Callum Borchers' Blog

Sociologically significant sports (and class assignments)

Posts Tagged ‘nfl

GlobalPost sets high standard for special projects

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I’m sure Charles Sennott and his GlobalPost staff are most proud of their high-quality content, but it is their site’s attractive appearance that draws me in first. The homepage is full, but not overpacked, and the layouts of some special projects, like “Life, death and the Taliban,” are magazine-like — downright artistic, in my opinion.

A more thorough appraisal of the site must include praise for GlobalPost’s impressive combination of depth and breadth. However, I admit that my own interest in international news is limited to the most important events and trends. I get most of my international news on the radio, by listening to NPR and BBC, and confess that some of the reports (cricket match fixing in Pakistan, let’s say) just don’t register on my care meter.

Perhaps that’s a personal flaw — shouldn’t I appreciate such enterprising journalistic efforts? — but it’s the truth. I feel, like many people, that I have only so much time to absorb news, so I want to make the most of it.

Compelling stories, like those in the Taliban series, are exactly the sort of international journalism I believe to be most valuable. To improve, GlobalPost should continue — or even expand — such projects.

And, based on Sennott’s presentation on Monday, that’s exactly what he plans to do. If GlobalPost’s future endeavors match the standard set by its Taliban series, I believe the site’s resources will be well spent. Most of my criticisms of the series are nitpicky production notes about the videos. Sennott’s narration is solid, but I would love more sound bytes, even if through a translator. In “Talking to the Taliban,” we see lots of footage of Sennott interviewing Taliban officials but hear very little of those interviews. And in “GroundTRUTH in Pakistan,” we hear a veteran reporter’s voice — though the audio is too low — but do not actually see him speaking.

Also, the sort-of video mosaic on the main Taliban page is slightly confusing. For one thing, the introduction — ostensibly the first video a viewer should watch — does not appear first. “One family, one street” is featured most prominently (on the left and four times the size of the other four videos) and is clearly GlobalPost’s favorite of the bunch. Visually, I think it would have been better to place it in the middle. I also think the player interface is a bit odd: I’m not sure every viewer will know intuitively to hover over a video still to watch a short preview, then to click to watch an entire video.

Nevertheless, the storytelling — in the videos and the written articles — is superb.

As for the Study Abroad section, I found significant variations in quality. Some students wrote strong pieces to accompany their photos and took the time to write detailed captions. Others wrote only a couple of paragraphs and used a single, vague caption for every photo. In 2007, I spent a semester in London and can think of several story ideas that would have been excellent candidates for this series.

One might include profiles of the immigrants who lived in my neighborhood. I lived on Edgeware Road, where English actually was the minority language. Most of my neighbors and local business owners spoke Arabic. I think their stories could be told best in video because readers connect most strongly to profile subjects they can see and hear for themselves.

I also would’ve loved to compile a slideshow of photos from London’s parks, which are simply stunning in the spring, when I was there.

And, as an American sports fan, I think it would have been fun to write a story about the NFL enthusiasts who pack pubs at odd hours to watch the games. Monday Night Football at 2 a.m., anyone?

Written by callumborchers

November 30, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Vick’s success ignites war between sentiment, sensibility

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Michael Vick has resurrected his career after spending 21 months in prison for running a dogfighting ring.

As I drove home from class last night with Kevin Harlan chronicling Michael Vick’s unprecedented football exploits on my radio, my sentiments were at war with my sensibilities. The Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback staged one of the greatest gridiron shows of all time: 333 passing yards, 80 rushing yards and 6 total touchdowns in a 59-28 win over the Washington Redskins. No QB had ever before passed for 300 yards and four scores, and run for 50 yards and two TDs in a single game.

The NBA is not the only place where amazing happens.

Nor, of course, is it the only place where bad behavior happens, and Vick’s transgressions are among the most despicable in recent sports memory. Then the NFL’s highest-paid player, Vick pleaded guilty in 2007 to federal dogfighting charges and spent 21 months in prison. The details of his animal cruelty remain gruesome memories for me and, I’m certain, many others.

When the longtime Atlanta Falcons quarterback made his comeback with the Eagles last season, there was some debate about whether he deserved a second chance or eternal condemnation. But, to be honest, I didn’t contemplate my own feelings toward Vick because he was virtually invisible, standing on the Philly sideline as Donovan McNabb’s backup.

His position seemed the perfect compromise: back in the league, but well below his former status.

Now, Vick is playing as well as anyone in the NFL and has led his team to a first-place tie atop the NFC East. He might be better than ever. And now, I have to decide whether to cheer or boo, whether to hope he earns a new contract this offseason or winds up balling for the Omaha Nighthawks.

Ignoring Vick is no longer an option.

At the moment, I’m in the cheer-for-Michael-Vick-in-the-game-of-life camp. I hope he’s genuine when he says he’s a changed man, though I’m skeptical when I read about shootings at birthday parties.

But I’m still not sure whether I can cheer for Michael Vick in the game of football. After last night, I really need to make up my mind.

Written by callumborchers

November 16, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Delving into Deadspin

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It’s certainly not journalism, but in the world of sports media, its influence is undeniable. I’m talking about Deadspin, the irreverent, rumor-laden website owned by Gawker Media that thrust itself into mainstream consciousness this month when it reported that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre had sexted a New York Jets game hostess when he played for that team in 2008.

According to the report, Favre sent unsolicited photographs of his genitals to Jenn Sterger’s cell phone and also left inappropriate voicemails for the former model. Deadspin’s story prompted not only extensive coverage by other outlets but also an investigation by the NFL, which is still ongoing.

It is the Favre saga that compelled me to learn more about Deadspin for a class assignment. I was introduced to Deadspin in the summer of 2006, when I was an intern at The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show on WEEI. Those guys loved the site, which was only a year old at the time. I know other sports reporters who read it religiously, but I’ve never been a regular follower. I’m just not into its tabloid-style.

But, like it or not, I cannot ignore Deadspin. The site averages 1.2 million visits per day, according to sitemeter.com. It drew more than 5 million visits on Oct. 7, the day it broke the Favre story, and more than 7 million the following day.

To its credit, Deadspin doesn’t purport to adhere to journalistic standards. Site editor AJ Daulerio told The New York Daily News that his site paid a source — not Sterger — for the photos and voicemails. And, yesterday, Daulerio authored a post about the Deadspin Sources’ Gold Club that would make an ethics professor weep.

“In exchange for their consistent dispensing of useful and accurate information, they become, in some ways, privileged figures in the Deadspin universe,” Daulerio wrote. “… Any tips or gossip related to them (or their friends) will be shared with them first before they hit the site in any full-blown capacity. For example, if we receive a photo of a Gold Club member (or acquaintance) drunk in a bar, or maybe an accusation of office rumpy-pumpy or of noteworthy drug use or something worse, he or she will be informed and will have the opportunity to respond, and in some cases the item will be dropped altogether.”

Awful, but honest.

Deadspin’s approach allows it to acquire and publish information that traditional news agencies couldn’t and wouldn’t. And, I must admit there is some value to its work. While I can’t condone the manner in which Deadspin collected Favre’s photos and voicemails, I believe the story those materials produced — a superstar athlete exploiting his position to sexually harass a young woman — is newsworthy.

It’s not the sort of writing I’d like to practice — or even consume on a regular basis — but I can’t deny Deadspin is both fascinating and important in today’s media climate.

Written by callumborchers

October 27, 2010 at 1:41 pm