The Millennial generation often gets a rap for its relentless focus on self. With access to social media and other technologies, no group in the history of the species has seemed more internally focused and in need of constant affirmation than Millennials.
In an effort to change with the times, and apparently to be as cutting edge as possible, many media outlets have borrowed from the Millennial model in regards to the way they handle attribution.
And in Tucson there isn't a greater offender of self-promotional attribution than the Arizona Daily Star. A Star reporter, when quoting someone on record, won't let its readers know that that source talked directly to the reporter by including some variation of the phrase "told the Arizona Daily Star."
It used to be all a reporter had to write in a story was the source "said," or "says," depending on a publication's preferred style guide. But now the Star has to make sure the reader understands exactly where that information derived, even if for years the reader has managed to assume the source of the quote talked to the reporter. Because for years, readers have managed to make the connection that when reporters quote somebody, if they aren't attributing the comment to another source, well then it's a pretty safe bet the reporter did what the reporter is supposed to do, which would be talk to the person quoted.
When the Star tells you someone "told the Star," at best it's redundant. But it's also often misleading.
Take, for example, the Star's sports coverage, and take, for example, a Star story penned last week by sports editor Ryan Finley. In this particular article, where Finley writes about whether UA football player Scooby Wright will be available to play in the team's bowl game he says, "It's hard on him" not to play, coach Rich Rodriguez told the Star on Tuesday. "It's hard for Scooby—or any player of his caliber—to stand and watch."
On the surface, seems reasonable enough. But this is the context in which Rodriguez "told the Star." He "told the Star" after a question Finley asked in the weekly Pac-12 Coaches Teleconference with the media. By including the term "told the Star," the paper wants its readers to believe this discussion was one-on-one, an exclusive of sorts, that a reporter sat down with the coach and got this information.
That is simply not true. Any reporter on the call had the same access to the same info. Furthermore, anyone with an Internet connection can go to pac-12.com and click on the Rodriguez link to access the same material.
Under these criteria, if the Star was consistent and ran a quote from a question posed by someone at a TV station, magazine or even an Internet site, it should give those outlets the same attribution courtesy. After all, based on the Star's logic, the coach must have talked directly to, or "told" the person who asked the question.
But you know the Star won't do that, because the Star goes out of its way not to provide attribution to any media outlet. Generally, if a story runs via another media source first, the Star gets a reporter to make a call, probably so they can type the words "told the Star" once the reporter gets comment.
Not to pick on Finley here. Nearly every Star story does the same thing. It seems more a bizarre self-promotional marketing edict from the top that made its way into content some time ago.
Further, especially on stories with a UA focus, it's probably better for readers nowadays to assume any comments included in stories occurred in some sort of open forum or press conference setting. That's because the university has cracked down significantly on access within the last decade, so the day of the one-on-one interview with anyone affiliated with the Wildcats is extremely rare. Well, unless you're Sports Illustrated or ESPN, at which point the Sports Information Department will bend over backward to get you anything you want, even if the locals have grinded on the beat for months.
On another sports note, there's an axiom among athletes and coaches about putting the last play behind you. Basically, this means if you screwed up on the field, get it out of your head, move on and make sure it doesn't affect the next play.
For the Star, and sports reporters in general, the twist on that axiom seems to be "put the last prediction behind you."
Take, for example, Finley's tweet last week, which read, in the kind of self-assured tone that would make Kim Kardashian proud, "Remember, our @ghansen711 (that would be Star sports columnist Greg Hansen) reported two weeks ago that RR told Byrne, others he was staying."
RR in this instance in Rodriguez, who earlier had been the subject of numerous rumors for other head coaching opportunities. We have all the latest news and the sources to get you the right info. Except ...
A week before "our @ghansen711 reported two weeks ago that RR told Byrne, others he was staying," there was this headline on a Hansen column. "Hansen: Odds favor RichRod leaving for Virginia Tech."
Information changes and situations are fluid. It's possible Hansen had information three weeks ago that led him to believe Rodriguez would leave. It certainly made sense at the time. And then as circumstances changed, Hansen probably got information that led him to believe, "two weeks ago that RR told Byrne, others he was staying."
But by playing both sides of the issue, it also allowed Finley to cover his backside and proclaim Star insider awesomeness in the social media realm. As long as you predict everything, you're likely to get something right. And when it does, the Star will be the first to "tell" you.