In my business, information is key. Providing it accurately is top priority. Although I/we try to the best of our abilities to hit that mark, sometimes I/we miss it.
I've been thinking a lot lately about our area of coverage and who we provide exposure to for, in it's simplest form possible, entertainment.
Here at my sports desk, I try to provide our 13 high schools that are included in our coverage area a fair and equal amount of space in our paper. Obviously, with Sikeston being our largest high school and it being the hometown paper it's covered the most -- but that's neither here nor there.
What has been festering in my mind is where is the line drawn?
How much is not enough and how deep does a small town newspaper like ours delve into the world of high school sports in southeast Missouri.
Lately, there have been numerous reports of high school athletes that have either been declared ineligible to play for their respective teams, flip-flopped in their decision to be with their team or not only to end up playing for their school just a few games after and suspensions dealt out to players.
Now, these types of things happen every year and it's certainly not anything new that schools have to deal with. But in my line of work, if a star player doesn't show up for a game or is seen riding the bench all night, that's essential information that deserves to be mentioned. Some light needs to be shed on situations such as those.
Don't get me wrong. I'll be the first to tell you that I know who I am and I know this isn't USA Today or the New York Times. For the most part, this is still a farm-dominated, rural area that consists of small town values with people who respect privacy in their lives and their chidren's.
That's perfectly fine by me. Just so you know.
Six out of seven nights our sports department tries our best to provide entertaining game summaries with top of the line photographs as well. High scorers, game-winning shots and the players who accomplished those feats are highlighted on a daily basis. Coaches who lead their team to victory are praised for their intuitive scheming and athletes who break records that none thought would ever be beaten get royal treatment from guys and gals like myself.
Rightfully so. And, again, I'm perfectly fine with this. Just so you know.
What I find hard to cope with is how can the small town news glorify the rightfully deserving and quietly brush away the hiccups our small schools sometimes endure.
Issues involving the team, serving a suspension for unknown reasons, did not make the trip with the team -- those are all common terms we use for players who violated school policy or decided he didn't want to play anymore. Making sure to provide accurate news that is in fact newsworthy is hard these days.
So, I ask again, where is the line drawn?
I understand the kids you see playing for high schools around here aren't high-profile professionals, although they are sometimes treated as such.
They don't get paid (I don't think) and the majority are simply playing because they're good at it and love the game. I get it.
But if little "Barry Roundball" who happens to be the starting quarterback for the home team is standing on the sidelines, people like myself start to wonder why. Where do I go from there?
Honestly, more times than not, I and everyone else knows the real reason why. It's the matter of how to explain it without really explaining it to readers who want and, quite frankly, deserve to know.
Although we are small-time compared to some, you start to tell me that little "Barry" not starting isn't important news and I'll show you a legion of fans, parents, alumni, boosters and school officials who would tell you otherwise.
Don't get it twisted. Athletics, even in high school and small towns like ours, provide a great deal of the green stuff to help funding. Little "Barry" is very important to most involved.
Before you start to click away on that email with a strongly worded response, again, I know.
I know that kids will be kids and sometimes they make stupid decisions that turn into even more stupid decisions. I get it. Most of the kids playing high school ball are under the age of 18 and can barely start shaving the 17 hairs they have on their chin.
However, some are 18. Most, if not all, are legally adults who play for the varsity team and are covered by newspapers almost daily. A big thing too that is overlooked is that they choose to play. They choose to be in the public eye and put themselves out there for the publicity, whether it's good or bad.
Kids nowadays are so much smarter. Although they lack experience which lead to bad decisions, most know what they are doing. Facebook and Twitter posts would support that assumption.
Even though this has been in my thoughts lately, it's not like I'm looking to destroy a high school kids life by reporting he got F's in social studies because he couldn't point to North America. That's not my point.
The question is, what is considered fair to report?
Obviously, I'm not looking to drag a kid's name through the mud. Honestly, I have no one or a particular situation in mind that I'm itching to have printed. Situations that come up throughout a team's season aren't about personal vendettas like this may sound to some. It's about how to provide the public information about a high school kids decision that effects a team, a town and a school.
Print the good. Ignore the bad.
Where is the line drawn?