Kentucky Basketball Helps Put Into Focus the Failings of New Media

University of Kentucky men’s college basketball head coach John Calipari probably foresees an NCAA championship banner by the end of the upcoming season, but at an October 13 speaking engagement, Calipari said that he foresaw a more grim event: The financially-strapped local daily newspaper, once the biggest paper in the state, becoming a weekly paper in just five years. The real story here is not Calipari’s clairvoyance, but that the internet, which was supposed to enhance journalism practices, has actually hastened the decline of traditional print journalism and negatively altered news consumption.

Unsurprising is the fact that Matt Jones, founder of Kentucky Sports Radio, reported Calipari’s comments because he has fostered an icy relationship with the Lexington Herald-Leader (presumably the local newspaper Calipari gibed) for using the paper’s photos without attribution on his blog. And it is no surprise that Calipari made this comment a week after University of Kentucky Athletics banned the Herald-Leader from interviewing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a star forward for the team, for the duration of the season for allegedly sensationalizing an interview with the freshman phenom.

More disconcerting is the fact that KSR, which claims to provide “University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible,” is tempting diehard fans with the lure of an always-positive spin that would make a public relations specialist blush. The fans’ choice for this rosy news slant comes at the sacrifice of more enterprising reporting that the fan may construe as an attack on his or her favorite team.

It is for this reason that KSR routinely garners more hits to its website than any other local media outlet covering Kentucky athletics. KSR, and the thousands of blogs just like it, are the flame, and the websites’ readers are the moths.

Unlike the days before the internet, when the newspaper essentially dictated what content its readers were exposed to, websites today can provide all sorts of information branded as "news." 

The internet is a vast cyber-wilderness with more variety of content on a particular subject than ever before. The problem is that few readers sift through the diverse sources of news and instead opt for news sources that align with their beliefs (i.e. Kentucky basketball is super awesome!).

However, the choices in news consumption that people are making today will have very real consequences in the future. As blogs rise to prominence, they set a precedent (favorable coverage to a fault) for the nature of news. Consequently, the source of the message may try to control traditional journalists by stipulating that their work must meet this new standard of news or incur a wrath.

In 2008, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban banned full-time bloggers from having locker room access for “space concerns,” even though the ban affected only one media member working for the Dallas Morning News. The reporter, coincidentally, had written a critical piece on the Mavs’ coach shortly before the ban was implemented.

Reporting the news with negativity is not the goal of a journalist, but sometimes reality calls for a grain of negativity to be brought to the reader’s attention.

Some blogs are reputable sources, which is where distinguishing between sources developed according to traditional news standards, as opposed to loose standards, becomes difficult. Ultimately, the ability to distinguish and seek various sources in news judgment now rests with the reader.  

Whether readers can handle the responsibility of their own news judgment is debatable, but the print newspaper is struggling to survive with ad sales and revenues plummeting. Sooner rather than later, the last remaining pure on-the-record source — for even online editions of newspapers can alter stories without the reader’s knowledge — will become history, like the kind it was once so adept at chronicling.

Unless something drastic happens, like Kidd-Gilchrist injuring himself in a classic banana peel slip-and-fall case on the basketball court or every computer crashing simultaneously for eternity, Calipari’s visions seem like a slam dunk to come to fruition.

Photo Credit: KC Toh