Volume 90, Issue 102

Wednesday, April 09, 1997



COLUMN: Toodles. Integrity

By James Pugsley

As an editor of Canada's largest student newspaper's sports section, I have had a lot of luxuries – almost too many. Travelling to games and mingling with athletes and big-time journalists, watching sporting events, analyzing teams and players and creatively exploring ways to write about them has been an experience no other job can offer. And then there was the pleasure of developing an inexperienced staff into sportswriting gurus – not an easy task, but one with valuable rewards.

But sports journalism, just like any other kind, revolves around an aspect that can make or break an entire section – whether at a university paper or Toronto's biggest daily. Integrity.

When it comes to affecting reader perspective of someone or something found in the newspaper, journalists owe the public a lot of devotion and commitment to detail. As well, there is equal responsibility for the media to maintain integrity when touring the sports scene – still a part of the job no matter how fun it gets.

Yet surprisingly, journalistic integrity still means different things to different people – some who care more about it than others. To sports journalists who openly cheer for their school team at sporting events, apparently removing any chance of an unbiased approach to their articles, integrity represents less than what a ladder means to a fish.

Writing unbalanced stories, with interviews of one team and not the other, mixed with opinionated clutter, is another popular technique at universities across the country. The best example is found in the Imprint at Waterloo, where the Western Mustangs are repeatedly referred to as "Purple Satin" in an attempt to be witty. What the Imprint staff doesn't know is that aside from hurting their chances at establishing a devoted readership, they lessen their chances at working at a big time newspaper, where writing such opinionated garbage will get someone fired.

Integrity is professionalism – in everything. It can be found in what we do and say and can make the world a better place. But when sports reporters choose the level of integrity they wish to put into an article, readers can only hope they are seeing things the way things were, and not the way the way they should have been.

The lack of respect given to sports sections that publish "inside" jokes or poke fun at visiting teams can teach a valuable lesson to aspiring journalists – if you have an opinion, put it in a column and not in a story. Then put your name on the column to show you stand behind your beliefs. Right or wrong, it's respectable.

Using game summaries and stories as a tool to persuade others into the opinion of the author is an immoral, unprofessional and extremely dangerous thing to do. Fairness is always next to godliness.

Why bring all of this stuff up? Well, as Alex, Ian and John prepare to take control of The Gazette sports section, they will inherit newer and greater luxuries than I had. But knowing their only competition to giving consistent, unbiased, high-integrity sports reporting will come from Canada's major papers, it's obvious who will benefit the most from this section next year – the readers.

So to all those with integrity – and you know who you are – have a great summer. You earned it. I will do my best to manage.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997