Friday, February 02, 2007

There's more to it than simply trying to sell papers or drive web traffic

On the final weekend before we embark on a new NASCAR season, let’s talk a little bit about objectivity.
One of the questions I am asked most often is whether or not I have a favorite driver. The truthful answer to that question is almost always yes. But it changes a lot, certainly from week to week and sometimes from lap to lap.
Allow me to explain.
When you’ve worked nights at newspaper offices as often as I have, the one comment you can barely keep from laughing at is "All you guys want to do is sell newspapers!" Why, as a matter of fact, that’s true. I’ve always wondered if anybody ever called Domino’s and, in trying to register a complaint, said "All you guys want to do is sell pizzas!"
When people level that "sell newspapers" complaint, usually they’re complaining about the tone or approach to some facet of coverage, and of course there’s more to putting out a good newspaper than merely trying to pander for the sake a few more copies being sold.
But, for the most part, it’s good for newspapers when there are good stories to cover. The Observer does better, from a sports section perspective, if the Carolina Panthers are winning or the Charlotte 49ers or an ACC team like Duke or North Carolina makes the Final Four in men’s basketball. The paper and thatsracin.com also benefit when there’s compelling news on the NASCAR front for us to report.
For that reason, every race day I am pulling for the best story. Some days, that might be your favorite driver winning. Some days, though, it might be a better story if your favorite driver loses in heartbreaking fashion. When I have a rooting interest, it’s almost always for the best story.
Certainly, there are some drivers with whom I have a better relationship than others. I find some guys more interesting than others, and I am certain the same can be said from the drivers’ perspectives. Undoubtedly there are guys who don’t think I’ve done them right and therefore I am not on their lists of favorite writers. That’s part of the deal when you’re entering your 11th season on the beat.
Later on this spring, a book will be coming out that I did with Jeff Burton and his team during the Chase for the Nextel Cup last year. Burton and his guys were good enough to let me hang out with them during the Chase race weekends and I was able to get to know a lot of guys on that team a little bit. Does that mean I will pull for the No. 31 car over the rest of the cars in races this year? No, but that doesn’t mean some people won’t see it that way.
I used to kid around that I should change my email address to jeffgordonlovingidiot@charlotteobserver.com to save people time when they wanted to send me hate mail. You could put Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or several other drivers’ names in there, too, because I’ve been accused to favoring them at times, too.
One of the things I’ve never claimed to be is objective, at least not in the strict definition of that word. According to dictionary.com, objective means "not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased."
Reporters are human beings, and feelings, interpretations and, yes, even biases are part of everything we see and hear. My job is to filter out as much of that as I possibly can, but my confession to you is that nobody can do that completely.
The best anybody doing this job can promise is that he or she tries to be fair. And so, before I pack up the suitcase to start another season on the road, let me promise to try to do that one more time.
Let’s go racing.

3 comments:

Gvav1 said...

I can't wait to read your new book!

Nicole Manske has nothing on you...bring back Pit Bulls!

Vroom!

okla21fan said...

Pit bulls was a great show but i only had one complaint about it. when the 4 would 'walk over' each other trying to make their points, sometimes it would turn into a yalling match.

BruSimm said...

Objectivity is a learned skill. As one writes or observes about the events in a sport, one can't help but be drawn to or pushed away from certain personality traits of the participants, and through all the articles and interviews I've read or heard of from you, I've not once seemed to hear your favorites bias your reporting.. unless of course, it's your opinion about "bait", or, I mean sushi, on your radio Sirius Satellite radio show. And no David, you don't have to try anything you don't want to. Leave him alone Marty!!