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It Didn’t Start (Or Stop) With Politics

December 10th, 2004 - 5:43 am

Newsroom arrogance certainly isn’t limited to the political or “news” desks. Check out these two columns, by sportswriters voting in the Associated Press college football poll. Both are well-nigh obsessed with emails received from football fans who (gasp!) dared to question the all-knowing wisdom of the writers in question.

The first, by Huntsville Times (AL) beat writer Paul Gattis, was so nasty that the Times’ editor, Melinda Gorham, was moved to run a public apology for it two days later. The second, by Ann Arbor News (MI) writer Jim Carty, hasn’t (as far as I know) generated as much controversy, but it does include gems like this one, directed at Carty’s readership:

The real e-mails were often more than 1,000 words long, each containing schedule breakdowns, game-by-game analysis of the weakside linebacker, and historical PROOF that the Big 12 and Southeastern conferences are heads and shoulders above the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences.

We’re talking geeks here.

Giant, boring, absolutely no-chance-of-getting-a-life geeks.

Dozens of them a day.

For future reference, in case you’re ever unemployed with a lot of time to kill and tempted to do this yourself, let me share what your average Top 25 voter does with these e-mails: Immediately deletes them, and then makes fun of the people who send them to anyone who will listen.

But Jim, you ask, isn’t that arrogant? Don’t you think someone out there could possibly make a good point or teach you something you don’t know about Auburn and Texas?

The answer? Absolutely. That insightful man or woman is most certainly out there.

Unfortunately, for every person with a good point there are 100 more trying to get me to change my vote by making a scientific case for Auburn’s right guard being better than Oklahoma’s or that beating Louisiana-Monroe is a much, much, MUCH more quality cupcake than Bowling Green or that everyone playing Pac-10 football is a bunch of wussy boys.

To those people, two pieces of advice: 1. Spell-check. Learn it. Love it. Live it. 2. There are outlets for your madness. There are local groups of Star Trek fans, Linux programmers and New World Order militias that will welcome you as one of their own.

Got that? Quick translation: If you didn’t waste four years of your life getting a journalism degree, and ten more covering junior-high track meets, you aren’t worthy of having any say on an issue that you follow on a day-by-day basis–and you’re certainly below the notice of any Very Important Sportswriter For A Mid-Market Newspaper.

Regardless of what you think about how the BCS and other football polls turned out (and I’m not trying to start another argument about them here, one was enough), the rant above is not terribly far removed from dismissing bloggers as “[some] guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas.”

Memo to the sportswriters, as well as everybody else they work with: Insulting your best customers–i.e., the people who read your work the most carefully–is a really dumb way to do business. It tends to get subscriptions cancelled and your stuff ignored. More importantly (especially for those of you who hide behind stock phrases like “journalistic integrity”), it devalues your work and your reputation.

It also makes you look like a bunch of jerks. Columns like Carty’s and Gattis’s are among the major reasons why most people can’t stand the press.

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