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One of the first things you learn in Journalism 101 is that when reporting a story you must stay objective. How do I know this since I never took a journalism class in my life? Brad told me. He’s our news editor and a real journalist, and he is always talking about objectivity in reporting.
As you can imagine this has been a hard rule for me to follow. As a former coach and teacher in the Henry County School system, I have personal connections to a lot of the student-athletes. With Eminence I have gotten to know these kids a little over the past two years and so it becomes hard to stay neutral when you watch them play game after game.
For the most part I have done okay with staying or at least appearing to stay objective, but last week at the district tournament was a bad week for me and Journalism rule number one.
It started on Monday night as Cornelius Sanford put on a scoring display that surprised everybody including the Carroll County Panthers who had set up their defense to stop Jalen Dixie. Dixie still scored 22 points but Sanford ended up with 27 and also threw in 14 rebounds to boot.
Sanford is a good young man. He is respectful and polite and mature beyond his years. As a basketball player, Sanford was one of my favorites because he did the little things that coaches notice more than casual fans. If you need a big rebound Cornelius will get it for you. If you need to lock down the other team’s best player, Cornelius is the one you trust with the big assignment. If you need a big bucket, he can do that too. Cornelius has no ego as a basketball player. He rarely takes a bad shot.
So when he went off for 27 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Warriors to an unlikely victory against the host Panthers, I found myself down on the floor after the game seeking him out for a congratulatory handshake. It’s not a big deal but it is also something journalists shouldn’t do. We are there to report not to support.
On Tuesday night, it happened again when the Henry County Lady Cats pulled off a victory to make it to the regional tournament for the first time since 1998 when I was an assistant to Coach Todd Gilley in his first stint as the Henry County girls’ coach.
I guess it was a little more understandable in this instance since I had been a part of the program for several years. But still, I could hear Brad’s voice in my head repeating the words, “You must always show objectivity when reporting a story.”
Brad’s a good guy but it is really annoying to have his voice stuck in your head.
On Wednesday night the Wildcats and Warriors both took the floor. The Warriors lost to Owen County before the Wildcats edged out the Gallatin County Wildcats for a trip to the regional tournament.
Again, I found myself on the floor after the game slapping backs and sharing fist bumps with players. One thing you have to understand is that this group of seniors was in the last class I taught at Henry County High School. The players on the boys and girls teams were some of my favorites in the last year I taught. It was hard not to express my satisfaction with their play to them.
And yet… that nagging voice was still there.
Maybe next year, when there are no players on the floor that I taught, I will be able to do a better job of avoiding the appearance of favoritism. Or maybe, after following the trials and tribulations of a bunch of high school kids over a long season that are trying to reach their hoops dreams, I will find myself with that nagging voice in my head again.
The Madness is coming. It’s NCAA tournament time. We will once again hold our Henry Hoopla contest.
We will have brackets and rules in next week’s paper. The deadline will be Thursday, March 20, at noon.
Please make sure to get your entry in on time. The more people who join us in the Madness, the more people I will have bragging rights over this year.
After humiliating myself against fellow staff members and the entire county, I intend to come back with a vengeance.
I am going to pull out all the stops this year. Hours and hours of research will go into my picks and this time I have a back up plan.
If after painstaking research I am still uncomfortable with my picks, I will consult the Long Island Medium. Hey, I’m desperate!