Today there is an awesome column by Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe about the role of journalism in sports, and I think it's absolutely right. I point this out because I want people to understand that I am not cast in the role of a "journalist" here at A Sea of Blue. I do care if the Wildcats win or lose and that will show up in my work. I am a fan, not just a reporter of fact. That doesn't mean I can't try to see both sides, and I usually do, but Shaughnessy's column is how a real journalist should think, at least in my opinion. Consider:
That’s the way it is in other departments of a legitimate news operation. Journalists who cover politics, science, medicine, labor, and international relations are asked to put their agendas on the shelf. Tell the story. The reporter covering the Romney-Obama election is not supposed to be a fan of either candidate.
Why is it presumed to be different for us? Why do readers expect — and in some cases, demand — that sports reporters be fans of the team they cover? This amazes me. Are we supposed to suspend all rules of journalism because we cover sports?
I truly appreciate this perspective, and I think the Internet has done great violence to journalism by creating an environment where writers who genuinely take the idea that they should not be a partisan of the team they cover are derided and criticized to the point they throw up their hands and join the fan echo chambers. I have always imagined that it is very difficult to be a journalist, because part of me believes that an unbiased perspective is very demanding for anyone invested enough to want to cover a particular beat.
This is where Jerry Tipton deserves some slack. I write occasionally about his negativity, but he also does us an invaluable service by not being a fan of Kentucky. Sometimes he's hard to read, but very often, what he produces forces us to ask questions of ourselves and our team, if we are truly as self-aware as most of us think we are. Unlike some people, I don't think he dislikes Kentucky or Calipari, but rather, sometimes goes a bit too far to make sure that he isn't seen as being "in the tank" for UK. It's a tiresome balancing act, I'm sure.
With that said, I think the best sports journalists do a great job of divorcing themselves from their rooting interests in order to properly do their jobs. I often accuse this or that reporter of certain biases, usually with at least some justification, but sometimes I blow things out of proportion as fans are wont to do. I don't think there is much doubt that guys like Pete Thamel, Thayer Evans, and Pat Forde have anti-Kentucky predispositions that come out in their writing. But there are a number of reporters reporters, like Andy Katz, Dick Weiss, and Michael DeCourcy just to name three, who scrupulously try keep their prejudices out of their writing. I admire that.
I normally wouldn't dedicate an entire column to this, but I know that most of the Big Blue Nation, including your humble correspondent, is as susceptible to frustration over perceived anti-UK reporting as the eye is to grit. I don't know if Dan Shaughnessy is really able to detatch himself from fandom, as he suggests he does, but I think he strikes exactly the right tone here, and we should remember that more than enough of our news comes from a partisan perspective. We definitely need the non-fan side of the story, and it seems to be a dying art.