One inside joke at the athletic department was whether the Journal’s current Lobo beat man Geoff Grammer’s biggest man crush was on Steve Alford or Craig Neal.
BY RICHARD STEVENS
Any columnist worthy of his “Strunk & White” (a grammar book, for you sports journalists reading this) knows the importance of connecting with his or her readers and valuing their feedback.
With that said, let’s crack open a few (condensed) emails:
EM: “Richard, I really enjoyed your column on [Lobo Athletic Director Paul] Krebs. You were right on. This guy is a disaster and plays the fiddle while his most recent hire, Davie, moves the football program into deeper depths. The Pit is worst than a disaster. It will soon be half full.
“I could go on and on. I’m one of the fools who buys season football and basketball tickets and donates to the Lobo Club to get a lousy parking pass. Soon I will learn my lesson.”
JR: “Why is Krebs still here?”
Stevens: There needs to be strength and concern from above in order to bring the needed changes to the UNM jock shop. There isn’t much. UNM President Bob Frank is busy on the main campus circling the wagons and trying to save his job. Frank needs allies, and Krebs has been in New Mexico long enough to have a few important fat cats in his pocket. Frank needs Krebs to help Frank save his job.
It will be interesting to see what kind of pal Krebs actually is, if the fall of Frank becomes inevitable. Krebs knows how to take care of Krebs. It also will be interesting to see if Frank dips into some academic pockets to bail out an athletic department that already has a financial babysitter assigned to it. Hey, maybe the UNM athletic administration will quit taking so many junkets.
JO: “Why do you think the local media is ‘cowardly,’ and why did you start working for the ABQ Free Press?”
Stevens: ABQ Free Press was brought to my attention by several schoolteachers who praised the F.P. as a newspaper with teeth – a publication not afraid to tell the truth or make a few enemies in high places. That’s a good way to go!
Newspapers, long ago, were the public’s watchdogs. The local media have turned into puppy dogs, and some of the sports departments are leading the way.
The UNM athletic department attempts to control the media in a variety of ways. The Lobos feed them. They favor certain media outlets with news scoops – and punish outlets if those outlets aren’t toeing the house line. There are a few local sports guys with guts. J.P. Murrieta of KOB-TV is willing to ask the tough questions, and UNM’s laughable communications department (no Strunk & White in that department) will punish J.P. if his questions are too tough.
The Albuquerque Journal once had to flex its muscles when The Albuquerque Tribune, with superior news reporting, was around to challenge the Journal. Since then, the Journal has gone soft. You diehard Lobo fans might recall when the Journal had a reporter with some cojones covering Lobo basketball, and when Steve Alford spearheaded a successful campaign to have that guy, Mark Smith, removed. Like the UNM athletics department, the Journal needs new energy and new leadership. Like UNM, there is no real concern from above.
One inside joke at the athletic department was whether the Journal’s current Lobo beat man Geoff Grammer’s biggest man crush was on Steve Alford or Craig Neal. Some of the fluff pieces flying off Grammer’s fingers appeared to be assigned by Neal.
The Journal’s Rick Wright covers Davie’s foundering football program. Davie, who often made fun of Albuquerque’s sports news media, tries to gain favor with Wright by allowing Wright to ask the first question at media luncheons. A smart ploy. Wright is a good reporter and a good writer, but he needs to ask the right or tough questions and not the first one.
Reporters often make the mistake of wanting to be “liked” by the coaches they cover. It’s natural. But reporters need to realize that coaches rarely like reporters. Those reporters also need to realize it’s not their job to be liked. The Journal’s Smith went for “like” early in his coverage of Alford’s Lobos. Smith later showed some journalistic teeth. Alford did not like that, so Smith paid for it.
Sports reporters need to learn that it’s better to shoot for respectability – respectability both from those prima donna coaches and from the people who read their stories.
Only then will they find their inner journalist.
Richard Stevens is a former sports writer for The Albuquerque Tribune. More recently he was an insider at the Lobo athletic department. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.