Perception and Presentation

Ben McCauley

The morning edition will not be arriving at the doorstep every day for much longer - newspapers as we know them today are dying.

Lost in a world of online news and blogs, an industry that was once a cash cow is now dealing with extinction or complete re-invention. One of those papers is the Raleigh News and Observer, and NC State fans appear eager to dance on its grave.

The N&O can't shake the perception that it's a pro-UNC, anti-NC State establishment. The majority of Wolfpack fans loathe the paper's coverage of their favorite team, with the most biting criticism being that the hometown paper treats the Pack like the enemy and not the hometown team.

This may come as a shock, but the N&O's coverage of the Pack is overwhelmingly positive. Just look at last week's story on Russell Wilson, which highlighted his maturity and deep religious beliefs in discussing his father's health struggles. Or look at the article on Geron James from earlier in the preseason, which told the story of a great athlete learning to be a student athlete as well. Those were well written, well researched and without a doubt positive.

Or look at the basketball team's recent trip to Canada, which included the news that Ben McCauley did not travel for 'conduct detrimental to the team.' Seemed like a good opportunity to slam McCauley or Lowe, plenty of people on the boards certainly did, but the N&O reported the facts and moved on. Ninety-five percent of the time, that's all they do.

Just flip through the archives for NC State over the last month. Following the Pack's 34-0 loss at South Carolina, Caulton Tutor wrote a column that summarized the game as "an ugly night with ugly implications for the Wolfpack." That's the one negative article in a month, and it was accompanied by a Luke DeCock piece on the same game outlining the positives for the Pack.

Does the N&O make mistakes? Of course it does. The College Inn article was a non-story that made it to the page because time and effort went into the research. Instead of scrapping that time and effort, they printed something that went nowhere and unfairly implied shady practices with student housing. Any time Barry Saunders puts pen to paper is a disaster waiting to happen, but he doesn't write sports so he only rarely delves into matters involving NC State.

But it's all about selective memory for Wolfpack fans. It's easy to remember the bad and latch on to it because it's far more memorable than another feature story on a Pack player - even if those features are glowingly kind towards the subject.

The N&O's problem isn't what it writes or how it covers the Pack - its problem is in the way it delivers the information. For too long the N&O, like all other papers, has put itself on a pedestal above the reader delivering information without providing any discussion. There is no transparency and thus perceptions of bias get created.

When a story is posted on PackPride.com, readers can go to a thread on the message board about the story and make a comment. Not only that, but they can be almost certain that the author will read the comment and probably even respond. The story turns into a dialog, the reader's input is taken seriously. That's what modern newspapers are missing – a dialog.

Until it finds a way to make the readers' opinions matter, the News and Observer will be an enemy to NC State fans no matter what they write.

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