We all know there were empty seats at the Portland game. We all know that caused disappointment to Coach Izzo and his players. What was missed was that many people who were there were also disappointed to see the holes in the crowd.
When Tom Izzo told the local media that he was unhappy with the low turnout, it was the same feeling that everybody had, nothing different than anybody was thinking. Where the sports reporters goofed was to make it into an actual news story, as if it was genuinely worth such attention.
Upon closer review, non-attendance is a common phenomenon in contemporary college athletics. Reports on empty seats are available from across the country in various sports, even at the highest levels of competition. So what makes it a big story to see it happen in Breslin Center on a Monday night?
Since it's a common problem nowadays, it qualifies as a "dog bites man" story, and doesn't rise to the level of newsworthiness. Since everybody didn't like it, to hear Coach Izzo say he didn't like it either, is likewise, a "dog bites man" story. This was not a piece of news by journalistic standards.
To carry it forward like the local media did was like passing around backyard gossip. To justify the coverage on the grounds that "Tom said it" is irresponsible, since Coach Izzo shares many personal feelings with members of the local media. That's part of his personal charm; you always know what he's thinking and feeling.
But that doesn't mean everything he shares with reporters should be turned into news reports. What if he mentioned that his wife was ill, or that his son got good grades at school, or that he didn't like the pizza he had for dinner last night? You can imagine the silly headlines for those "stories":
- "LUPE HOME SICK WITH FLU ACCORDING TO IZZO"
- "YOUNG STEPHEN MAKES DAD PROUD WITH HONOR ROLL"
- "PIZZA NOT UP TO PAR FOR HALL OF FAME COACH"
Running with "stories" like that is similar to carrying on about the empty seats in Breslin, just because Tom Izzo shared his feelings on the subject. Professional reporters are expected to exercise journalistic discretion about their work, not carry on like Hollywood Paparazzi chasing after juicy grist for the People Magazine cover story.
If it was considered an important editorial objective to report on attendance at Breslin, there were certainly better ways to do so. How about these examples:
- THOUSANDS ATTEND GAME DESPITE MASSIVE STORMS
- WEEKNIGHT BALL-GAMES STILL POPULAR AT BRESLIN CENTER
- IZZONE COMES TO PLAY WITH FINAL EXAMS LOOMING
And if they really wanted the "attendance at Breslin" news story, they should take a closer look at the Spartan Women's Basketball program. The women's team just had three home games in a six-day stretch, drawing an average of more than 5000 fans per game. The MSU Women's Basketball team consistently ranks in the Top 20 nationally in attendance, so there's your "news-hook".
We have written extensively about the Michigan Mainstream Media Machine (M-4), but this is NOT an example of their style. This is just lazy, borderline-incompetent, snoozing-while-working, timeclock-punching "work" by the local media. The result of each process, however is the same; a subtle smearing of Michigan State University athletics.
Coach Tom Izzo deserves more respect, and so do the rest of us.
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