Donald Rumsfeld, media vs. journalists, and the Golden Gopher coaching search

There is only one person who ever enjoyed a coaching search, and he was fictional. Take it away Alfred.


And the world does burn during a coaching search, especially for those with the unfortunate task of sorting through the rumors, innuendo, and the semi-transparent attempts by coaches involved to extract larger and longer contracts out of their current employers. It can lead Star Tribune beat writer Amelia Rayno to fashion her lei into a noose, Chris Long to drink coffee (though coffee is wonderful and delicious, he thinks drinking it is a bad thing for some reason), or former Star Tribune beat writer Jeff Shelman to tweet profusely about how pleasant his life is now that he isn’t covering a coaching search.

The one good thing so far about the coaching search is the clear separation between journalists and other members of the media. We often criticize the media here, because unfortunately it is often deserved. Let us be clear, the journalists are not the problem. They are gamely trying to fight the headwind of a secretive search and an irrational audience demanding answers, often to the wrong questions.

There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

- Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the one time in his life he was right

Those who are guilty of journalism are being raked over the coals for not having all the answers, and of all things, admitting that they can not predict the future.  They are criticized for not having sources who will tell them what is going on, even though the only worthwhile sources aren’t talking, and won’t until they have something worthwhile to say. Part of being a good journalist is letting the audience know what you know, not running with what you can not confirm, and also being aware that reality is often a complex mess that we can never fully grasp.

It is important to remember that not everyone on TV, radio, or in print, even if they are affiliated with a nominally journalistic enterprise, is a journalist. These  are the folks powering the all-powerful rumor mill, and spouting off about “sources.” They are too often pawns in a game they do not know they are playing. They become the megaphones of rumor and innuendo. They often think they know more than they do, and don’t know what they don’t know. Because coaching searches wreak their havoc equally on all parties, the non-journalism media gets to be wrong, a lot.

Separating the journalists from the media can be a complicated endeavor, especially when some members of the mainstream endlessly chase page views and retweets. There is an easy way to separate them though. If the media member is being criticized for constantly being wrong, they aren’t a journalist.  If they are being criticized for withholding information and not participating in wild speculation they are a journalist.

Nate Sandell of 1500 ESPN radio and Amelia Rayno of the Star Tribune have chosen to take the high journalism road, and the deluge of criticism that can come from being responsible. Too many others are more interested in rumor-mongering.

Help us separate the wheat from the chaff. Whose coverage has impressed you so far, and who do you want to just go away?

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