Bring back the Jack Hairstons of the world. Yeah he was a homer writer, but Jack knew there would always be bad news, so why not concentrate on getting out the good news? That's what I expect of a Gator beat writer. Concentrate on the good news and yes, if there is bad news report it, but don't make bad news the object of the daily reports. I want to read everything about Alvin Butler being only the second true freshman walk-on to start at linebacker for the Gators. I want to hear about his 1600 score on the SAT and maybe it was his smarts that helped him get on the field of some others. I don't want to hear how the linebackers were overmatched or even though he was a walk-on, it was Vandy for crying out loud.
It goes further than that. In the day and age of the internet and access to everything, it is very difficult to keep anything minutely wrong that happens with a player or coach out of the press. That is fine. That's the world we live in and have to accept. Still, when something happens is it too much to ask that the media does its homework so that it can give the full story instead of partial truths that only serve to inflame the situation?
A case in point is the "fraternity fiasco" that UF President Bernie Machen said "Frankly, I think you guys blew out of proportion." Yes, he was talking about the Gator media, the ones that had full access to seven pages of police reports but decided to tell only parts of the story that put the players and coach in a bad light. Most stories completely left out facts that clearly demonstrated that Coach Ron Zook wasn't some crazed madman who went to the frat house, beat down the door and told them he was going to kick their collective butts. Yet that was the perception that was created and the story spread like wildfire nationwide. The fact is the athletic director and president knew about the incident weeks before and decided it wasn't enough to comment on ahead of time. Don't ever let the facts get in the way of a good story though.
How about the scene in the press box at the Georgia game? Of course the press box was much more full than usual for even this game. Media were all over the hot story of the head coach being fired. The problem I had was with several writers (some of them Gator beat writers) from south Florida who seemed far more interested in the team's demise off the field than their play on the field. They laughed and joked the entire first half, fueling my anger and contempt. It was easy to see the disappointment in their eyes in the second half as they were forced to re-think (God forbid they had to think) their story as the Gators came back and had a chance to pull out a win. Whatever happened to fairness? Whatever happened to actual reporting?
The Tuesday media conference to ask about the Georgia game followed the announcement of Coach Zook's firing. The media was told by the Sports Information Director (SID) ahead of time that Coach Zook only wanted to answer questions about the game and would not answer questions about his termination. I overheard two members of the media tell the SID, "That doesn't mean I won't ask" and, "Is he not man enough?" Are you kidding me? As I said on the forums last week, he is more man than those reporters or I will ever be. As Zook told the media this week, "You got what you wanted." There are only so many ways to go for the kill, and once you've made the kill, you can't make it any more dead.
The media also decided it had to be headline news that Coach Zook wasn't going to introduce the senior football Gators at Gator Growl. The local media wanted to know why? I guess they thought he wasn't man enough for that either? His response when I asked, "I don't want to subject the seniors to something like that at something they should attend and will remember the University of Florida for."
This extends beyond this team and this current coaching staff. Most are familiar with a certain central Florida writer that was not too fond of the previous head coach here at Florida. A spat over a golf game turned his ink into poison as he repeatedly bashed Steve Spurrier and every word he said or every ill move he made. Of course the coach struck back and would continually ignore him when he could. That isn't afforded to every coach and player though.
It isn't all writers or all papers. When Mike Bianchi wrote on the fraternity incident, he told both sides of the story. He used the three full pages of Zook's accounts and the associate athletic director's accounts to tell the story. He didn't agree with what the players and Zook did, but he painted a much more accurate picture of what actually happened. Maybe Bianchi is more gifted than most?
Again, we talk in the forums all the time about writers that are supposed to be Gator writers that will not write a story that promotes the University of Florida in a good light. I don't want to name of any of them and give them that satisfaction. Frankly, I don't have to, you know who they are and in particular what paper they write for.
At Gator Country, we report the good and bad. We try to treat both with the respect that is due, and we make every effort to first of all, get the facts. We would rather wait a day or so to report something we might have heard to ensure that the news you get is factual and fair to all parties. We bring you every quote we can from players and coaches alike. We also report on a game when the game is the story.
There will always be some bad news, and that has to be reported, but what's the sense on dwelling on the bad news when there is also good news to report? There has to be balance.
I've had it with writers who have lost the ability to find that balance. I've had it with writers who think that now that Ron Zook or for that matter, the next new target, is wounded, let's go in for the kill.
Maybe sports editors think that bad news sells newspapers. I think they would be astounded to find out that they could probably sell more if they wrote good news.