This issue of trust in the media is something that I have been considering on an academic level for some time now, and I have come to the realization that the days of honest reporting are long gone in the MSM world. The reason for it is actually quite simple; neoliberal capitalism. There will be no Woodward and Bernstein type reporting anymore - there can only be Tyler Dellow, because Tyler Dellow doesn’t have an editor, a department head and shareholders to answer to. Tyler only answers his own sometimes self-indulgent curiosity. Even as an academic, not a journalist, I have to pander to various gatekeepers who prevent me from saying exactly what it is I want to say, because it may put my institution’s reputation in jeopardy, as such running the risk of angering the people who donate large sums of money to the institutions and potentially cause parents to not send their kids there. Basically, there is the constant danger of angering those who have the most at stake to lose. This is the way of the neoliberal state and neoliberal institutions in a nutshell-risk management and security will always come before honesty, integrity and in a much bigger sense, human rights. The media is a business, and like any other “well run” business, the media’s primary responsibility is to make money for those who own it, not to provide an honest, unbiased opinion. As such, we have seen a shift away from reporting in TV news towards a highly stylized kind of infotainment, with sensational stories about celebrity weddings and which star accidentally overdosed on pain pills while at a club while not wearing undergarments. These stories, for whatever reason, are what people seem to want to hear, or conversely, what the media tells people it is that they want to hear. I made an argument in the last roundtable that people love to rubberneck, that stories about tragedies and catastrophic events are interesting - they are, but there can only be so much shit before you want to get back to light, fluffy things like why our drunken sieve of a goalie is actually the league MVP and that if Renney can coax 25 wins out of this sad-sack bunch, he should win the Jack Adams.
If the Oilers want to sell hope, the media must sell hope. If the team wants to form a solidarity wall around Khabibulin for whatever their reasons, that is what they the media will do. There is a message from above that the media spin has to go a certain way to keep the people with money, power and the most at stake happy. As for Penner and Gilbert, their styles of play make them appear to be doing less than they really are. The average everyday fan doesn’t give a crap about advance stats, outliers, or any other form of critical engagement with the game; they read the stats page in the journal or the sun, maybe read Matty’s Hockey World or the occasional Ireland, Tychkowski (sp.?) or MacKinnon article, watch the games and see them bad. To be fair, I am seeing Gilbert bad right now too, but I think the entire defense is playing at an ECHL level right now. Gilbert is not alone is his terrible play, but you can’t pick on Foster because he’s the new Souray, Smid is too young still, Peckham a rookie, Vandermeer hardly plays, Whitney has 14 points and everyone just loves Strudwick because he’s the world’s most likeable human being. Therefore, Tom Gilbert, a great #3 defenseman, potentially a really good #2 with his long hair and big contract becomes the whipping boy for the local media to rag on, much like poor Janne Ninnimaa before him was unfairly criticized under the burden of over-inflated expectations. Hell, even Paul Coffey got a bad rap in this town, which is notoriously hard on its players. Every year there is one or two players who get crapped on. Its old hat now for both Tom and Dustin based on their contracts vis-à-vis their styles of play. It isn’t right, it isn’t fair, but they look like they aren’t carrying their weight based on their salaries, not advanced stats, and as such the people employed by the media machine will poop on them. The media controls the message, yet the message is the media...and right now the message is about selling hope, not because there is much to really be hopeful for, but rather selling hope is the best way to manage risk without impacting the businesses bottom lines.