Being objective is pretty big in the news gathering business. It is difficult to cover something accurately or fairly if you can’t stay detached and look at things without a view clouded by a bias.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have biases. Everyone does. The key is to keep them under control.
That said, I have a very serious bias in the NCAA tournament. It’s called Virginia Commonwealth University. Or VCU for short. This year’s Cinderella (though I’m biased against that term), the team people thought shouldn’t be IN the tournament that is now a day away from playing Kansas for a spot in the Final Four. Which means the Rams are in the Elite Eight.
Allow me a simple “yessssssss” and then I’ll get out of the bias mode.
I went to VCU, graduating in 1978 with a degree in mass communications. I worked there for a while, though it wasn’t a very good experience. That’s more on me than VCU and my time there did help me become a much better leader, a much better manager. You learn by all examples, good and bad.
I still teach there on an adjunct basis. My wife also went to VCU.
When I was sports editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, covering VCU was pretty much of a no brainer. I covered VCU for a long time as a beat reporter and was able to do it objectively — a little too objectively in the eyes of some at the school.
At The Washington Times, VCU is a bit more difficult to figure. Among colleges out of the metro area, we know Virginia and Virginia Tech have big followings around here. Richmond and VCU? Still trying to get my arms around that.
We would not have covered VCU in the first round of the tournament if the Rams hadn’t been playing a local team (Georgetown). We did not cover the second round. We likely wouldn’t have gone with the Rams to the Sweet 16 if not for the wonderful combination of two unlikely teams from the same nearby city playing in the same region.
But now? VCU has become a national story, this year’s Butler (though this year’s actual Butler may have something to say about that). The Rams are drawing attention and praise from all corners and we’ll be on the ride as long as they’re still in the tournament. It’s very nice to know that’s the correct, objective decision and not one made with my bias leading the way.
Slipping back into my alum mode, the thing that makes me happiest about this incredible run is what it will do for the university. For a big, vibrant, diverse university, VCU is not a household name along the lines of a Virginia or Virginia Tech. While I’m thrilled for the basketball team, I’m more excited about the exposure the university will receive. VCU in the past eight days has had more attention paid to it than it probably has in the past eight years. It will make people sit up and pay attention, maybe make some prospective students take a longer look.
It’s all good. And if the Rams can summon one more gigantic game and knock off Kansas on Sunday to advance to the Final Four? Oh my.
It seems somewhat silly that sports can make that kind of difference for a university that is excellent in medical fields, business, the arts, engineering, communications and so much more. But it can and it has.
So let me be biased for one more second and then I’ll slip back into my objective suit: Go Rams.