Friday, April 30, 2010

Bad Journalism 101

While scanning's headlines today, one stood out: "Yanks not most hated team." So naturally, that link was clicked to see what it was all about. Once inside the page, a new headline appeared: "Report says Indians most-hated team." The article written by the "ESPN News Service" (whatever that means) goes on to talk about how the determination was made. It seems the Nielson Company folks--the same folks that do the TV ratings--created a "Sentiment Ranking" in which teams were rated from 5 to -5. The article doesn't state how the figures were accumulated. But here is the key statement: "No team finished with a negative number. But six teams finished with a number less than two."

There are several problems with this article. First--and the Fan's big pet peeve--the title wasn't capitalized. Okay, nobody does that anymore (grrr) but getting beyond that, the whole tone of the article was about teams we love to hate. If no teams finished with a negative number, then no teams are teams we love to hate. Sure, some teams are more popular than others (Oakland and San Francisco were the most liked for some reason) but the article said it plainly; no team finished with a negative number.

Each paragraph was filled with the hate word. "The Reds and the Astros rated higher than the Yankees on the hatred scale." No, they were less popular. Now sure, some votes had to be on the negative side to counterbalance the positive votes to result in a lower positive number. But every team in the majors has a positive result. Isn't that a good thing? Instead of focusing on the negative and sensationalizing it to make it a "hatred scale," shouldn't the focus be that overall, the major leagues have a positive sentiment ranking? Of course that's where the focus should be. But that doesn't get Fans to click the link.

What do these numbers tells us? Well, many of the teams on the lower end of the scale like the Red Sox, the Reds, the White Sox, the Dodgers, the Mets, the Astros and the Orioles and (the most hated) Indians should think about their results and from a public relations standpoint try to figure out how to better their image. After all, this is a branding conversation, is it not?

Why are the Yankees not among the lowest in sentiment ranking? One. the team has seen the repairing of the George Steinbrenner image. Too bad his health had to fail for it to happen. Another is that there are displaced New Yorkers everywhere. And lastly, their core players have handled their success with grace and dignity so despite the fact that many gnash their teeth at the Yankees success, it's hard to hate them. Plus, they've done a great job to build their brand.

One Cleveland blogger told a reporter that the Indians, "do a lot to alienate its fans." Again, that's a branding and PR problem. But even if the Indians are not doing their best at building their brand, they are not "hated." Not even close. And it's too bad that this kind of reporting happens all the time. Instead of just reporting the news, there is always a journalistic angle these days to find the worst way to paint whatever the news is. Information helps business to understand its market position and perception. Hopefully, the teams in the top ten "hated" (translate: least popular) teams will use this information as it is important...even if it's slanted in the most negative of ways.

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