News Priorities

Which news subject is most important to you and your community? Crime? Jobs? Politics? Government? Education? Environment?

A major study shows for newspapers the subject getting the most space is … sports. 

If you live for the Giants, A’s, Niners, or Raiders, news corporations have got their priorities straight.

But if the lowest turnout ever in a California general election last November worries you, or if you think schools, jobs or your shrinking retirement account merit as much attention as Barry jackin' one, or “How to TALK the game,” you might wonder: Why does sports get the most ink?    

Journalism ethics say the purpose of news is to empower citizens so they can make good decisions, particularly about society’s rules and rulers. Not whom to bet on in the Super Bowl.

Sports unify the community, editors say. Maybe you exchange a nod with another fan you wouldn’t have spoken to otherwise. But … what city has unified behind a professional team to diminish poverty or ensure schools have adequate resources? The Raiders are suing a city that can’t even afford enough police.

Let me suggest a different reason why publishers push sports. It's catnip for those young guys who are drifting away from newspapers. Advertisers pay a premium for their eyeballs. And sports is so cheap to cover. Send a couple of staffers out for an afternoon and fill not just the front page, but two sports sections on Mondays. Reporters get the best seats free, and all the food and booze they can consume, all compliments of the team. After all, they're the team's publicists.

Imagine for a moment if even half that space were filled with something that matters for more than a season--like the 34 billion dollar state deficit before it grew so painfully large, or the dot.com failure, before we lost our investments, or why we have to spend our young people and treasury attacking Iraq?

Sports has become a weapon of mass distraction.