Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Non-News in the News

As is often the case in the for-profit world of media, stories are spawned, nurtured, and then beat to death based on the smallest of important or interesting nuggets of information. Case in point, Rush Limbaugh's recent role as a minor stakeholder in a bid to buy the St. Louis Rams.

I get that the ingredients are interesting. Rush is a blowhard with a following; a legitimate public figure. That's interesting. The NFL is the most popular and most profitable professional sports conglomerate in the country. That's interesting. The potential association of the two, therefore could reasonably command a modicum of media coverage. An actual association, like say if Rush really became an owner, would be bigger news -- perhaps worthy of a small article somewhere in the business section of a national publication and in the sports section of St. Louis publications.

What we have seen over the past few weeks makes no sense to me. He was part, a small part, of a bid, along with five or six other bids, and the story has been central in the national sports conversation for three weeks. He was dropped from the bid a week ago and the story is still going strong.

To be fair, the stories that continue to circulate are about racism and freedom of speech and whatever other social issues a journalist can shoe-horn into a column. I agree that such social issues can be (and should be) worked through in public forums. But all of those issues can be discussed without attaching them to a story where they were not really present.

We're talking about a business deal here. Nothing more. A group of bidders were aggregating capital to buy a team, Rush had some cash so he joined the group and they submitted a bid. The NFL, which can choose owners based on any criteria they wish, made it clear that Rush was not scoring well on their criteria so the bidding group kicked him out. No hurt feelings -- just a day in the business life.

In my opinion, all of the analysis of Rush's past quotes about the NFL and racism should never have been a part of this non-story. In fact, trying to analyze such complex social issues in a contrived setting, just because the protagonists are interesting, is a detriment to constructive discourse.


  1. Here is the formula. X number of networks owned by a company, multipled by 24 (hours/day) = Y number of hours said company has to produce news. For ESPN, that is 96 hours daily (ESPN, 2, U and News). NBC, 48 and change (MSNBC, CNBC and about 4 hours daily with NBC News). How do you create 96 hours of worthy news on any given day?

    You CAN'T. So, they draw out stories: "More tomorrow on Limbaughgate... John Clayton joins us with the same opinion as the rest of America, buuuut a different face to look at"

    My frustration (and therefore agreement with this DenPost) can be summed up with a quote from Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update:

    "On Thursday in Colorado, a boy was found in a box... I guess that was a faster way to tell *that* story"

  2. You're preaching to the choir!