I know I’m probably in the minority when I say I prefer my coverage of local sports to be as free from bias as possible. Give it to me straight, no chaser.
I like reading/hearing interviews with opposing players and coaches. I like honest analysis of in-game strategy rather than reverent fawning and incessant whining about refs. We are all for the hometown, let’s just stipulate to that. With that out of the way, I like my coverage pure. No fluff.
Or at least, it should appear that way.
You see, there is a fine art to being a “homer” journalist.
It takes a delicate touch and the proper sensibility. You have to add just the right dash of favoritism, while still maintaining the appearance of respectability and neutrality. It takes practice. It requires discipline. And it is possible. The other way — just wholly giving in to the base psychological impulse to fawn all over the home team with worshipful coverage and treating local coaches like you are their personal public relations firm — is easier and gets more pats on the head. But let’s face it … that’s kind of lame.
One of the first years I served as sports editor, I nearly got run out of town on a rail by parents mad at the way I covered a Little League All Stars game. I covered it just like a high school or college game. In this instance, our local team committed numerous costly errors and lost. I reported it that way. It was not received well. I still think I was more than fair, some hurt feelings aside. I’d do it again. As one pop diva would put it “I’m sorry (I’m not sorry).”
I feel we are sort of blessed with talented voices on the radio when it comes to covering our high schools, and the University of the Cumberlands. During my three and half years as Sports Editor of the News Journal, I got the chance to go to a lot of other places and hear their radio broadcasts. Some were very good, but trust me when I say, generally speaking, we are lucky. We get some homerism, to be sure, but it’s not egregious.
I’ve heard broadcasts of games that sound more like war propaganda than they do legit coverage. I listened to one, a few years ago, in another part of the state, that consisted of two and a half hours of near unintelligible screaming about referees and angry banging on a table, interspersed with a few advertisements for farming supplies. The farming supply commercials were the best part of the whole thing.
Subtle homerism is becoming a lost practice.
So little about our culture is really subtle or nuanced anymore. I blame our current divided politics and social media.
Newspapers are still your best bet for straight sports coverage, I think. They are pretty much the last bastion. Must be some sort of stubborn, built in resistance to go totally tribal that newspapers have.
Moral of the story, if you want good, mostly unbiased sports coverage, buy your local newspaper. It’s the only place you are really gonna get it.