Monday, June 09, 2008

Ombudsman takes Sports columnist to task - UPDATED

The Herald's Ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, has finally penned a column in which he actually takes a side. Unfortunately for him it's about an inconsequential subject and he is wrong. Now don't get me wrong, I like sports and I think the sports page is probably the most viable section of the Herald these days but having the ombudsman pontificate about what a sports columnist wrote on his blog strikes me as being Neroesque at this point in time.

The blog post in question is about Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor and was written by Armando Salguero. Even in his set-up Schumacher-Matos shows his lack of knowledge of the sports world:

Coming off a successful stint on Dancing with the Stars, the handsome and well-spoken Taylor says he wants to play pro football for only one more year before going into the movies...

Through his agent, he told the Dolphins in January that he wanted to be traded so that he might have a chance in his last declared year of playing football to join a team with a better championship shot.
This is the real issue with Jason Taylor in a nutshell. Taylor is under contract to play for the Dolphins. Though players often ask for trades, they NEVER make their intentions to retire public when they do so. If the Dolphins are to get something of value in return for Taylor, the team he is traded to would want more than a 1-year rent-a-player. By stating that he only wants to play one more year Taylor has virtually guaranteed that he will not, in fact, be traded. He undermined his trade value.

But the problem with Schumacher-Matos' analysis is how he comes down on Salguero for using strike-through to imply that Jason Taylor lied when he said he'd be happy to be a Dolphin during the 2008 season. Strike-through is a technique that is often used by bloggers to indicate what's really going on while paying lip service to the official line from the subject of the post. For example:
Herald to lay off hundreds of workers down-size.
Bloggers of all stripes use this technique. It's a device that works as a wink to the audience. It means "you and I know what's really going on here."

The problem is that Schumacher-Matos wants Salguero to live by the rules of the newspaper even when he's blogging. And that brings us to the fundamental questions that I have been asking for a couple of years: what's the purpose of the Herald's blogs? What are the guidelines that the Herald's bloggers must live by? Schumacher says:
I agree with at least one blog participant who called the ''lies'' technique a cheap shot. Striking it out but leaving the word all but accuses Taylor of lying, and clearly insinuates that Salguero thinks he is.
Yeah. That's the whole point. Schumacher-Matos goes on to talk about Salguero's sources and whether they are solid or not. To me that's besides the point. It's Salguero's opinion that Taylor is lying when he says he'd happily play for the Dolphins this year. Salguero, unlike Schumacher-Matos, has been on the Dolphins beat for many years and has I'm sure had many conversations with Jason Taylor. He knows him. He doesn't need to have a source to form an opinion about Taylor's thought process.

After all of this, I can't get my mind around the fact that the Ombudsman would waste his time on this. I'd rather have him take a look at how the Herald's columnists like Ana Menendez, Carl Hiaasen and dating back to Jack Kofoed have consistently put forward an anti-Cuban exile position with the paper publishing very little to balance those opinions.

UPDATE: In response to a commenter at his blog, Salguero had this to say about the Ombudsman and his opinions:
My sports editor read the ombudsman column to me and after he did, I asked, "Did he spell my name correctly?" That is as much thought as I have given his opinion. I have thick skin and a deep conviction that my coverage on JT has been fair, balanced and accurate. That is the reason I continue to speak with BOTH sides about the issue and they continue to speak with me.

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