA. No one on UNC’s campus is talking, but there are a lot of folks in the national media–particularly Joe Schad of ESPN–beating the bushes and talking to soures, trying to turn up the latest news of this potentially devastating investigation. And yet in the Sports section of the Sunday issue of the N&O, here’s an inventory of what ran related to area colleges:
* Dean Smith’s memory is fading but his legacy is solid
* Smith’s impact still felt in Chapel Hill
* Arm palsy doesn’t keep UNC prospect from football success
* Heels return to winning formula
* Pack’s recruiting is lagging behind
Two Dean Smith pieces, a story on how well UNC football recruiting is going, another fluff piece on UNC recruiting and a story on how State’s recruiting is struggling.
Noticeably missing? Anything at all related to the NCAA investigation.
And instead of going into “SEE DER’S YER N&O BIAS AGAIN RAWR!!!!11″ beast mode, I think the N&O is missing out on a golden opportunity here.
For so long, they have been called “biased” by many State fans (and surely some of the 12 Duke fans in the area, as well). Many realize that the McCarthy family no longer owns the paper, so most have given up the cries of “conspiracy,” but I’m sure there are still small pockets that believe that.
The N&O can prove these folks wrong by stepping up to the plate to cover this investigation thoroughly. That doesn’t mean Section A-1, front-page, above-the-fold smear pieces, but it does mean taking the initiative to take the point on covering it.
What does that mean? It means running a continuing series of articles to keep folks informed about the latest news. It means devoting a reporter to the story to dig for FACTS–not speculation–whenever they present themselves. It means being the place the rest of the college football world turns to for information on the story in their backyard, rather than having to rely on national folks like Joe Schad.
Now, let’s be clear what I am NOT asking: I’m not asking for the “an-eye-for-an-eye” treatment. I’m not asking for huge, A-1 pieces based on speculation and subsequent retractions buried in the classified section. That’s not “journalism:” that’s muck raking.
But the relative “radio silence” we’ve seen from the N&O to this point isn’t cutting it. This is THE biggest story in Triangle sports, bar none. Not the NC Pro Am. Not Dean Smith (bless his heart). Not in-state football recruiting. This is what folks are calling in to talk about and clicking on the N&O site to search for. Today, four days after the news broke, the initial investigation story that ran on Friday is still the 4th-most emailed story on their site.
A lot of conversation around this topic is floating around the local media Twitter community and it is nice to see some recognition of the issue. (Link to SFN’s Twitter page)
For example, Adam Gold tweeted – “I disagree with @joeovies on that one, there are NO good reasons why the story was ignored on Sunday. None. Bush league.”
We’ll take that. And, we’ll take your comments in our comment section as well as our message forums that have been really hot in the middle of a normally slow summer. Check us out by clicking here and contribute to the conversation!