GD: The honest answer here is that we’re never around the players in the locker room, rarely on the practice field and never talk to any of them one on one, so anything we say is a guess or hearsay. Some love it, some think it’s fine, some absolutely don’t like it. Like pretty much everywhere else. Overall, they seem to have improved the culture over the last couple years. I hear fewer rumors about division and in-fighting than I did in the past, which you would expect in year three versus year one. But it’s never going to be completely non-existent.
I think I disagree with your overall analysis. To me, winning causes culture more than culture causes winning. If Missouri wins nine games next year, everybody will be close and everything will be glorious and it’s a great culture. If Missouri goes 5-7 next year, there will be talk of issues in the locker room and transfers out and the culture will be questioned. I think what we hear often comes after results and is a direct result of those results. In other words, with bad teams you hear afterward how the culture sucked and with good teams they talk about how the culture was great. I think Missouri’s is fine. Not far better or far worse than most locker rooms.
GD: Man, I could write a book on this. Honestly, anymore, most coverage is fanboy and biased. I think it’s encouraged. Newspapers are chasing clicks, websites are chasing subscriptions, everybody is chasing likes on social media. If you tell the fans what they want to hear and if they think you’re rooting for the team as much as they are, those things are more likely to happen. I can’t do it that way. It’s just not how I was taught or wired. But I’m old and I understand I’m the exception rather than the rule, especially in the team fansite area.
In part, I get it. Because while most fans say they want objective coverage, they don’t really mean it. They want objective coverage of every other team and homer coverage of their own team. It’s human nature. Many fans want to believe that it means as much to the reporters as it does to them. A lot of people are more likely to pay for something if they feel like the guy writing it cares as much as they do. Even here, I’ve often been told after writing something “I think that is the best story you’ve ever written.” It’s almost always a positive story after a big win or something that’s gone well for Missouri. Nobody has ever told me that after a loss or a negative column. Even though I actually think some of the coverage of the bad stuff is a lot better work than some of the good stuff.
I think there is an important distinction here: You can want the team you cover to win. You can even be a fan of the team you cover. As long as it doesn’t impact the way you do your job. If they’re awful, you have to say they’re awful and give your opinions on why. If they’re great, give them credit for being great and your opinion why. Just cover what happens. It’s easy to tell when someone who covers the team is emotionally invested in the team’s success. And that’s what you can’t do. For example, the Kentucky and Illinois basketball games were fun as hell to cover. Great crowds, incredible atmosphere, the team I cover played really well, they were happy after the game, you all wanted to read our stories and listen to our podcasts. So that’s all good. Of course we want that to happen. But if they’d lost, we still would have covered the game and offered analysis.
There are plenty of people out there who still cover a team objectively. It’s just that the number is smaller than it used to be and the voices that don’t do it that way are getting louder and louder.
You have to kind of seek out objective coverage. I know I didn’t answer your question about which teams have the most or least biased media and that was intentional. I’m not going to start singling people out. Who am I to sit in judgment of them? Plus, there are people I consider friends and who I like personally quite a bit who I think are huge homers. I doubt any of them read my mailbag, but just in case, I’d just as soon be able to keep being friends with them.