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Why I write about EMU athletics; or Free Press FAIL

September 1, 2011

On a fairly regular basis, people ask me why I write about EMU athletics. It especially seems to confuse people who discover that I’m neither a student nor an alumnus of Eastern Michigan.

“Why EMU?” they ask. “Why not whatever school you went to?”

The answer to the second question has always been easy. I live in Ypsi — have for a while — and the schools I attended aren’t near enough that I could actually go to sporting events with any regularity. Plus, they’re already thoroughly covered, both by professional media and high quality amateur bloggers.

The first question can be a little tougher to answer. Of course, there’s the local thing, and certainly that’s part of it, but only a small part.

The real answer is that I looked around and saw that no one else was really covering EMU athletics, certainly not in the way you’d expect a Division I program to be covered. This morning I came across a perfect illustration of this. We all know that the major area media like the Detroit News and Free Press rarely mention the Eagles. But even when they do, all too often it looks like this: the Detroit Free Press EMU football season preview. Let’s break it down point by point.

  • Length. When the News or Freep do bother to mention EMU athletics, it tends to be a short piece, not a feature. The article is 279 words, plus a schedule. This article took less than an hour to write while I was doing a half-dozen other things (including trying to watch games on ESPN3), and it’s 60% longer.
  • No details. The aforementioned schedule gives dates only, not times.
  • Formulaic. “Gillett is the one to make the offense go.” Really? You could plug in any team’s starting quarterback and have at least a 75% chance of this applying.
  • Blatant factual errors. Apparently the anonymous Free Presser who slapped this together didn’t notice that Dwayne Priest isn’t on the roster any more. As you probably know, if you pay passing attention to EMU football, Priest was a senior last year. He’s gone. Listing Priest in “Key returners”, “Players to watch”, and “Reason to hope” tells us that you’re just not paying attention. Speaking of not paying attention…
  • “EMU has a killer schedule”. I took issue when people wrote this last year, but suggesting it this year it’s just plain absurd. I wrote about the expected difficulty of the schedule this morning, and all I have to say is that if you can look at that and call it a “killer schedule”, you have no business writing about football.

So even though this Free Press article was an epic fail, I’d like to thank them for helping me explain why I do this.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 2, 2011 1:26 am

    Well let’s see, they are playing two Division IAA teams (I can’t get into calling them FCS teams…sorry) and the MAC is on a down year, I think. That’s hardly a killer schedule. But whatever. It’s kind of hard to compete with Michigan with it being so close.

  2. Kenneth Barna permalink
    September 2, 2011 9:00 am

    Dear cmadler,
    Boy, you are soooo correct about the coverage. The thing that I do not understand, is if, you have three or four writers on your staff, why do they all have to write about U-M or MSU? Why not assign one to write about the MAC schools in the State, and that way, one could have someone become actually knowledgeable about those schools, and have better reporting. I know it makes too much sense, because I quoted you and Eagle Totem, in another blog, as having more correct information on Eastern, then the News or Free Press. Keep up the very good work!

  3. Mark H. permalink
    September 2, 2011 9:38 am

    Your blog provides excellent analysis of EMU athletics — and its writing is very good. Much, much better than many sports pages of commercial newspapers these days.

    But isn’t there a basic reason to explain the haste and carelessness of major media’s neglect of EMU and other MAC schools? The MAC is a big conference, but it lacks wide public interest; there is little readership for coverage of MAC teams. Very few people follow MAC teams seriously or talk about them with passion. In a word, there is virtually no market value for EMU’s football or basketball programs, and even less for the other sports; much the same is true across the MAC. So the Free Press can fail to cover EMU teams seriously without any consequences: virtually nobody who turns to the FreeP’s sport section is looking for EMU stories. But if they error in covering, say, U of M, hordes of readers would howl and howl. There is a market value for serious press coverage of some schools and not for others.

    Your blog fills this void with great skill and insight and independence. I imagine that most serious fans of EMU athletics read your blog; and yet its readership must be very small compared to news sources, blogs, etc., of athletics programs with real market value and sizable public fan bases. You’ve clearly stated your good reasons for writing about EMU sports — but your reasons aren’t shaped by the market forces driving coverage in the mainstream media.

    Your blog is outstanding and I commend you for it! The market determines the value of not everything in life…just those things that are bought and sold.

  4. September 3, 2011 9:57 am

    Carter, its the same reason I started bloggng. Oddly enough during the time I have been doing it media coverage around Buffalo has really grown.

    You do a spectacular job covering EMU! Keep it up.

  5. Bobby Wicks permalink
    September 6, 2011 10:18 am

    I disagree a little bit with Mark H. To say that the MAC has “virtually no market value,” is incorrect. It is a niche market, meaning that those who attended a MAC school, naturally want to follow their team and their conference. I would say the number of EMU, CMU, and WMU grads in Metro Detroit is quite large. Therefore, there is a real market and a need for better MAC coverage in both the News and Free Press.

    The mistake that is being made and has ALWAYS been made by our two major newspapers is the assumption that EVERYONE is either a U-M fan or an MSU fan. They treat them like they are professional teams along with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, and Pistons! It’s hilarious. Tons of Walmarters probably don’t even realize that the Wolverines and Spartans are attached to universities.

    Bottom line, there NEEDS to be better coverage of the local college teams to cater to the large alumni base in the area. Conversely, there is way too much coverage of U-M and MSU. I’m an EMU alum and a fan of MSU, and I can say easily that Eastern Michigan University comes first with me. I think most people follow their alma maters too, so do the math. What is the number of MAC grads living in Metro Detroit? That determines if you have a market or not.

  6. September 6, 2011 10:30 pm

    I am an EMU alumnus and U of M fan. If EMU had better teams to offer, I would probably follow them closer. Hell, I would be happy if they were competitive in the MAC at least that would give them a shot at a bowl game. That being said, being made the photographer here will give me a better chance to follow them alot closer, as I will be going to all the home games and a few away games. That is certainly more than I attended when I was a student.

    Now my degree, I will defend to the death. I value my education from EMU.

  7. Bobby Wicks permalink
    September 7, 2011 9:06 am

    No offense Ken but it is a vicious cycle. If fairweather fans, both students and alumni, only supported their teams when EMU had, “beter teams to offer” then they will never be able to offer better teams. The only way to get better is through hard work and strong fan support. The notion of only supporting one’s alma mater when times are good is…a joke.

    It has become a tradition in Washtenaw County that people do not go to EMU games, almost as old a tradition as U-M selling out their home games. And why? Because it has become so ingrained in the community that people don’t think, they just follow the tradition. While EMU is struggling to get anyone to attend their games, Michigan AD David Brandon arrogantly announced, probably correctly, that U-M could have sold an additional 50,000 tickets to the Notre Dame night game due to the overwhelming demand. That makes me sick that U-M could sell 162,000 high priced tickets and we can’t get 10,000 to watch an EMU game at NO COST!

  8. September 7, 2011 11:24 am

    I realize it’s a vicious cycle and I’m trying to do my part to support the team but it is tough to watch at times because I think Eastern could be that much better. I think the biggest problem is that they can barely get students to go to the games (and they already get in for “free”). I don’t know if it is still the same now as when I went there, but I remember Fridays were the dorms were pratically empty because everyone went home for the weekend. It’s kind of tough to get people to go to the game when the campus is deserted. Which of course doesn’t help in recruiting, which doesn’t help winning games…etc.

    But we’ll see I guess. Anyways, I’m still looking forward to taking more pictures at the upcoming games.

  9. Bobby Wicks permalink
    September 7, 2011 6:53 pm

    Yeah, I almost forgot about the weekend evacuations, which is strange considering most college students love their freedom. I certainly didn’t go home except to do laundry and have a decent meal, but not every weekend! I guess that’s why thursday was always a great bar night at the Spaghetti Bender, the Nickel, etc. Hopefully, a few wins will entice some of the students to stick around saturdays.

    Good luck with the photography, that is cool. Be sure to get a bunch of #47, he should be easy to find. He’s the one who’s always around the football on defense!

  10. September 8, 2011 1:05 am

    I came from Bay City and I didn’t have a car, so it was pretty tough for me to get home on weekends. That pretty much meant that I stuck around campus on weekends. It wasn’t too bad for the most part, but I think it would have been better had EMU not been a suitcase college.

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