FanDuel - WFBC

August 11, 2005

There's Bias in Most Sports Reporting: Michael Lev, OC Register Sports Analyst, says that FSN did the right thing in reassigning Carolyn Hughes who allegedly had a personal relationship with Dodger pitcher Derek Lowe because it could have tainted her objectivity as a reporter. Give me a break! So called "sports news" is full of opinions and bias. That may not be totally repugnant, but let’s be honest about it.

posted by tommysands to general at 09:31 AM - 42 comments

This is a no-brainer conflict of interest. A beat reporter should not be covering a team when she's romantically involved with one of the players. Even if the media were rotten with bias, as you believe, that's no justification to make it worse. I've known some beat writers covering Texas teams. They were objective and would strongly dispute the notion that they were biased. They were so concerned about perceptions of bias that it was frowned upon to wear any team apparel, such as a ballcap, in the pressbox.

posted by rcade at 09:57 AM on August 11

rcade, I'm sure you're right. There are many sports writers who take great pains to eliminate even the appearance of bias. However, I have found that opinions are freely expressed in both print and braodcast "sports news." Check out this link for a mild example of a "news story" which appeared the same day as the Lev story I referenced in the post above. http://www.ocregister.com/ocr/2005/08/11/sections/sports/sports/article_630914.php

posted by tommysands at 10:19 AM on August 11

What's wrong with that piece? It looks like a fairly straightforward column analyzing a manager's decisions (in admitted hindsight). If you put together the first letters of every paragraph, does it spell "OAKLAND SUCKS"?

posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:37 AM on August 11

What's wrong with that piece? There's nothing wrong with the piece. My point is that it is the writer's opinion that Scioscia made some mistakes. It is not pure sports fact.

posted by tommysands at 10:47 AM on August 11

Where are you finding opinion in that game story from the Register? It's all direct quotes, indirect quotes, or non-controversial observations, such as "Shields hasn't had many implosions this year."

posted by rcade at 10:51 AM on August 11

I don't see the reporter questioning Scoscia's decisions. I see a report that his decisions didn't work out the way he had hoped.

posted by rcade at 10:52 AM on August 11

Maybe the story I referenced was a poor example. Here are some better ones to illustrate my point: Opinion: The weak hitting Angles lost to a much better Oakland A’s team last night. Fact: The Oakland A’s beat the Anaheim Angles 4 to 3 last night. Opinion: Angel’s manager Mike Scioscia’s decision to pull starting pitcher Santana in the 6th inning was a very costly move. Fact: Mike Scioscia pulled starting pitcher Santana for reliever Shields in the 7th inning with only one out. Opinion: Cabrera’s misplayed Swisher’s ground ball allowing Payton to score from third. Fact: Cabrera momentarily bobbled Swisher’s ground ball allowing Payton to score from third. I’ll admit that the differences are subtle but they’re real. “Sports News” should include only facts. “Sports Analysis” allows opinions.

posted by tommysands at 11:10 AM on August 11

By your definition, "sports news" extends no further than this.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:32 AM on August 11

I think the disagreement as to whether a story is news or analysis (whether it asserts opinion or fact) is based on the inability of many to tell the difference. For so many years, so much of the news and sports stories have been opinion rather than facts that readers and viewers have become used to believing that the opinion is the fact. "Reporters" are no longer reporters, but analysts. Thus, newspaper "reporters" often appear on radio or television shows to explain what is wrong with a team or otherwise give their opinion on certain players, coaches, etc. Then, when someone disagrees with them or claims that they have gone too far, they fall back on freedom of the press and freedom of speech and allege that anyone who disagrees must be a communist. Or they state the old axiom that they are the eyes and ears of the public and thus are entitled to special privileges and dispensations. I am not sure that "reporters" even know what reporting is anymore. I am not sure how many times I have read a newspaper "story" that opined as to some event, and which I had to scan several times just to find out what happened as opposed to how bad it was that it happened or what the ramifications could be. I say this as a former reporter and editor myself, though of numerous years ago. My statements are general and not specific as to the stories cited or linked, as those required registration.

posted by graymatters at 11:33 AM on August 11

Opinion: Cabrera’s misplayed Swisher’s ground ball allowing Payton to score from third. Fact: Cabrera momentarily bobbled Swisher’s ground ball allowing Payton to score from third. I understand your larger point, but I think you're cutting this too thin, if "misplayed" is an opinion and "momentarily bobbled" is a fact. A good beat reporter observes the game and shares the insight that results from his observations. No one would want to read a game story that was a dull recitation of the box score. As a former reporter myself, I enjoy how bloggers on sites like this don't have to pretend that we have had an opinionectomy. Give me the free-wheeling subjectivity of the blogs over the safe objectivity of the newspapers any day.

posted by rcade at 11:41 AM on August 11

mmy, what's your point? You're all over the map here. It's not possible to think that a personal and possibly sexual relationship with a player might be a conflict of interest for a television reporter covering those games. Regardless of the fact that this it's scandalous and everytime she's seen with Lowe on screen that can be revisited, so the network did and said what it needed to. Your opinions/facts from last night's Angels loss aren't better examples. How is Cabrera’s misplayed Swisher’s ground ball allowing Payton to score from third not a fact? The only difference in your "fact" is the use of the word misplayed, and isn't that your opinion?

posted by YukonGold at 11:45 AM on August 11

i need to type faster. rcade stole my thunder (while on preview)!

posted by YukonGold at 11:48 AM on August 11

I appreciate the additional analysis provided by the newspaper. However, you want the analysis to vary based on legitimate perceptions not on the wonderful gift of diamond earrings that a reporter might have received. If everyone here reported on the Artest brawl, we would all have had a very different story and all (or most) would be legitimate.

posted by bperk at 12:08 PM on August 11

Did the writer eventually back up the claim that the Angels didn't hit well? Did Sciosia's move eventually cost the Angels? Isn't a bobble a misplaying? I agree that there's plenty of bias out there. In the TO saga in Philly, no one's really williing to call out the Eagles for not sublimating their own egos a long time ago. The lazy are too willing to just bust on TO and keep on truckin'. But I don't think there's a black-white judgement to be made on the way this story has been treated. There's not much gray area with this Hughes-Lowe business. For all I know, Hughes might have worked the Dodgers beat as aggressively as anyone. But fair or not, there's always going to be this question of how she will cover Lowe, or what information will she keep under wraps because she doesn't want to ruin her relationship with Lowe. (After all, half of Lowe's salary probably dwarfs her check from Fox, if it gets down to ring-buying time.)

posted by jackhererra at 12:10 PM on August 11

If they'd just offer their mix of fact and opinion in a linear fashion instead of that stupid "here's what happened in the 4th inning through the 9th and then here's the stuff that happened before the 4th" system, I'd be happy.

posted by yerfatma at 12:16 PM on August 11

Ahh - the inherent bias in sports reporting is unaviodable, and frankly welcomed. In sports, so much more than other journalistic fields, you're dealing with far more certainties (Team A won; team B lost, reporter was there), which opens the discussion up for opinions earlier. Given the connections that a lot of established sports jounalists have, they do occassionally deserve their insider reputations. It isn't as grey as other fields which rely on conjecture, circumstantial evidence and 2nd party accounts. I think the real issue most people have is not the nature of sports jounalism, but the fact that a lot of jounalists just aren't very good at it, and would rather flame controversy as a method of getting readers than actually going about and bothering to learn what it is they are writing about. That and the constant interviewing of other journalists as a way of getting the inside info - which is oxymoronic since it comes from an outsider.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:16 PM on August 11

tommy the only bias here is yours. Stop riding the Rally-Monkey's ass, its chafing. No one is saying that the Angels are a bad team. I REPEAT. No one is saying that the Angels are a bad team. rcade put it best:

A good beat reporter observes the game and shares the insight that results from his observations. No one would want to read a game story that was a dull recitation of the box score.
We all know that you are an Angels fan, and we encourage you to be an active supporter and commentor in threads about the Angels. But it gets tiresome when over half of your posts/comments say little more than "Angels Rule", "Dodgers Suck", "The A's Suck", "This reporter/news source/columnist sucks for doing anything less than fellating the Angels". You don't have to be a fanatic to be a fan. And I can give you an example. I know that fellow SpoFite Ufez is a Mavs fan. He doesn't go out of his way to post links that are tenuously related to the Mavs, nor does he pretend that the Mavs are perfect. At times he has been critical of the Mavs. See his anti-Shaq trade column here. In short tommy, you don't always need to go to 11.

posted by lilnemo at 12:44 PM on August 11

I think all of these comments have merit. I think some of nemo's comments have merit; but some not a lot. For example, how do you know I'm an Angel fan; where did I ever say that the Dodgers suck or the A's suck or the reporter sucks for not doing that bad thing on the Angels? (All of the Angels? at the same time?). Seriously, I do appreciate your comments, nemo. They were instructionally critical but not vicious personal attacks, I think.

posted by tommysands at 01:45 PM on August 11

But realistically if your job is for the hometown paper and your ripping ass on the home team, how long do you think youd have your job? How many news papers actually own teams? Next thing you know congress will begin hearings on bias in the news media.

posted by volfire at 01:58 PM on August 11

Next thing you know congress will begin hearings on bias in the news media. Vol, interesting you'd say that. I'm not a reporter but I do sit on the Credibility Panel for a major newspaper and analyze news coverage for bias. Many major newspapers in the country are going through a self analysis to eliminate any bias in news reporting. Part of the reason is because of declining circulation but part is to prevent what I hope is not your profetic statement.

posted by tommysands at 02:08 PM on August 11

how do you know I'm an Angel fan Somewhere around the 3,000th Angels-related post, light dawned on Marblehead for us.

posted by yerfatma at 02:20 PM on August 11

Geez, I don't know... Dodgers suck? A's Suck? Sure you don't use the word "suck" but we all get your point. I'm still interested to hear your take on the assesment of Cabrera's play last night and how your opinion weighs in the matter.

posted by YukonGold at 02:26 PM on August 11

Well as long as we're on a whos "sucks" rant lets not count out the Cub's. They do too.

posted by volfire at 02:33 PM on August 11

In addition to not understanding the distinction between beat reporting, features and columns (and granted that some editors don't crack the whip on their writers' coloring within the lines)...some of y'all apparently are having trouble with the distinction between "opinion" and "bias". Just sayin'.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:49 PM on August 11

Like Joe Morgan is biased against any pitcher who doesn't throw "a cutter" or "a slide-piece" ? c'mon google show me some love...

posted by YukonGold at 03:03 PM on August 11

But realistically if your job is for the hometown paper and your ripping ass on the home team, how long do you think youd have your job? Quite a while if your readers buy your reasoning. Her in Los Angeles Bill Plashke of the Los Angeles Times makes his living by ripping on Kobe, the Lakers, and the Dodgers. I'm pretty sure that if you open up a paper in Anytown, U.S.A. you're bound to find a beat reporter, or columnist riffing on the idiot manager, the selfish player, the loud-mouth agent or something of the like. Its the nature of the beast.

posted by lilnemo at 03:07 PM on August 11

The single qualification for being a beat writer for a major sport at the Boston Globe seemed to be hating the team for a good deal of the 90s. It's still true in hockey, basketball and football and each of those guys has parlayed their bile into additional media deals both locally and nationally. The goal is to get noticed and then get on the gravy train of radio and tv. Some of the Boston Herald writers now say they would give up their position at that sinking ship before they'd give up the local media dollars.

posted by yerfatma at 03:13 PM on August 11

Somewhere around the 3,000th Angels-related post, light dawned on Marblehead for us. OK, fatma, since you're my hero, I'm going to use your approach: Prove, or provide source for, this fact.

posted by tommysands at 03:15 PM on August 11

I don't know what about these?

posted by lilnemo at 03:22 PM on August 11

I'm still interested to hear your take on the assesment of Cabrera's play last night and how your opinion weighs in the matter goldie, I think the Official Scorkeeper made the correct decision on Cabrera's play. I don't know what you mean by "how your opinion weighs in the matter".

posted by tommysands at 03:28 PM on August 11

I think YukonGold is referring to this:

Opinion: Cabrera’s misplayed Swisher’s ground ball allowing Payton to score from third. Fact: Cabrera momentarily bobbled Swisher’s ground ball allowing Payton to score from third.
The difference between "misplayed" and "momentarily bobbled" is flimsy at best. If Cabrera fields the ball cleanly, the odds of Payton scoring from third decrease. Your basis for arguing bias in the media is built upon value judgement. What you somehow do not see is how your interpretation is biased in that you are unwilling to assign blame to the Angels, and yet simultaneously unwilling to credit the A's. Thats bias. Which is interesting, considering that is the charge you are levelling at others.

posted by lilnemo at 04:22 PM on August 11

I have worked as both a sports reporter and a news reporter. I can tell you that any sports reporter who continually filed stories in a "facts only" style would be reassigned to the obits. Sports reporters have always been analysts. Maybe a few had a very dry style, but the best sports reporters have always spent more time on "why" than "how."

posted by ?! at 05:20 PM on August 11

nemo, thanks for your comments. I apparently am not making myself clear. I’ll try again. My opinion is that there is bias in sports news reporting. By “bias” I mean any reporting which includes: opinion , view , sentiment , feeling , belief , conviction , persuasion, anything other than facts. An opinion is a “judgment based on grounds insufficient to rule out the possibility of dispute”. [The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language - Fourth Edition] I made up the opinion/fact examples I gave. The only reason I used A’s and Angels’ players in the examples is because the article I referenced is about the A’s Angels game. I agree with you that my premise is biased but the examples have nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not I am an Angel fan.

posted by tommysands at 05:21 PM on August 11

My opinion is that you're beating the world's tiniest dead horse. Leave that little feller alone. Also, the "whether or not I am an Angels fan" thing is odd. Admit you're an Angels homer the way I'm a Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers homer, so people can call you on situations where your love of a team might be coloring your judgment.

posted by rcade at 05:44 PM on August 11

Understood. Bias:

2a. A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment. b. An unfair act or policy stemming from prejudice.
It is possible for a reporter to have an opinion and still be impartial. If you're looking for reporting devoid of:opinion , view , sentiment , feeling , belief , conviction , or persuasion than perhaps DrJohnEvans is right, you need to stick to the boxscores. Or invest in a cyborg reporter.

posted by lilnemo at 05:48 PM on August 11

**NEWSFLASH** There is bias, as you refer to it mr. sands, in every type of reporting. Either real or perceived, you can find bias in damn near anything written or spoken from the media. Many refer to this as punditry (almost sure thats a real word), others bias, and yet others OPINION.

posted by curlyelk at 05:48 PM on August 11

How do we spin K-Rod's brainfart today?

posted by yerfatma at 06:00 PM on August 11

Admit you're an Angels homer rcade, you want me to admit I'm an Angel fan after what happened today?? OK, I'll admit it, but reluctantly...so there. Now everyone can beat me up... How do we spin K-Rod's brainfart today? fatma, I've never seen this happen before in the bigs so I haven't the faintest.

posted by tommysands at 06:25 PM on August 11

How do we spin K-Rod's brainfart today? A gift. Manna from God. A sign that He wants the Oakland Athletics in first place.

posted by dusted at 07:28 PM on August 11

Naw, I don't think we should beat you up. Look, I'm a complete homer for every major pro team in the New England area. I'm just realistic about what's my opinion on this site. Otherwise I'd go nuts with people who don't understand why it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Yankee fan to get into heaven. It's all about penance and suffering. On the other hand, that might be the Irish Catholic New Englander fatalist in me.

posted by yerfatma at 07:58 PM on August 11

I'm a complete homer for every major pro team in the New England area Oh my, oh my. While I'm in the confessional, I might as well come all the way clean. I'm a proud, card carring, charter member of the Myron Cope Terrible Towl Club (MCTTC for short.) My Sundays during the fall are spent in front of the TV waving the towl for the old black and gold. We may not be able to communicate here about our favorite teams at all this fall, and for one of us, into the brutal cold of early February.

posted by tommysands at 08:41 PM on August 11

The only New England teams that I'm a homer for are the Pats and the Suns. yerfatma can keep the rest of 'em. (I'm a pretty big Pats homer, though...funny story, because I work weekends in the winter at a place that sees a lot of New Yorkers, and yes, I wear my Pats hat to work on game days)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:21 PM on August 11

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