Much hang-wringing goes on today around the theme that the media is headed on a downward spiral so severe that only government intervention can save it.
No doubt the media has to respond to technology and market changes. The 1st Amendment gives us the right to write and publish without government interference or involvement, period.
Yet we have the Federal Trade Commission putting out reports on the “reinvention of journalism.”
My take is journalism is reinventing itself, and the federal government needs to butt out, fast.
Let’s look at just one example of an across-the-board improvement in journalism: sports.
In the last century, when I was a daily newspaper reporter, it was common to call the boys who worked on the sports section “the toy department.”
Most sports writers in that era were either former players or guys who just liked to hang around locker rooms. We had some names for them that are not politically correct in this day and age. Most were also “homers,” meaning reporters who would see no wrong in the home team, coach, or college president.
So bad was sport reporting that many a “city desk” took over stories that involved discrimination, payoffs of college players, and stadium land deals. Often the stories the news department took over were the very stories the sports department did not want to see the light of day.
Today that’s all ancient history. Sports reporting has improved so much across all media platforms that it may now be better than other news reporting. (It is certainly better than the babble that passes for political reporting.)
“Outside the Lines,” ESPN’s investigative unit, showed us another example of that this week with its “What’s lurking in your Stadium food?” Outside the Lines collected food inspection reports from 2009 for 107 Major League Baseball, National Football League, and National Basketball Association venues.
As Food Safety News readers know, we have been looking at food safety and local food at MLB stadiums on a periodic basis. We won’t get to all of them this year, but we’re looking at 2010 inspections.
ESPN’s work has generated a nationwide debate among sports fans, and we’d be the first to acknowledge that about 60 percent fall into the “would rather not know” category.
Many sports fans still cannot handle the truth–whether its about homerun hitters who are juiced or football players who do sick and cruel things to animals. Many sports fans do care about these things, and they’ve been shocked by some of the reports about food safety at their favorite stadiums.
It is not the reaction of sports fans that should concern us. Professional teams hire a food service management company like Aramark, PMI, or Delaware North. But, responsibility does not stop there. Team owners are ultimately responsible for food safety at professional sports stadiums.
So far, I have not seen any of them step forward and announce any steps they are taking to improve food safety–even the ones whose performance in the ESPN survey is dismal.
Where are the Commissioners of these sports? They respond to every two-bit pressure group on dozens of other issues, but here where all fans in some cities are getting a level of sub-par food safety–they shrug their collective shoulders.
Just as airline owners are the ones who could improve airline food safety, it is the owners of these professional sports teams that could improve food safety in stadiums if they wanted to.
At this point, the owners do not care because they think they do not have to care. ESPN’s work is a warning about specific stadiums in some areas of the country. The professional leagues that accept these levels of food safety do so at their own peril and they will be responsible for what happens.