The past few days have yielded an interesting portrait of the current journalistic landscape in upstate New York. With the mess created by the Syracuse University public relations department and how the kind of, sort of restoration of 44, we’ve been “treated” to a pretty harsh view of the current state of news reporting and opinion making. The disheartening thing, at least for me, is just how goddamn negative it’s all become.
I want to make something abundantly clear: I will never, ever suggest that the place of a journalist covering a University is to be a cheering section for that institution’s athletics programs. That’s what sports information departments are for, after all (and I know – my day job is in sports information). The role of a journalist is, or at least used to be, completely neutral. A news reporter should be Switzerland, just standing back and reporting the facts without having any bias one way or the other.
That’s why it’s unprofessional to cheer or boo in a press box, and frankly, that’s why any postgame recaps coming from the Associated Press tend to be dull and flavorless to the point where, seriously, there’s a very good chance that AP writers will soon be replaced by computers.
The journalism landscape has changed over the years, however, particularly with the rise of blogging as a form of viable and respected news coverage. Suddenly, anyone and everyone can report the news with his or her own personal spin. The lack of a bias, one of the cornerstones of journalism (specifically, that journalism’s “practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover”) is being hurriedly flung through the closest window in favor of splashy headlines and angles that drive clicks and sell advertising space. Every reporter wants to be a columnist, and every columnist wants to be Bill Simmons. Snark and negativity rule the day, and Syracuse athletics hasn’t escaped that wrath despite the University being home to the greatest communications school in America – a place where, theoretically, the meaning of journalism should be more revered than any other institution in the nation.
Look, I’m not disparaging the use of snark. I love snark. I drive my wife nuts with my endless snark when we’re watching movies. I constantly Tweet out snarky comments on my personal Twitter account. And I get the appeal of responding to a University faux pas with a little bit of sarcasm.
But good lord, man. This past week has been brutal, to the point where I’ve come to realize that when it comes to covering Syracuse athletics our local media goes in the exact opposite direction of the old adage, “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”
I mentioned earlier this week about how bizarre I found it that the local press failed to report on the fact that the football team had the highest collective GPA in program history, opting instead to look for every and any negative angle they can find. With the unveiling of Plaza 44, and the apparent restoration of the number 44, Bud Poliquin alone took it upon himself to write not one, not two, but three columns in a span of three days harping on what a mistake he thought both the plaza and the restoration of the number were. For fuck’s sake, he went so far as to actually suggest that Floyd Little – the great, honorable, Syracuse University staff member Floyd Little – maybe shouldn’t get a statue because he might do something embarrassing down the road.
That’s not where things stopped, either. The confusion caused by the “clarification” of Tuesday’s announcement stirred up an inordinate amount of shit in the local media, to the point where that’s basically all anyone has been talking about over the last few days. And it doesn’t seem to have any end in sight, with members of the local media tweeting out sarcastic lines and trying their best to be funny, when all they’re doing is shining a massively negative light on the situation that, honestly, is a lot more clear than they seem to understand. Look, I get it: you don’t feel like actually stopping to think about what was said, and what the situation actually is despite it really being pretty clear.
But holy hell, the constant barrage of negativity is just obnoxious. It’s not your job to be a cheerleader and yell “rah rah!” for the University, I understand that and frankly, I’m glad that we don’t have media that only looks at Syracuse athletics through orange colored glasses. But you also don’t have to go the opposite direction and spout off nothing but negativity, either. This should have been a great week for Syracuse, but after the University fumbled things on Wednesday, the local media is doing no one any favors by harping on the mistake over, and over, and over again both in print and on social media. Maybe take a break from that crap for a while, eh, guys? Get yourself a vacation. I hear Dead Horse Point State Park is beautiful this time of year.
And it’s not just me taking notice of all of the negativity, and it’s not limited to this week, either. I’ve talked to Orange players, recruits, and family members who have taken notice of the negativity being spewed, particularly on social media. For some of those players, if you guys were hoping to ever get a chance to talk to them, good luck.
I don’t want the media to be cheering for the home team unreservedly. That’s not the role of the media, and it never should be. You don’t have to be a cheerleader and gush over the teams and coaches like you’re the host of the Chris Farley Show. But you also probably don’t need to be such raging dicks about them, either.