Does The Media Make The News?

I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on Tony Massarotti’s column this morning about the media and how they decide what is news and what isn’t news.

Beyond the navel gazing, what I didn’t like about it was the attitude that permeated the column. It seemed to say: “Oh well, this is how things are, this is what we do, it might be wrong, but it’s not going to change.

Tony even admits that the media’s credibility is suffering, but offers no suggestions as to how it could be improved. “We have to accept it” Massarotti says.

But there’s more within the column that bothered me too, and it is a typical example of something that has happened over and over again during the last few months.

It’s this paragraph that I’m referring to:

For all the debate the Brady story has prompted, here is one aspect that is truly mystifying: How is it that the Brady story is front page news in the Boston Globe, yet the ugly divorce case involving third-wheel Pats coach Bill Belichick never gets a mention? How is it that WEEI talks about the quarterback’s situation but not about those of the coach? How do we draw the line between a full-blown, gloves-are-off scandal and one we deem frivolous and irrelevant, even if it is true?

So Tony thinks that the Bill Belichick situation should be talked about on the level of the Tom Brady coverage. He ignores the fact that seemingly every article written about the Patriots coach in the last couple months has included a reference to this case.

But what do we really know about this “ugly divorce case” in NJ? Do you honestly think Tony Massarotti really knows what is going on down there?

Of course not.

Just about all that has been reported has been on Page 6 of the New York Post and in the Inside Track of the Boston Herald. Credible sources both. (Is my sarcasm thick enough?)

We’ve heard plenty in those columns from the disgruntled husband. Nothing really from the other side. We’ve heard numerous times that Belichick is heavily involved in this mess and is going to be giving a deposition. We heard that this was going to happen as soon as the season was over.

Has it?

No.

Will it?

Not going to happen.

Mark my words.

The husband in the case has clearly made it his aim to try and involve Belichick somehow, and to publicly embarrass the Patriots head coach. That is the full extent of Belichick’s involvement in this case. He is not the “third-wheel” in this case.

Massarotti wasn’t the only Herald columnist referencing the New Jersey divorce case today, from Howie Carr’s column:

But this isn’t the only unfolding sex scandal involving the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick is embroiled in a messy divorce with that former secretary for the New York Giants. But again, there’s a video problem – no videotape of The Other Woman. Plus, the local sporting press is terrified of Belichick. They’d rather kiss butt than kick it.

Right. The sporting press is terrified of Belichick. They’ve NEVER said a disparaging word about the Patriots coach. Ever. They’re too scared to. Please. They spend the last few years taking shots at him for any possible reason, and now they’re “terrified” to bring up this subject?

If you’ve read the books on Bill Belichick, you’re familiar with the stories about him helping out friends in need. That he’ll reward lower level staff members out of his own pocket. That quality extends to his non-football life as well.

Like many people with means, Belichick has investment properties. Several in fact. (Nantucket, Weston and others) Owned by him. The reports that he has purchased a house FOR the woman in the NJ case are off base. Belichick’s generosity to friends in need is well known among people who know the man outside of football.

This example is from Peter King’s November, 2005 SI article “Master and Commander“:

Unlike many of the Cleveland players, Browns coaches loved working for Belichick. Every Monday after a win over an AFC Central opponent, he would have his secretary cash a check from his personal account, and $200 in cash would be left on the desk of every assistant. Before the coaching staff headed off on vacation every June, he would distribute the proceeds from his TV and radio shows to his assistants — maybe $12,000 a man — and take nothing for himself. “Bill remembered what it was like to be an assistant coach,” says his former line coach Kirk Ferentz, now the head coach at Iowa. “He gave everyone a second Christmas. You think that doesn’t make you loyal?” One time Belichick left a $100 bill in the car ashtray of low-level scout Scott Pioli. When Pioli protested that he didn’t need the money, Belichick replied, “Shut up and take it. I’ve been where you’ve been.”

Those are coaches he worked with. This generous side of Belichick also extends to his private life. He has assisted a number of people over the years without publicity and in a platonic manner.

From what I hear, the NJ case is moving rapidly towards a conclusion….a conclusion that does not in any way involve Bill Belichick. Yet the gossip columns have set this up to be something huge, that things are moving towards the day when Belichick is called to the stand and dramatically forced to tell all, spilling secrets that will ruin his career and shame the New England Patriots.

What’s going to happen when none of that comes to pass, and the case quietly ends? Nothing. There will be no corrections, no mentions that the whole thing was overblown and simply lifted from gossip columns in tabloid newspapers.

Over the last few months we’ve had plenty of mentions of this case in various columns, both local and national. Where are these columnists getting their information on the case? Do you think any of them have actually attempted to look into them themselves? Not a chance. They’re taking what is published in the gossip columns and taking it as fact. It seems that some fans and callers to sports radio, also believe everything they read in those columns as well.

So when you hear the question asked “Why aren’t we hearing more about this Bill Belichick case?” the answer is simply because there really isn’t one at all.

What’s become clear out of all of this, is that too many members of the Boston (and national) sports media simply rely on the gossip pages for their source material.

THAT’S got to change.

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