Saban tape exposes media failings; reporter harms nation

There was an old saying I heard during the fallout of the NY Times credibility scandal, I’m not sure who said it, but I heard it and it stuck with me: “When the NY Times is weakened, the government is made stronger.”

There’s so much truth in that statement. We must have a vigorous press to restrain the corruption and tendency toward despotism of all governments. It doesn’t matter whether a Republican or Democrat controls power; we all know the corrupting influence power wields.

The press helps control, or at least mitigate, temptation because it has the power to expose bad deeds. Often, the press can shame government officials into doing the right thing.

I’m a conservative, but I deplore the actions of federal prosecutors putting reporters into prison for protecting confidential sources. I take flak for that position from other conservatives, who view the press as an impediment to freedom rather than a protector of it. Scandals at the major newspapers and media outlets lowers everyone’s trust of the media, and makes it easier for politicians to squelch unfavorable stories.

Liberty depends on the ability of the media to report difficult stories, but liberty also depends on the public believing the stories.

A newspaper’s every word must be truth. If even one mistake is contained within, then it diminishes the whole product. Being a human endeavor, it will no doubt be filled with errors; however, newspapers must strive toward perfection, even on the entertainment pages such as the sports section.

There is little doubt the quality of newspapers have declined over the last 30-years.

And the coverage of sports is the model of everything wrong with the media.

The coverage of the Alabama coaching search was laughable. It was pathetic as major newspapers, owned by a once distinguished newspaper chain, consistently got the story wrong.

But perhaps more interesting to a critique of the media isn’t the mistakes of Alabama reporters, but a hard look at the reaction of Miami reporters.

The Miami media hated Saban. He didn’t make their jobs easy. He limited access, and he alienated reporters with his aloof personality.

How a reporter views a subject colors his reporting. When a reporter likes a source, he is more likely to give the person the benefit of the doubt. When a reporter despises a source, he will take every chance to crucify the person.

If they were honest, everyone who has ever covered a beat would admit personal feelings influence how one treats a source. It doesn’t mean a reporter would compromise his professional obligations, but there can be no doubt personal feelings influence journalists and sometimes professionalism is compromised.

The dislike for Saban was vented by sports “journalists” on Miami talk radio and in print. The angriest voice was probably from Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard, who wrote: “Nick Saban does nothing better than talk, and he kept yammering like the evangelist/politician/fraud that he is…”

Isn’t it interesting the Herald would then be involved in another round of Saban stories?

Most everyone knows by now Saban’s Jan. 3 off-color story and how it became public knowledge. (If not, you can read the Miami Herald story on the matter.)

Basically, a Herald reporter taped off-the-record comments and then two-weeks later shared the tape with a sports radio “journalist.” The sports radio personality then made the tape public.

The Herald reporter should be fired. He broke a sacred trust between a source and a reporter: he revealed supposedly private information. But even if he were fired, the damage has already been done.

How can the public trust the press, when it cannot keep its most basic promises? How can future sources trust the reporters, when reporters secretly share confidential notes or recordings?

Even if this only involves the sports section, it damages the entire newspaper–it damages all reporters.

And it goes beyond that. Every time reporters act irresponsibly, it damages the Republic.

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