Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pro-UT bias in media? You betcha, says Lopez '84

Let me say this as carefully as he said it: This is absolutely not a blanket statement covering all journalists who graduated from the University of Texas. But is there a regional sports media bias in favor of UT? Absolutely, writes columnist, radio host and longtime Houston Chronicle sportswriter John P. Lopez '84 in a piece published Sunday in Billy Liucci's Maroon & White Report at Texags.com.
There IS a Longhorn media bias in this part of the country. I've seen it. I've cringed at some of the things that have been said and done on Saturdays in press boxes, in newsrooms when game stories are being laid out, early in the week when assignments are being made and late at night when pictures are chosen for the front page of the paper or website.

It is a bias that, yes, has impacted the stories and information the public receives. It happens in news rooms all over the state. It has led to some news tips being ignored while others pursued with much more vigor. Sure, it probably even has helped the Longhorns and assailed others.

Any of my fellow journalists who dispute this fact are either lying or blind.

It's hardly surprising, Lopez notes, what with the size of UT's journalism school. (In a similar post last fall, I noted that UT is graduating about 160 journalism majors per year, while A&M had at the time graduated a total of 23 journalism minors since the new program began in 2004.)

Lopez cites specific situations that I'll wager will sound familiar to anybody working in news in Texas:
All the instances below involve reporters or columnists who graduated from UT and work at Texas news outlets.
  • A writer at a major newspaper in Texas was asked if he wanted to cover a big Texas Tech game last season. He refused. When asked by an editor why, he responded: "Because it's Lubbock. And Tech."
  • While talking with an investigative reporter about a piece aimed at exposing irregularities at a major state program, I asked the reporter why he never seemed so eager to investigate UT. He responded with a chuckle, raised a Hook 'em 'Horns sign and said, "You know."
  • An editor coordinating NCAA Tournament coverage at a Texas newspaper was asked in a staff meeting why the Longhorns basketball team consistently was played on the front page, while the Aggies -- ranked higher -- consistently were inside. He responded curtly, "I make those decisions, not you."
  • An executive sports editor in Texas was approached with sourced information that indicated Vince Young's Wonderlic test score was well below par prior to the 2006 NFL draft. The editor quashed the story, which ultimately was reported elsewhere.

None of this means that any one particular instance of story play or apparent favoritism is part of a vast burnt-orange conspiracy. But as True Brown said in that earlier, related item, "In my opinion, it's not a matter of writers and editors going out of their way to downgrade A&M. Rather, there just aren't enough Aggies in the state media to keep things on an even keel. Unfortunately, this is going to get a lot worse before it gets even a little better because of A&M's jaw-dropping decision a few years ago to eliminate its journalism program."