SHIN SPLINTS REDUX – Knowledge, Justice and Information

This new series is guest blogged by Doug Logan.

Doug Logan is an Adjunct Professor of Sports Management, at New York University.

He was the CEO for USATF from 2008 until September 2010.

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He was also the CEO, President and Commissioner for Major League Soccer from 1995 to 1999.  To read more about his background and involvement in Track, Soccer, Rugby and the Music industry, read my Freelap Friday Five Interview

This is his 20th article. Click here for his entire series.

SHIN SPLINTS REDUX

Knowledge, Justice and Information

Beano Cook, the late, colorful college football analyst on ESPN was a wonderful storyteller and raconteur. I once heard him tell a very funny joke at an athletic banquet. He said that the trouble with America was that the three most important jobs in the country were dominated by foreigners. And, he went on to say, those jobs were “…taxi driver, room service waiter and placekicker.”

With all due respect to my deceased friend Beano, I have my own list of important professions. I believe that the three most important occupations in America are teacher, public defender and news editor. They dispense societal knowledge, justice and information. We have institutional weaknesses in all three areas that need addressing. And, our shortcomings have nothing to do with the issue of them being occupied by foreigners.

School teachers have become the whipping girls and boys in our retreat from academic excellence. Their various teachers’ unions have shouldered a big part of the blame for the poor results in scholarly testing in both K-12 and high school. Union officials appear to be inflexible on the issue of teacher evaluations. Teachers are cast as villains by parents, politicians and pundits. The classroom environment, replete with disrespect and violence, has taken big steps backwards in the past generation. Occupational compensation and other fiscal resources are marginal in comparison with other fields. It’s a wonder why anyone wants to become a teacher.

I believe that our troubles with educational quality have another important socio-economic source. Several generations ago the “best and brightest” women sought out careers as teachers. The principal reason for this was that the pathways for other lucrative and satisfying professions were shut off. Shut off by educational barriers; by social intolerance; by good old fashioned sexism. Once these barricades were breached by the women’s movement, the ablest of women began to beat a path to more exciting and fiscally rewarding endeavors. Doors to the law, engineering, investment banking, medicine, finance and other careers swung open and it left the teaching profession bereft of its historical source of high quality, under-paid, human capital. You get what you pay for. And, educational policy makers have been unwilling to accept that they now have to pay for the talent they used to get “on the cheap”.

I recently attended a fundraising event for a local agency that provides and coordinates legal assistance for the indigent. Many would be shocked at the state of need for these services in most jurisdictions. While most people just assume that “legal aid” is provided by government, the reality is that the source of a greater portion of assistance is donated by practicing attorneys doing pro-bono work, and by private contributions. Think of the look on the face of one of the masters of the universe hedge fund operators if they were told they have to devote 10 hours a month assisting poor people in making money.

Why is this important? Well, as Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” There are those who labor fearlessly, whether full or part time, to assure that all get a fair shake from our legal system, regardless of class or financial means. Their actions preserve the promise of “blind justice”, and deserve our admiration and support.

During the 1984 presidential campaign, a group of psychologists from Syracuse University, led by Brian Mullen, conducted a study of the three network news broadcast anchormen; Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings. They showed 37 news segments to a group of randomly selected viewers and asked them to rate the broadcasters “friendliness” of facial expressions as they talked about the candidates, Reagan and Mondale. They were given a scale of 0-21. Rather scored 10.46 when he talked about Mondale and 10.37 for Reagan; almost dead neutral. Brokaw’s results were similar; 11.21 for Mondale and 11.50 for Reagan. But Jennings was far different; 13.38 for Mondale and a whopping 17.44 for Reagan.

The researchers then investigated a random group of markets after the election and correlated voting decisions with their study. In Cleveland 75% of those who had watched Jennings on ABC voted for Reagan versus 61.9% of CBS or NBC viewers. In Williamstown, MA, ABC viewers went 71.4% for Reagan versus 50% from the other two networks. In Erie, PA, the difference was 73.7% to 50%. The subtle visual bias in the way Jennings reported the news appears to have influenced the way his viewers voted.

Today, we are hard pressed to find any objectivity at all in the way news is delivered. Watching competing broadcasts on Fox and MSNBC is like listening to a schizophrenic. Subjectivity is the order of the day; sensationalism is at a premium; adjectives and adverbs trump nouns and verbs. And, news content on line is full of falsehoods, deceits, and gratuitous and self serving exaggeration. Now, more than ever, we are desperately in need of codes of objectivity for the way information is dispensed.

Additionally, we also need a display of responsible conduct from those who control the information we are fed. It is a well known journalistic fact that following a front-page reported suicide, the statistics for suicide jump dramatically in the reporting area. In addition to suicides, there is also a spike in traffic accidents causing death and fatal airplane crashes. Responsible journalists go out of their way to minimize this effect; very few suicides are highlighted. To freedom of speech absolutists this smacks of censorship. To me, this is a moral duty by those who control information to mitigate the “copy-cat” impact.

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  • Jimson, what the *!!!! what is going on here, your good blog has turned into a platform for some old dude to get all rhetoric about America, who cares!!! This is not track, field or even phys’. I’m off to complete track & field.com

    • @Doug, I agree Doug Logan’s articles are not for everyone, but I personally enjoy them (being Canadian, I love studying local history.. USA, Italy, and UK) as well as many readers who sent me personal replies on how much they like them (or hate them!)

      Latif Thomas is entertaining, and I do read his blog when I get a chance. Yes, he admits to reading mine, too. No animosity between us, we just have different views on coaching, and presenting. That’s what makes life so interesting.