Inevitably during the first few weeks of journalism school, a lengthy, methodical discussion will begin about why people read the things they read. To the nerdiest of self-aware media nerds (*lowers head, raises hand*) it’s an endlessly interesting topic, and one that’s gained even more importance as the battle for the greatest newspaper circulation has faded in the background, and a far more fierce war for clicks has taken over.
Also inevitably, during this discussion there’s one question that’s always asked: would a website or newspaper that only reports “good” news work?
The answer? No. Never. Not now. Not ever.
People feel like they need to be informed, and they do. But they want to be entertained and/or intrigued. This is why sensationalist celebrity garbage like anything about Kim Kardashian or Tom Cruise’s divorce is far more widely read than an item about, say, Syria.
I’ll end my amateur psychology lesson now, because by reading about something that isn’t entertaining, you’re going to prove my point and stop reading. Generally, I think people understand this concept, or are at least aware of it on a subconscious level.
Santonio Holmes is the exception. He thinks the media should be on his team, and should bring pom poms to every game, and have juicy orange slices ready to hand to players at halftime.
New York has a lot of media. I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed that phenomenon before, but it’s true. Yet despite spending two seasons in that media mecca and previously playing in Pittsburgh and that football-mad market, Holmes’ comments on Dave Dameshek’s podcast yesterday indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the media, and how the press treats and reports news.
So good ahead, Santonio, tell us how you’d like those twerpy fedora wearers to behave:
“If you guys want to be, and this is for the New York media, if you guys want to be a part of our team and want to feel so important, be there to support us, not to try to break us down. Because (there’s) not one day that we all step in that locker room and we try to break each other down, that we talk bad about the way that person played because it affects the team the way one person plays if they don’t play to perfection.”
Oh, he’s not done yet…
“If the New York media wants to be a part of our team and wants to continue writing about us, write positive things, stay away from the negative because it doesn’t do anything good for our team that you want to report all the negative things that happen and that’s all you want to talk to us players about. We live for one thing and that’s to play football and not to entertain you people in the media.”
The media often creates narratives, but not stories, and in his request to have positive emphasized over negative, Holmes doesn’t seem to understand the vast difference between the two. The possibility that Michael Vick will destroy the Eagles season with his dynasty comment is a narrative. Santonio Holmes being barred from the huddle and sulking like a petulant little child on the sideline as the Jets season ended is a story. One event happened, and the other is based on conjecture and speculation.
This doesn’t excuse narratives, because they’re usually tired, boring, cliché-ridden unoriginal thinking that caters to the public’s desire to believe a known truth has been established, when in fact little substance is there (hey, did you guys know that Tim Tebow is a winner?). But as cringe-inducing as they often become, narratives are collateral damage in the search for originality. When so many ideas are bubbling, it’s far too easy for the lazy columnist to grasp onto the common thought, and cruise.
Maybe that’s thinking too deeply, and giving Holmes too much credit. In fact, it almost surely is.
The media–in New York, or anywhere–has no desire whatsoever to be part of any team. On a fundamental level the job asks the beat reporter who’s in the locker room every day to relay what they observe and hear to readers and viewers, and they can then make judgements. Through time those reporters will become connected and develop sources, and those sources then share inside information about, say, a bubbling feud between Holmes and Mark Sanchez.
On an even more fundamental level, any self-respecting journalist analyzes, critiques, dissects, and questions the information they receive. So if they do as Holmes asks and only report the bubbly news about rainbows and cotton candy, they’re not reporters anymore. They’d be members of the Jets’ public relations staff, and every New York sports section would wither and die during football season.
Actually, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. What would we do without detailed critiques of Tim Tebow’s suit?