If you think media make things up, read this column to learn the truth

by C.J. Spang

After a little over five weeks of waiting, I finally received a copy of the 2005-2006 Minnesota football team rules.

Apparently, the University didn’t think my Data Practices Act request meant I wanted the most recent rules.

While reading through the rules, I was intrigued by the page titled, “Talking to Members of Press, Radio & T.V.”

There is a list of 10 guidelines for players to follow when talking to a reporter, followed by three extra paragraphs.

The final paragraph is the most intriguing of the bunch.

“Do not believe what you read in newspapers. Believe what I tell you, because it will be the truth. If you have ever been interviewed and then read what they thought you said, then you will understand. A newspaper article has never made a player; but they have ruined thousands.”

The “I” is presumably Glen Mason, unless someone else writes the football rules.

No other Minnesota team that I received rules for has anything even close to that statement.

Granted, the teams I received rules for aren’t as high-profile as the Gopher football team, but nowhere does it insinuate that media is untruthful.

Unfortunately, I think many people have taken on the opinion that media is untruthful and biased – and it concerns me.

It’s not my fault society has put sports on a pedestal.

And I may be going to out on a limb here, but I’m guessing when Mason signed his five-year contract extension – making him the highest-paid public official in the state of Minnesota at approximately $1.65 million per year – he, too, was glad society has put sports on a pedestal.

Fair or not, dealing with media is part of the territory, and saying media isn’t truthful is insulting.

Let’s be serious. Media is not to blame for the ruined careers of some athletes. Stupid decisions by the athletes are to blame.

Case in point – some people still blame the St. Paul Pioneer Press for the NCAA sanctions imposed on the men’s basketball team after the academic scandal when Clem Haskins was coach.

Apparently, it was OK for Haskins and his team to do everything short of pissing on the rulebook, but it was not OK for the Pioneer Press to report on those violations.

I’ll concede there are certain instances when media make a story where there isn’t one.

Anybody remember the men’s hockey team and Fox 9 news last season?

As far as I’m concerned, college kids drinking underage is not news. I’m willing to bet more than a few other people in that video were regular, underage college students, but weren’t featured in the news segment because they weren’t hockey players.

The way I look at things, there are two ways reporters are classified: either a “homer” or a “hater.”

The “homer” tag is much worse among other journalists, because it’s really a knock on your objectivity as a reporter. To the fans, though, it often means you support the team and your stories often portray a team in a good way no matter what.

A “hater” is considered by the fans to be a reporter who does anything in his or her power to bring down a team. I’d be willing to say the “hater” is actually the more objective of the two categories.

Finding that happy medium is nearly impossible. There is no way you can please everyone and, most likely, you can’t please the majority of people, either.

One of my biggest fears when I became sports editor was writing columns. I made all kinds of excuses to not write columns during the summer, until finally my managing editor made me.

I didn’t want to be the guy who sat back and ripped on every team just because I could. But I didn’t want to be a cheerleader, either.

Columns are different than game stories, features and previews. My columns are, by nature, allowed to have opinion in them, but all other stories in the sports section should not convey an opinion.

My hope is that, as readers, you feel the Daily sports section is objective, unbiased and free of opinion. We want you to feel you can trust us for the facts and inside information we have access to and print throughout the week.

I can assure you: we don’t make things up.

We don’t write what we think people said. We take tape recorders to the interviews, transcribe the quotes and put them in the paper verbatim.

In an age when newspapers are going out of style and we have to constantly adapt and change our coverage to attract and retain readers, it’s important to me – and this department – that we continue to report the facts.

So, if you ever have any questions or concerns about our content, don’t hesitate to contact me.

But please, don’t form an opinion like Mason’s. Because what he says about media is not the truth.

– C.J. Spang welcomes comments at [email protected]