McGuire on Media

Journalistic transparency and humility in a multiple platform world

Paola Boivin is a good, veteran columnist for the Arizona Republic. She’s prolific, engaged with the community and she strikes me as a columnist who plays it straight.

Saturday night Boivin covered a close, heart-breaking loss by the Arizona State Sun Devils to Stanford. Her column Sunday morning was tough. She beat up a bit on a sophomore ASU linebacker named Vontaze Burfict. The immensely talented Burfict was called for a facemask penalty late in the fourth quarter. Burfict went ballistic and gave some serious lip to the official.  That earned him a second 15-yard penalty and changed the complexion of the game. This was not a first time offense for bad-boy Burfict.  He has been penalized numerous times this season for losing his cool. Sone argue his behavior has cost the Sun Devils other losses.

Boivin’s deadline column briefly raises the issues TV viewers like me saw in living color–the facemask call was bogus.  Burfict never grabbed that mask. His anger was understandable.  Boivin wrote: “The replay suggests it was a questionable call. I get his frustration. But then he has to open his yapper and the official slaps him with an unsportsmanlike penalty.

Nonetheless, Boivin’s column goes a long way toward pinning that loss on a college sophomore. Burfict could have complained of “piling on.”

Sunday afternoon a friend sent me a link to this remarkable Boivin blog post. I think a long excerpt is appropriate.

“In the press box, you do your best to evaluate what happened, but with the distance of the press box from the field, the quick and brief replays and the frantic typing to make deadline, you do your best to evaluate and summarize what happened.

Hearing the public address announcer mention back-to-back penalties on Burfict triggers a here-we-go again reaction.

It’s the problem with bad mistakes. They come back to haunt you, often unfairly. Coaches preach it all the time.

In retrospect, I would have spent less time on Burfict in that column. The truth is he made many big plays in the game that were equally impactful.

I would not have ignored it, however, because he picked up a crucial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with his reaction in the final minutes of the game.”

I found that straight-forward Boivin confession refreshingly transparent.  That word, transparency, gets tossed around journalism circles a lot, but Boivin explained what she was thinking, why she jumped to conclusions and she was honest about her second-guess.

I wish more writers felt comfortable doing that more often.  BUT. There is an odd problem presented by this wonderfully transparent blog post in our multi-platform world.

Paola Boivin’s tough critique of Burfict appeared in the Sunday newspaper. The last number I can find shows a Sunday circulation of 457,000. I have no way of knowing, but I am willing to bet a very small fraction of that number saw Boivin’s “take-back” blog post.  In Monday morning’s newspaper the well-traveled, versatile Boivin wrote her newspaper column on Sunday’s Phoenix  NASCAR race. The transparent, honest reflection on Burfict gets lost to everyone except her loyal blog readers.

It is completely laudable print journalists are moving seamlessly from print to blog to print, but as long as we are using multiple platforms editors need to marry those platforms better. I would have liked to have seen a small box with Monday’s column explaining what Boivin wrote in her blog with a print link to that blog post.

Even more surprising is the lack of a link to her “take-back”  on Boivin’s electronic version of her original column. That seems like the minimum the Republic could do.

Multi-platform journalists are here to stay. God love those flexible journalists who are moving from one platform to the other. Yet, in the interest of the reader, editors have to recognize that multi-platform reality. They must be aggressive in helping readers navigate it.