The AJC and Georgia

After the Governor’s comments and my previous post on them, I got curious about the AJC and its approach to Georgia. The AJC responded to the Governor’s comments interestingly with a contest for the headline after UGA’s loss this weekend. The headlines used online are “Dogs’ Homecoming Horror” and “Homestunning.”

It seems to me that there are one or two legitimate criticisms of the Governor’s letter. The first takes the form of “Doesn’t the Governor have more important things to worry about?” I don’t really agree with this objection. First of all, it doesn’t take that long to write a letter and I think that a government full of people that only care about government sounds pretty awful. On the radio, Gov. Perdue tried to explain away his letter, saying that he signed it as a private citizen. True enough, but he knew better than to think that it would go unnoticed – or as unnoticed as any other letter to the editor.

The more interesting question to me is whether or not the Governor was right. Does the AJC display some distinct lack of support for the state of Georgia? Does it “celebrate our losses, and cancel our victories”? Let’s take a start by looking at the sports page – and I’m not limited to UGA. After a 35-20 win by Georgia Tech over Troy, the AJC carried an editorial with the title “Overmatched Troy Never Quit.” Similarly, after a 38-6 drubbing of Samford (a larger margin of victory than the defeat that the AJC determined “put the Dogs in their place”) the headline by on Mark Bradley’s column was “Tech staff fumbled away Ball’s vast promise.” Prior to the season opener against Notre Dame, Tech couldn’t catch a break. “Tech in an upset? Don’t Be Foolish” the headline read (column written by Jeff Schultz). The article discounted all of Tech’s positives. The score of the game was 14-10. Despite that amazing showing by the unranked Tech against the #2 Notre Dame, the column headline the next day in the AJC was negative – “Tech Can’t Finish What It Started.” (written by Terence Moore). Compare this headline with ESPN (that serves the entire nation): “No. 2 Notre Dame edges Ga. Tech in defensive struggle.” The AJC columnist takes a much more negative tone towards the hometown team. (To be fair, Schultz’s column headlined with “Good First Step for Jackets.”) Similarly, when GT defeated Samford, the ESPN headline was much more Yellow Jacket friendly with “Johnson catches two more TDs as GT rolls over Samford.”

Anyway, this sort of pattern shows up a lot in the AJC when it comes to local teams. Be it college or professional. The Governor’s comment (that the AJC is not an regular booster of local teams and it seems to discount local wins and amplify local losses) seems to hold with sports. Spend some time just reading the headlines of the different columns on the AJC – most of them take a negative perspective towards local teams.

The Governor’s criticism went farther than sports. The question is whether or not, in its editorials at least, a local newspaper like the AJC has the responsibility to support the city in which it is housed. To trumpet its successes and mourn its losses. If it can do this without compromising a commitment to the truth, then I believe that yes it does have this responsibility. In sports, it is easy to say that the local newspaper ought to be a fan, even while it recognizes that the team is imperfect. Does this formulation apply to non-sports news as well? The governor is saying that it does. And so long as a newspaper can maintain its commitment to the truth, then I’m inclined to agree.

2 Comments so far

  1. George Burdell (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 8:58 am

    Good post – nice research. I agree with your last line as well.

  2. Annie (unregistered) on October 16th, 2006 @ 10:24 am

    Great post! I also agree with the last line. I would like to see a hometown paper show a smidgeon of loyalty. I like to see wrongs and injustices brought to light by the paper, but when it comes to sports? Let’s show a little team loyalty.

    My theory is that so many Atlantans aren’t natives these days, that it is hard for the writers to feel that loyalty. How many writers for the AJC attended tech or UGA, I wonder? Even if they did attend, say, UGA Journalism school, they probably weren’t raised on the Braves and the Falcons. Again, how much of the readership pulls for the home teams?

    This is similar to the AJC changing the title of the Living section a few years ago. For as long as I can remember, growing up, the section w/the crossword, horoscopes, genealogy, etc. was called,
    “Dixie Living.” Then suddenly it became just “Living.” I always wondered what the impetus for the change was. The changing demographics of the readership?

    Anyway, great post. V. interesting.

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