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When Sports Get in the Way of Journalism

Although I’ve never really discussed it on this site before, I am a huge sports fan. And, I think that even might be an understatement. The majority of the time, my television is tuned to some sort of sporting event (unless I’m watching Food Network, but that’s a different story). But, there is one major sports story that caught my eye.

The starting quarterback at Florida State University, Jameis Winston, has been caught up in a story which has made national headlines. Winston was accused of rape by a woman who claimed that he had sexually assaulted her last December after the two had met at a bar in Tallahassee.

Yesterday, after an investigation into the case, Florida state attorney Willie Meggs announced that no charges would be filed against Winston. Meggs cited conflicting and inconsistent evidence as the reason that the charges were dropped.

However, when watching and reading some of the coverage of this case, I was appalled at the way some of the journalists who cover college football were covering a serious news case.

One of the main reasons that this story was so large is because Florida State’s football team is currently ranked No. 1 in all of college football and is in the midst of an undefeated season. In addition, Winston is believed, by many, to be the front runner for the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded every year to the best player in college football. So, the influence and interest of sports were clear in the coverage of this alleged sexual assault case.

The first thing I found to be very unprofessional was the following tweet from @NBCSportsRadio which claimed that “Jameis Winston gives the Heisman stiff arm to the allegations against him of sexual assault. He will not be charged.” Since posting this tweet, NBC Sports Radio has since removed it and apologized for the tasteless nature of the tweet.

At the press conference held on Thursday afternoon from the Leon County Courthouse in Tallahassee, there was also a great amount of laughter amongst Meggs and former Florida state senator Al Lawson, who was standing behind Meggs during the questions from reporters.  They were clearly making light of a very serious situation. Below is a video of all of the uncomfortable and inappropriate laughter that took place.

I also can’t believe that, in the above video, reporters asked the state attorney about Winston’s Heisman Trophy candidacy when this case was about so much more than football.

But, the one thing I had a tough time dealing with was at the interview with Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen. This was a question asked by a reporter:

Throughout the investigation, there was no notion whatsoever that the woman who was accusing Winston was affiliated with any outside university. In fact, as confirmed by this report, the woman was a student a Florida State who withdrew from the university after the incident. However, because it was a college football-themed topic, there was a mention of the University of Alabama.

The press conference with Jansen was just a complete circus. There were people honking their car horns behind the media, reporters were shouting over top of each other to get their next question in, and there was a group of six males in the background who were shirtless and had “JAMEIS” painted across their chests, while doing the Florida State Seminoles “chop.”

While there are often major stories associated with sports, it still takes trained and professional journalists to cover those stories. In this case, it was a clear case where college sports got in the way of true journalism.





Obamacare: Continued

In a continuing story and a continuing theme on Obamacare on this blog, today I will examine the extended coverage of the Affordable Care Act amongst news organizations.

Today, CNN ran a story  detailing how the enrollment in Obamacare for Americans was being delayed until 2015. Republicans believe that this is because of the upcoming midterm elections in 2014 and the negative press which has surrounded the issue along with the fumbled start-up of the program by the Obama administration.

However, the White House denied this allegation. Many Republicans also believe that repealing Obamacare is the only way to fix at all.

What I found interesting about the coverage was that FOX News actually, instead of presenting a very informal story about the topic (like it did yesterday, when it compared Obamacare to Hurricane Katrina, and actually said that the healthcare issue was worse than the deadly hurricane) laid out its thoughts on what should really happen with Obamacare. FOX had an interview with Republican senator Ted Cruz who actually discusses what the Republican alternative to the healthcare act would be.

While the Republicans, and much of FOX News, seem to be in great opposition to Obamacare and anything related with the Affordable Care Act, FOX seems to be rather hit and miss with its coverage of the topic.

Today, however, FOX, along with CNN, seems to have relayed the issue accurately to its readers.

A Mid-Air Scare

A Southwest Airlines flight lost cabin pressurization and went into a nosedive on Tuesday.

As the pilots scrambled to level off the plane, they accidentally broadcast something to the passengers that nobody ever wants to hear on a plane, “We’re going down.”

Reading through several different versions of this story, I found several to be much more compelling than the rest. Most of the stories recount the experience of a passenger on board flight 3426 from Tampa, Fla. to Raleigh, N.C. Both the local ABC affiliate in Raleigh and FOX News did a great job of making this a much more personalized story. They both interviewed a woman who was a first-time flier on that plane and who sent frantic text messages to her daughter saying that she loved her and mentioning what was happening with the plane. Both stories do a great job of making this story hit close to home.

I was a little less impressed with the way CNN and other outlets covered it. While CNN did include a video about the story and showcased the air traffic control conversation between the plane and controllers, and was the only news outlet to do so, the passenger interview is not quite as engaging as the FOX News one, however it still does get the point across about the moments of fright on that flight.

This maps shows the intended route of Southwest Airlines Flight 3426.

The Obamacare Tales

It was only a matter of time before I talked about it.

Perhaps the most heated topic in politics among Americans today is that of the Affordable Care Act, more affectionately known as Obamacare.

This screen capture shows the huge amount of coverage given to Obamacare by FOX News.

This screen capture shows the huge amount of coverage given to Obamacare by FOX News.

Since being placed into law in March 2010, the debate over Obamacare has been one of the most contentious throughout the country. It even led to the United States Federal Government being shut down for two weeks. It was even referenced at this week’s Country Music Awards.

After the launch of the new Obamacare website, there were a multitude of problems, most of which included the site crashing because of the frequency with which Americans were accessing it. Now that the site is more stable, but not yet completely bug-free, more issues have arisen from Obamacare.

There have been many “horror stories” about individuals who have lost their health coverage or who have had to settle for pricier insurance plans because of Obamacare. However, an investigative report done by CNN has revealed that many of these stories are just stories. This journalist argues that the Republicans are attempting to make Obamacare sound worse than it actually is, and has discovered these stories to be “mythical.”

However, recent comments made by President Obama have drawn the ire of both sides of the aisle. While originally stating that individuals would be able to keep their prior insurance plans even after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, the President now said that you can keep your plan, as long as it wasn’t changed under Obamacare.

News outlets on all sides have been equally critical of this latest development in an ongoing saga of stories about healthcare. FOX News has outlined how the White House website and the President are now offering differing information about Obamacare. This video from CNN shows frustrations about the President’s changing message.

It was interesting to me, however, to see the representation of this topic on the websites of the two networks I referenced. On CNN, I had to scroll pretty far down on the main page in order to even find a story about Obamacare. However, as you can see in the picture above, the FOX website is almost entirely covered with stories about the issue.

And now, For Your In-Flight Entertainment…

Passengers will now be allowed to use their personal electronic devices for the entirety of a flight. (Photo courtesy: Southwest Airlines)

Passengers will now be allowed to use their personal electronic devices for the entirety of a flight. Photo courtesy: Southwest Airlines

After research into a widely discussed topic in air travel, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) offered a treat to airline passengers on Halloween.

The FAA announced on Thursday that it has determined that it is safe for passengers to use electronic devices during all phases of a flight, and not just above the 10,000 foot threshold. The agency will allow any electronic device to be operated for the entirety of any flight, but still will not allow the use of cell phones outside of airplane mode. This announcement comes after the FAA consulted with multiple industry sources and examined the harmless nature of using such electronics. A new list of information was published by the FAA about what exactly a portable electronic device is and how it should be used on an aircraft.

The decision to allow these PEDs (not to be confused with Performance Enhancing Drugs) is gaining lots of respect from the airline industry. Flight attendants were also encouraged by the announcement, but were hoping that the approval of these electronics will not distract airline passengers from necessary safety regulations onboard the plane. Shortly after the FAA’s announcement, both Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways were the first commercial carriers to support and allow the use of these devices on their flights. The use of these devices will be decided upon on an airline-to-airline basis.

Aside from being somewhat of a closet aviation junkie, I was drawn to this story because of the coverage offered by CNN. Not only did it provide a story outlining the basic parameters, but it also gave lots of more information about air travel to its readers. CNN had a photo gallery of things to do in order to make traveling more pleasurable. However, there were many other links to similar stories about air travel which really provided a complete story for the readers. It shows the discussions and arguments  leading up to Thursday’s decision. It also links to a separate story which questions if using your cell phone could really interfere with or cause a plane to crash.

Having taken a brief, cross-country flight within the last few weeks, I was very intrigued by this news. One other story on CNN caught my attention after my experience. In mid-flight, I powered up my cell phone after 10,000 feet only to notice that I hadn’t enabled airplane mode before we departed. My cell phone was searching for and actually picked up some service, but I found that I’m not alone. While I had originally turned my phone off, and didn’t have the reception enabled purposefully, the article outlines that nearly one-third of airline passengers don’t turn off their cell phones.

Reading the FOX News story about the same topic, I was surprised by the informal way in which the information was presented. It still has the same story, but make the story much more like a conversation. It also fails to provide so many other resources for its readers to utilize, unlike the CNN story.


Girly Hats for the Marines?

The current Marine hats (left) next to the proposed unisex Marine hats (right). Courtesy: New York Post

The current Marine hats (left) next to the proposed unisex Marine hats (right). Courtesy: New York Post

Scrolling through some news headlines today, I came across a very interesting one from FOX News.

Obama wants Marines to wear ‘girly’ hats”

According to this story, President Obama wants to introduce a new hat for the Marines which would be suitable for both men and women serving in the military. The hat is described as the “Dan Daly hat,” which was worn by a sergeant from New York who won the Medal of Honor during World War I.

FOX News describes the hats as, “so ‘girly’ that they would make the French blush.”

Many other outlets were outraged by the proposed uniform change including the New York Post and The Washington Times, just to name a few.

Others examined the new uniform differences, and simply said that there was displeasure from around the country about the hats, but didn’t use such sensationalized language to describe it.

Many are arguing that because the old hat has been a part of the uniform since 1922 that there is no reason to change tradition, stating the the new hats look “ridiculous.”

However, after searching for a story about this from a differed perspective, I was unable to come across anybody news outlets who disagreed with this perspective. CNN and MSNBC did not run stories on this. I was rather surprised at the tone of the language and wording used in the FOX News story. As a corporation whose operation is to report the news, there seemed to be an awful lot of opinion in that story.

Would the new hats really be that bad? 

The Government Un-Shutdown

The day of jubilee is here!

Well, kind of.

On Wednesday, the United States government actually agreed on something. In this stunning reminder of how our country and politicians are supposed to work, the debt ceiling was temporarily raised until February 2014 to delay the default, and in essence put us back into the exact same spot four months from now.

However, when scanning multiple sources after yesterday’s decision, I noticed a wide variety of responses to the event.

First, let’s start with MSNBC. This article on its website talked about the Republican party’s failure to do anything about Obamacare (which seems to be the party’s priority) and described the event as an “epic defeat.” Despite all of the concessions it says that the Republicans had to make in order to get a deal passed, it offers quotes from Republicans in a mocking and sarcastic way talking about how reaching this agreement was a victory.

On its front page, FOX News has a story about how even if the default deadline had come and passed without a deal, that the United States would not have been in that much trouble, arguing that the US Treasury is still one of the safest assets in the world. It even went so far as to refer to this as a “manufactured fiscal showdown,” which I thought was awfully bold.

Checking a few other spots for talk about this deal, I came across one place which seemed to only praise one side of the aisle on this compromise. This deal, reached between Democratic Senator Harry Reid and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, was coined the McConnell-Reid Deal (very creative, I know), but it only spoke well of McConnell. It talks about what he was able to include in this deal, aside from the deal itself. McConnell was also able to get $3 billion for his home state of Kentucky in the deal in order to fund a dam in the western part of the state.

Several other places I checked had much differing views. One called it the shutdown of the Republicans and Tea Party. Another claimed that Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner had conceded defeat, as if he had lost an election.

For the most part, reaction to this deal was all over the place. However, the one place I found that gave a balanced story about the deal was CNN.