Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Beat Writer Beatdown: The Analysis of Analysis

OK, that title is probably a bit violently untrue, but I have been getting so heated about the topic that it was recommended I just do a post about it, already. So here goes.

The Pens' streak finally came to an end. This was, no matter what anyone might tell you, a good thing, since judging by their play of late they were running on fumes (in the 'get a lead and fail to sit on it' way).

In the resulting game recap in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the next day, Penguins beat writer Dave Molinari wrote an article that hardly mentioned such interesting topics as the fantastic play of the first line, Ryan Malone showing up for a game again (finally), the continued defensive lapses by Josef Melichar and other players, and the Pens continued inability to capitalize on 5-on-3 power plays.

He instead took the time to write a long, flowing article here about how our young goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, did a "horrid" job in net, and had not been doing a very good job of late in general. There are a myriad of things wrong with this analysis.

Why is this article a problem? Primarily because Molinari's job is to be the Penguin's team beat writer. There are some variations on his job, but for the most part, it is pretty cut and dry in its description...

My journalist friend and editor Matt: "I don't do a beat, but from what I know its up to the beat writer to stay impartial yet also try to pinpoint how the game ended and why"

Another writer friend of mine, Cory: a beat writer's job is "to provide insight into the inner workings of the team - quotes from the players, manager, and coaches...but usually it's more than just a recap, it's recap plus analysis"

Finally, I personally believe "a typical recap is here's who scored and when, maybe some significant or unique game action from in and around that scoring, and perhaps some brief commentary from interviewees about any significant player performances"

You read them quite frequently. The game recap in your hometown paper is supposed to be just like the game recaps you read from out of town on the AP wire, except room is included for quotes from the home team players and perhaps some brief analysis because of an access and insight that the AP wire just doesn't have.

Did Dave do this? Not in the least. There is no mention of the goals that were scored beyond the fact that the score was 6-5, and the first line contributed greatly. I don't expect him to cover every single one of eleven goals, but I watched the game, and a number of the goals were noteworthy in how they happened. That would have been nice to read in the paper.

If Dave were to write a game recap, and then pen a second article analyzing the recent rash of goals the team has been allowing, that's fair enough. Then, if he wrote that second article, he would need to give equal attention to all of the problems contributing to the resulting goals, not just the play of Fleury.

This, for one, smacks of bias, especially when you read his glowing review of the game our backup goalie played the day prior.

However, it also is bias in the form of putting far too much blame in one area. The team's very recent struggles on the power play, the horrific job they have done in clearing the puck from their own zone, and the resulting odd man rushes are all just as much to blame for the recent rash of goals allowed, and specifically for a number of the goals given up in the game in question. One brief mention was made of defensive lapses in general, but then it was right back to a very long qoute from the coach about how he was disappointed in his goalie.

Fleury is still a pretty young guy (21) and I'm not so sure that railing on him for finally losing - especially when this loss wasn't much different from most of the last 5 wins - at the end of quite a streak, is really what he needs to help him along

On top of all that, here in Pittsburgh, like with our other major sports teams, most of the fans and other folks who read about the Pens fall into two categories - a) those diehard folks like me, who see most of the games, understand the game well and know this evaluation is unjustified, and b) those clueless casual fans who would gloss over that article and say "boy, that fleury sucks" at the water cooler the next day, leading to all sorts of totally unjustified arguing that keeps other things from getting done.

So there you have it, my real beef. Dave is ruining workplace productivity!

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