As a long-time journalist, I always prided myself in making good news judgments. In retirement, I spend considerable time reading newspapers and watching TV news. I find myself disagreeing so many times with the play of stories nowadays.
Hillary Clinton’s emails draw way too much attention on cable TV. The continual barrage is so misguided. The right-wingers have fanned the flames of conspiracies in regards to quid pro quo offenses by Hillary, whether it’s Benghazi or the Clinton Foundation. Please, someone show me where there has been a heinous crime — or for that matter, any malfeasance — as a result of her email interchanges. The news media cherry-pick facts, continually repeat the same videos of Donald Trump rapping the emails and load shows with Republican proponents.
Then there’s the way overplayed story about Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. Okay, geez, he admitted he was drunk when he lied about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio. Yes, he’s not a kid anymore. He’s 32 and should know better. Yes, he and three fellow American swimmers vandalized a gas station. Is that worth all the attention in a 24/7 news cycle on cable TV? I think not. He’s being penalized. Enough of the story. Please.
Here’s a local one that really got to me. Let’s get to the announcement by the Kansas City Star that they have hired Gary Bedore from the Lawrence Journal-World to cover only University of Kansas basketball. The Star already has a KU beat writer so Bedore will complement that. How much KU basketball news can you absorb, dear Jayhawk reader?
What does this say about how the Star feels about fans of Kansas State or the MIAA schools?
Well, I wrote to Jeff Rosen, the Star’s sports editor, and voiced my concerns. Am I wrong about focusing on the obvious KU favoritism? No matter, et’s take a look at some of the exchange I had with Rosen.
The story about adding more KU basketball to the sports page took me aback. Does this mean we’re going to get KU basketball all year long? Is that all Bedore is going to do? Unreal. Do you not believe that this gives KU an upper hand over the other schools in the area, as far as publicity goes?
I would venture to say that if you checked demographics that the MIAA schools would far outnumber KU in counting alumni. In other words, are you paying attention to the makeup of your readership potential? You all do poorly in covering the MIAA and this KU deal seems to me to be an inadequate use of resources in serving your readers.
Bill Self is the best college coach in America. KU basketball is terrific. But the world of many of your readers doesn’t revolve around KU basketball.
When I worked at the Star many years ago, we were always accused of favoring KU over Missouri and Kansas State. However, we did an in-house study of that charge and found the number of inches through the seasons were quite similar. You won’t be able to show that now.
Maybe you can explain more fully what Bedore is going to be doing. I simply can’t imagine a steady diet of KU basketball. Well, for that matter, I can’t explain a lot of things the sports department does these days.
To Rosen’s credit, he took the time to write back. He said Bedore was going to write mainly for a KU-specific app and website, adding, “Some of his work will appear in The Star, too, but not all of it. Much of what he writes will simply be too narrowly focused to be of interest to many of our readers.”
Equality in coverage remains important, he said, but added that the newspaper is also looking to more advanced measures to determine where its best moves lie. The demand for more KU basketball coverage is local, regional and national in nature, he said.
Soon after the announcement of Bedore’s hire, Rosen said, the paper received “literally hundreds of messages and phone calls thanking us for bringing him aboard. At the same time, we’ve received two messages saying we were misguided. Two.”
This was anecdotal, he conceded, and I wondered where all the Missouri fans were.
He believes the calls help show that a large percentage of the Star’s readership cares deeply about this one narrowly focused area of coverage, and wants more of it.
Hmm, I wondered. I have considerable anecdotal evidence that many of the Star’s readers miss the box scores, mainly of major league baseball, and yet the number hasn’t swayed the sports staff to run them.
Rosen agreed the MIAA had a wide audience, but he said readers looking for this coverage were primarily interested in news about their respective school. He addressed what my argument would be: “A few, such as yourself, might take exception with my assertion, and reply that you care about all schools in the conference, but our experience has shown that to be the exception, not the rule.”
As for the fairness concern, he conceded that the sports desk would be devoting more inches to KU than to Missouri and Kansas State, then added, “But I guarantee you won’t see those inches going toward the woeful KU football program.”
The Journal-World was sold recently and Bedore was laid off. Rosen said, “Hiring him was what we needed to do.”
If KU ever loses, will the stories diminish? Will Rosen lay off Bedore?
The move, he said, is to capitalize on the moment at hand, when KU is a national phenomenon and the man “most synonymous with coverage of the program just happened to fall into our lap.”
I don’t agree with a lot of what he said. One such area was the part about the MIAA fans being parochial. Of course, that is how the sports department approaches the Big 12 — that readers aren’t interested in all the schools.
Of course winning creates interest and KU’s basketball team does a whole lot of that. But is that the criterion for devoting space and energy for stories. The Star provides oodles of stories about the Chiefs. They certainly haven’t been putting up great records. Losing is also newsworthy.
And I have a hunch Missouri and Kansas State fans are not happy that KU is getting the upper hand in the Star’s coverage. If the sports staff is concerned about alienating readers, they made the choice. Plus, I believe this reflects poor news judgment.