Monday, June 28, 2010

I Thought I Was Done With Soccer Too

But I forgot something.

I'm not an expert but it appears from the little bit of the World Cup I've watched that soccer is a sport in which the players are not allowed to use their hands and the referees are not allowed to use their eyes.

You don't have to be an expert to see the numerous blunders referees have made in the second largest sporting event in the world after the Olympics. Replays show them quite clearly.

That became a problem in the game between Argentina and Mexico. Replays of Argentina's first goal clearly showed that the player who scored it was offsides. The goal should have been disallowed. It wasn't just clear to TV viewers at home. Monitors at the stadium showed it to fans and the two teams.

Mexico was not happy. Their angry confrontation with the referee at halftime threatened to blow up into a brawl between the two teams.

Soccer's worldwide governing body is an outfit called FIFA. I'm sure one of the Fs stands for football. The other must stand for an F-word that teams feel after another bad call has victimized them.

FIFA doesn't seem to mind the botched call. What's one more?

Anyway, to FIFA, the problem in the Mexico-Argentina case was not the goal but the replay! ESPN quoted FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot as saying that replaying the incident was "a clear mistake."

One that won't be repeated, he promised. Problem solved!

Yes, because it is the replay's fault that the refs punted the call. But if they don't show replays of a bogus goal, isn't that like announcing to the crowd that it was a bogus goal?

Nevermind that. And don't try to fix the injustice. Try to fix people seeing it. What is so outrageous to us seems much more prevalent in the rest of the world. It seems to be an accepted part of the sport, judging by FIFA's actions.

It's something Americans' sense of fair play would never tolerate. A sport so rife with corruption, organized or not, will never catch on here.

That and it's soccer.

College Newspaper and TV Newsrooms Merge

The seismic shift in news media has begun to reshape journalism schools. The University of Kansas has merged the newsrooms of its student newspaper and television station. The University Daily Kansan will move into a newsroom where KUJH-TV studio is located.

A cynic will say that now the TV people won't have to go as far to get story ideas from the paper.

KU says in a news release that the merger will "provide journalism students with greater opportunities to tell their stories more dynamically across print, broadcast, online and new and emerging media."

In other words, the TV people won't be going to get stories from the paper because they'll be the ones writing stories for the paper. And the newspaper reporters will be producing stories for TV.

"The students will benefit from learning in a true multimedia environment," said Terry Bryant, lecturer in journalism and media lab manager. "The variety of skills they master will serve them well when they become professional journalists after graduating from KU."

If the students think this is theoretical, heretical or just radical, they should take a look at WFLA-TV and the Tampa Tribune, Media General-owned outlets which operate from a single newsroom with reporters and photographers shared between the two media.

WFLA-TV photographers have been given Nikon DSLR still cameras with which they shoot photos for the Tribune. More than occasionally, photographers will write and narrate their own TV stories. Newspaper reporters turn stories for TV. TV reporters write for the paper.

Convergence is not just a crazy idea in some bean counter's head somewhere. The debate about whether this should happen is moot. More and more large market TV stations are hiring what they call multi-media journalists — those who shoot their own stories and tap out a text version for the station's web site while they're at it.

If that's the real world, it's good to see journalism schools begin to prepare students for what they're in for when they get there.

World Cup Soccer: USA Loses, ESPN Mourns

I watch soccer like I watch figure skating -- once every four years whether I need to or not. Any more frequent viewing will come only at the invitation of a pretty girl who promises much kissing afterward.

It would have been fun watching the USA advance. Now it will be fun to watch ESPN try to jam soccer down Americans' throats with the likes of Ghana vs. Slovakia. Good luck with that!

It said a lot about the state of soccer in the U.S. that play-by-play announcing for the most significant match in this country's history was called by an Englishman. How many college (American) football games does ESPN and ABC broadcast each autumn weekend and not one of those guys could handle calling a soccer game?

ESPN/ABC color analyst John Harkes sounds just like tennis commentator Mary Carillo. Voice, delivery, phrasing, everything. It took me a while to realize she wasn't in the booth and that she's in London covering Wimbledon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Be Ready To Evacuate Or Beware Citizen Journalists?

Recently I wrote about people's ever-increasing need to be wary of news stories they read. In the race to be first, sometimes accuracy gets lost in the rush.

And that's just among mainstream media. Many more so-called news sources exist, whose authors who lack the knowledge or interest in backing up their stories with pesky little things like facts.

Here's a great example.

Today a Facebook friend posted a link to an article that suggested that officials were ready to trigger plans to evacuate Tampa Bay because of the Gulf oil spill.

The article reads as if composed of a dash of fact and two cups of conjecture. It doesn't cite any officials saying that they're considering evacuating the area. Where's the story coming from? I dunno. The article does not even include a byline. I posted on my friend's page, "I wish the article cited sources. As written, it reads like speculation."

My friend had shared the link from another person. That person replied with a link to another article with a nearly identical story, as if the fact that someone copy-and-pasted the article adds credibility to its contents.

At least this version, which appears to be the original, had a byline. But the author is either a terrible writer or an awful reporter. She lets a reader infer that because "plans are in place" for an evacuation that those who could order one have their finger poised over the "go" button.

In a reply on Facebook, I wrote, "Is there a plan in place? I sincerely hope so! There is a plan in place for evacuation from a hurricane too. But there is no evidence cited that those who could order an evacuation have even considered it."

The article appears on, which pays writers on a pay-per-click basis. Whether the writer inadvertently failed to label a commentary as such or whether she deliberately distorted facts hoping the story would go viral, I don't know.

It was clear from the comments on my friend's Facebook page that more than a few people were willing to take the story at face value, believing what "they" say without question who "they" are or even if they exist.

As I concluded my Facebook reply, "Please, please, be skeptical of what they say. They are usually just making stuff up."

Monday, June 07, 2010

Suspect Suicide Caught on Video. Do You Air It?

Media aren't the gatekeepers of information they once were.

The story about a porn star suspected of murder hurling himself off a cliff as Los Angeles police tried to subdue him is a great example. Though police failed to grab Stephen Clancy Hill before he fell to his death, he was captured on video.

Do you air it?

It's not pleasant to look at but it's not nearly as graphic as the Budd Dwyer gun-in-mouth suicide televised live in 1987. Airing the video might counter accusations of police brutality. Hill was black and the LAPD is not known for just treatment of minorities. Rodney King, anyone?

It has the makings of a great debate.

One rendered totally moot by YouTube.

As stations and now newspapers and radio stations with their video-enabled web sites gnash their teeth weighing the merits, viewers have already decided for themselves if they want to see it. Those who do have no trouble finding it online.

If you're a news director or an editor or just an idiot arguing on a message board you are debating as an exercise. Your verdict has little to do with what news consumers actually see. That itself introduces a new dynamic in the decision-making process. I wonder how it will change news outlets' thinking (A) about showing the video and (B) covering the story?

Interesting times.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Eye to Eye

Sandhill cranes are used to people on golf courses. They also know that golf carts often mean available food. They have no compunction about stealing anything they can reach, though many people feed them voluntarily. This all means that you can get very close and the bird will just stand there looking at you.

If you happen to have your camera handy, especially if said camera has lens that will zoom to 300mm, you can get a close-up shot like this:

And, yes, that was the closest thing to a birdie I got all day. I shot a 96.