Friday, September 28, 2007

New York Times Covers World Cup Soccer -- By Watching It On TV

Jere Longman Shows That Even If You Can't Be Two Places At Once It Doesn't Matter
A couple of years ago, Jim Van Vliet, the San Francisco Giants beat writer for the Sacramento Bee, was fired after he was caught watching the game on TV and writing quotes from players as if he was actually there.
Of course, that's a big-time ethical boner. But now such an approach to covering a game is not only being tolerated by The New York Times, it's being encouraged.
To wit: Jere Longman's dispatch on the U.S. being knocked out of the Women's World Cup by Brazil, 4-0. The game was played in China. Longman was not there. How do we know that? Because he covered last night's game where the Philadelphia Phillies won to tie the New York Mets for the National League East lead (sob). Both articles appeared in today's sports section.
Now, Longman's soccer story is not datelined, so there's no attempt to fool readers into thinking he was there a la Van Vliet.
But the only way he could provide a story that had as much detail as he did was to watch the game, which meant he clocked time watching ESPN2. The Times has rightly calculated that its national audience -- and international readership online -- has more than a passing interest in soccer, which gets more coverage in the Gray Lady than any other New York paper.
Indeed, more than 400 comments followed Longman's online version.
However, until now the Times was relying on the A.P. for most of its World Cup dispatches. As the U.S. got closer to the finals, it instead dispatched Longman to the couch.
What's troubling is the precedent this could set. Rather than spend thousands of dollars on travel, just park your reporters in a Barcalounger and let them type away. Heck, they could TiVo the game and not miss a play if they need to take a leak.
That's not reporting. It's what I do most Sunday afternoons.
If you're not there, fine, but you only look silly if you put out a story that gives the appearance of being at the game, especially when that reporter was clearly somewhere else.
The Times has already sacrificed coverage of many local teams to satisfy beancounters. It shouldn't sacrifice its credibility as well.

No comments: