13 September 2006


Today's San Diego Union Tribune has an interesting headline: Pope Says Jihad Not God's Plan. Actually, that's not news. News would be: Pope Says Jihad Is God's Plan.

I'm amazed at how comprehensive is the coverage of sports. That's news. It includes analysis, personalities, stories, and strategy, but sports news always has a large infusion of numbers: passing yards, runs scored, field goal percentage, etc. Given that sports coverage is so focused on so many statistics, fans can easily track how their teams and players are doing. Performance is well understood and easy to track.

By contrast, news coverage of important events - like healthcare coverage, performance of schools or businesses, progress or setbacks in war - suffers from a far different ratio of analysis, speculation, and prognosis to actual statistics. That is to say, there is a paucity of statistics and an abundance of analysis. This is partly because the stakes are higher and the timeframe is longer: the sports fan can measure progress every minute of the game. Statistics measuring policy comes more slowly and the variables that impact outcomes like unemployment, crime, teen pregnancy, life expectancy, and inflation are more complex.

Nonetheless, it seems as though a news program that would focus on quality of life statistics in the same way that ESPN analysts focused on Ryan Howard or David Ortiz's homerun totals would be engaging and quite feasible in this age of 24-hour news coverage. Given that there is so much at stake in this game of policy formulation, one might think that the media could offer coverage that was as grounded in real metrics and real outcomes as the coverage of grown men playing games.

1 comment:

Rain King said...

I somewhat agree with your sports-related comments, even as a sports fan. I think, however, that there are plenty of poeple like me who see sports as one aspect of enjoyment. I don't know anybody (though they surely exist) who reads the sports section cover to cover, and I'm sure plenty of people who don't even take a newspaper (me) certainly don't spend hours on the web. My point is there are more people that read the entire main section of the newspaper, page after page (even the Macy's ads) than read the entire sports section. When I do run into a paper at the airport, I will check the baseball section, and stick with checking box scores. It is just that interests are so diverse, the entire section looks impressive. I don't think it is a reflection of sports crazy.
BTW, though I see just 20 minutes of ESPN every week, I still consider myself a sports fan for two reasons 1) I watch pieces of many baseball games every week, and 2) my lack of ESPN watching has a lot to do with raising two kids.