Saturday, April 14, 2007

The media pushes back - Part II

Yesterday we discussed some of the ways in which Saban treats the media, and what this can mean. This topic is really deserving of a lot of depth of coverage, so I'm continuing it today.

Every media observer should be mindful of one general rule of the media: journalists love access. They love having powerful people invite them to functions, answer the phone when they call, and possibly even have the powerful people call them. They want to be part-of-the-gang among the powerful people they cover. A journalist who can only write about what other people write and what he sees on the games on TV isn't a journalist. He's me. And I don't make a dime writing this blog.

This is true in all sections of the newspaper; not just the Sports Section. The guy who reviews the movies would fall all over himself to be invited out to Spielberg's house. The guy who covers politics would love to get an exclusive interview with the President. The guy who covers local politics would love to get a behind-the-scenes view of what happens in Bob Riley's office.

Some members of the media are now complaining about Nick Saban that he doesn't give them the access that they previously enjoyed. He doesn't answer his questions. He doesn't let them watch practice. He doesn't let them interview certain players and coaches. It will only get worse for the media. Ask the Miami media.

The mistake these members of the media have made is to think that the people who buy their papers actually give a damn if their lives are less enjoyable. They've forgotten one of the other general rules about the media: the customers, even though they pay for the content, really don't like the media and will generally side with the powerful figure over the journalist in most professional disputes. This, also is true in most sections of the paper (though perhaps not among the reporters who cover Hollywood, who the public likes even less, despite also giving Hollywood tons of money).

Complaining about your lack of access just makes you look like a whiner. It's fighting a war on bad terrain. It's asking the public to dislike Saban because he dislikes the journalists. It won't happen. The public feels no sympathy for you

While the public doesn't feel sympathy for the media, the media definitely has the ear of the public and the ability to engineer public perception if they do it with more finesse. Criticize how Saban does his job, not how he helps you do your job. Like I said yesterday, if Saban offends you, "Put it in your back pocket." Remember the slight, and bide your time. Soon enough, Saban will do something that people won't like (lose a game he was expected to win, for example). Then you bring out the claws.

You have the ear of the public. Your voices are among the loudest out there when it comes to discussing whether a coach's job should be saved, or whether or not he should go. Put his slight in your back pocket, and remember it when it comes down to writing that column about whether you "give him one more year" or "throw him to the wolves."

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