October 15, 2007

A Slippery Slope, Indeed!

I’ve not been a huge football fan over the years, but as a native Nebraskan, I’ve been proud that the Cornhuskers have generally fielded outstanding football teams with exceptional records. For me, the fact that Nebraska lost to the Oklahoma State Cowboys last weekend 45-14 in Lincoln was softened by my fondness for the Cowboys. Karen and I lived 10 years in Oklahoma, and we attended lots of Cowboy basketball and football games – even though OSU was usually at the short end of the stick while competing against the rival Sooners or the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

But this blog is not a soliloquy that joins the chorus of invective against NU coach Bill Callahan. I know very little about the man, and even less about his boss, Athletic Director Steve Pederson, who was fired today by NU Chancellor Harvey Perlman. I do know a little bit more about the University of Nebraska and its history – and I’ve always feared that this wonderful institution would forever wrap too much of its soul around a successful football team.

But this blog isn’t even about that endless friction between academics and athletics.

My subject in this blog is the Associated Press – the “AP.”

In the Rapid City (SD) Journal’s sports section on Monday, October 15, 2007, the Journal turned over huge headlines and 26 column inches to the Associated Press for an understandable fomenting of frustration about the Huskers and Callahan.

In an earlier day, I believe the Associated Press (AP) might have labeled this story as something other than news and perhaps would have put a by-line with the story.

Is there any doubt of the intent of the writer as the piece is ended?

“To win big, you need a wealth of resources and revenue, decked-out facilities and a big stadium that is packed beyond capacity seven or eight times a season. You also need strong leadership at the top. Which of those is Nebraska lacking?”

Perhaps the Rapid City Journal dropped a by-line or disclaimer that this is an opinion piece. Or maybe the Associated Press doesn’t much care that the line is blurred beyond recognition between AP news stories and things that are NOT news stories.

“Huskers hit a new low” was the headline. I suspect the Huskers will eventually overcome their adversity and prevail. My greater concern is that the Associated Press, a wonderful institution itself with a proud history, will continue its ill-conceived path into the world beyond factual news stories – without appropriately identifying it as such.

Worse, I fear it will spill over from the sports pages into other areas of reporting.

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