SIDELINE SLANTS- Positive sports coverage is simply a matter of dollars and sense

While I was pondering topics for another column, my agent, I.M. Slick, stopped by.

Slick: “I’ve got some good news for you.”

Joe: “What is it, and why don’t I believe you?”

Slick: “I am hurt that you question my sincerity.”

Joe: “Let me be clear. I not only question your sincerity, but your judgment and ethics, too.”

Slick: “Well, I may have a checkered past, but that’s ancient history. I’ve turned over a new leaf. I’ve made a resolution to be kinder and gentler. Besides, this idea is a win/win opportunity. It involves being nice and making more money.”

Joe: “OK. That sounds good in theory. What is it?”

Slick: “I’ll confess the idea isn’t original, but at least I know a good idea when I see one. All you need to do is follow the example of the Newark Weekly News.”

Joe: “Do you mean Newark, as in Newark, New Jersey?”

Slick: “Correctomundo.”

Joe: “So what are they doing that applies to my situation?”

Slick: “Last year, the Newark City Council awarded the Newark Weekly News a $100,000 no-bid contract to publish positive news about the city.”

Joe: “Really?”

Slick: “Sure. It’s a great gig. Newark Weekly News owner Howard Scott said he is merely providing the city with a service. He said, ‘Do we have critical reporters on staff? No. Do we have investigative reporters? No. Our niche is the good stuff. People have come to know it and they love it.'”

Joe: “So what does that have to do with me?”

Slick: “Let me put it to you this way. Do coaches and athletes react favorably to negative or critical stories, or do they enjoy reading positive stories written about them? The answer goes without saying.”

Joe: “OK, but how does this result in a higher paycheck?”

Slick: “Here’s what I’d like to do. Let me contact Tabor College, and the Hillsboro, Marion, Peabody and Goessel school districts and tell them that you’ll write good news and only good news about their teams, coaches and athletes-for a small fee. If you agree to be only kind and gentle with your comments, I see a golden future.”

Joe: “But what if some athletic program deserves some criticism?”

Slick: “Just say, ‘No.'”

Joe: “But if a team performs poorly and loses a lot of games, it’s kind of hard to ignore.”

Slick: “I can’t believe that I, with my checkered reputation, have to teach you, goody two-shoes, how to be kinder and gentler. You simply write that team X is playing hard, playing well and showing signs of improvement. You can always find something in the midst of any negative if you look hard enough.”

Joe: “I get it. If one of our local teams loses a bunch of games, I can simply write that although they are losing on the scoreboard, at least their uniforms look good.”

Slick: “That’s better.”

Joe: “And I can write that they continue to battle and never give up. I can write that they’re doing a great job of building character.”

Slick: “Now you’re getting the hang of it.”

Joe: “And I can write that the subs look attentive while waiting for their chance to play.”

Slick: “Bravo.”

Joe: “But what if my editor questions the ethics of this, uh, little arrangement? What if he tells me that it’s bad public policy to use tax dollars this way and that the press is supposed to play the role of a watchdog?”

Slick: “Don’t worry. I don’t think the editor reads your stuff anyway.”

Joe: “Do you really think this can work?”

Slick: “This plan has a better chance of working than Marion County has of landing a casino. After all, if the county was willing to spend $10,000 for a referendum on whether people wanted a casino to be located here, certainly they have another $10,000 available for good news about their sports teams.”

Joe: “And if they don’t accept the offer?”

Slick: “Then you only write bad news.”

Joe: “But that’s blackmail.”

Slick: “Nah. I prefer to call it capitalism.”

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