Monday, June 19, 2006

Last Media Word (for now)

Ahhh...the media topic continues to bubble both above and beneath the surface, and a lot of folks are commenting/writing on it. Unless there are further developments, I'll wrap up the "official" conversation with this:

I think the analogy I made almost flippantly below about the Blazers and the Oregonian sounding like a married couple in trouble is proving apt. The more I think about it, the more it fits. Since, barring a Blazer move or a meteor hitting the "O", they are stuck with each other, a couple pieces of unsolicited advice...

One of the keys to staying married in times of strife is realizing that you are going to be married and planning accordingly. While you may daydream of an idealistic life apart, in truth you need each other, and realizing that helps you avoid the temptation to grasp short-term pleasure (like blasting each other in public) instead of long-term gain. And you two DO need each other. The Blazers cannot become a niche product and still survive. The market is just too small. We've seen that play out in the last three years. The team needs mainstream fans and the only way to reach those fans in this town is the Oregonian. If you can't manage to be media-savvy, at least avoid being media stupid. On the Oregonian side (or at least the sports side of the Oregonian) you are sportswriters in a one sport town. Your national and local attention both come largely from your coverage of that one sport and its local representative. Try giving folks a steady diet of Beavers, Timbers, and Winterhawks columns and watch what happens to your renown and that of your sports section. I am not suggesting in any way that you should refrain from honest reporting as you cover the team, even to preserve your own position. It's not your job to be a team booster. However, when you are tempted to use your press position as a bully pulpit, whether it's in reaction to an indignity the team has visited upon you or an honest attempt to bring about change, remember that you can only go so far. Not everything thought or learned in private should be made public, and sometimes why you say something is as ethically important as what you say or how you say it. Stepping over that line is not only unhelpful, but destructive to both institutions. There should be no doubt about you erring on the side of caution here.

A tidbit of wisdom that most long-married couples come to accept: Being right does no good if it leads to you sleeping on the couch.

This is true not only of your relationship with each other, but with your fans and readership. Your overt purposes may be good basketball and good media coverage, but you are both essentially in the sales business, or at least in the relationship business (if "sales" is too crude of a term). That means you're dealing with other people. And truth is never absolute when other people are involved. Sometimes what's right for the health of the relationship is more important than what you think is right personally...not always, but maybe more than you're giving credit for. Take away those other people and both bouncing balls and printing presses sound pretty hollow. No doubt all parties in this situation are dealing with "truth" of sorts, but how your truth is received and used--what effect it has on this community and its relationships--will be as important in the long run as how right it is at this moment.

That, folks, is my best shot. Unfortunately I fear this "story about the story" is far from over. It's really can talk philosophy, ethics, and institutional/organizational responsibility all you want, but when egos get bruised it all goes out the window, reduced to something basically and utterly human. And egos have been bruised here on both sides. Stay tuned.

--Dave (


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