I think I may have watched a grand total of one NBA game this past season. The games are not geared for middle-aged white guys. The game has been changed over the years to value running and jumping over teamwork and developed skills. The result is that basketball looks a lot like track and field, rather than a skills game. That’s not a moral argument, just a factual observation. I do follow the game through the stat sheet, as it is a good study of human bio-diversity and not just what is on the court.
The other aspect of the NBA that makes it interesting to me is the conduct of the sports media covering the NBA. It is a good model for understanding what has happened to the mainstream media, particularly with regards to politics. The NBA press does very little reporting. There are still game summaries posted on-line and box scores, but those are churned out by interns and robots. The professional NBA journalist does no actual reporting, Instead, he talks about story lines, personalities and other sport reporters.
The recent NBA draft is a good example. Every year the “reporters” claim it is going to be a wild week of trades and deals. Then they spend the week talking about rumors that are made up by other reporters. Those rumors are often just about rumors. It is not unusual to see a story about how it is rumored that a trade was rumored to have been mentioned by someone. Meta-news is news about news. The NBA is now doing news and rumors about rumors. That’s meta-meta-rumor-news, I guess.
The reason for all this is the news media no longer bothers to uphold any of its alleged standards. It was not that long ago that editors required two sources that were actual human beings with a credible claim to know the material. Newspapers might bend this rule, but they never went with copy that contained sources unknown to the editor. That’s no longer the case as editors no long exist in sufficient numbers to police it and the remaining ones simply don’t care. Anything goes so its all fake sources now.
Sports reporters have never been terribly bright or hard working so they have responded to this breakdown in order by doing what comes natural. Instead of working hard to get good stories, they make up semi-plausible stories with fake sources. An NBA trade, for example, will involve two or three people talking by phone. Yet, we’re supposed to believe that some guy at ESPN was then briefed on it by one of the parties. Even more absurd, we’re supposed to believe some blogger “broke” the story. Yeah, right.
The bigger issue though is something that happened in the Jordan years. It has been thrown down the memory hole, but Jordan decided the way to help black sports reporters was to give them exclusive access and deny access to honkies. Guys like Ahmad Rashad and Michael Wilbon were given special access. This made their careers, but it also ushered in the era of access journalism. Players granted access to reporters who were willing to sing their praises in their columns and on TV shows.
Something similar happened around the same time in Washington politics. The Clinton machine was ruthless in controlling the media. They would shutout reporters that did not play ball. There’s always been some of this, as people are naturally going to be nice to those who are nice to them and not so nice to people they see as adversaries. The difference was, the Clinton team turned this into a formal policy and the Washington press corp went along with it. They liked being treated like players so they acted accordingly.
The Bush people could not play the same game, as the Washington media is universally liberal, but they did a little bit of it with operations like Fox and the talk radio guys. Rich Lowry of National Review remodeled the magazine to be a GOP mouth piece for exactly this reason. It gave them access to Republicans. The Weekly Standard largely existed as a public relations vehicle for the Bush family. Much of what has gone wrong with Buckley Conservatism is due to the perils of access journalism.
This is why we see the explosion of fake news. The NBA guys want access or at least the illusion of access. To that end, they tweet out rumors and fake news in the hope of getting a reply from an agent or front office guy. That way they can then shoot down their own rumor or fake news with an actual quote from a real person. “After talking with person X, I can now report that the rumor I reported is false.” Fake news about rumors produces gossip that is eventually addressed by a real person in the news.
That seems to be what’s going on Washington with all the fake news. No one in the Washington media bothered to develop contacts in the Trump team. Instead, they mocked and harassed them through the campaign, figuring they were currying favor with the Clinton people. Now, they have no access so they create fake stories hoping to get a response from the Trump people. In lieu of real reporting, it is provocative fake reporting in the hope of gaining access to real people in the Trump White House.
Now, that’s not to say it is all innocent. Clearly, the major fake news organizations are fully converged, as Vox Day would put it. They are so in the tank for the one true faith, they now resemble a UFO cult. The point of their fake news campaign is to discredit the Trump people. Still, this is the logical result of access journalism. When the path to fame and glory is getting exclusive access to a powerful person, it is no surprise that the media has now turned itself into a PR firm for the rich and powerful.