Transparency, News Media and the NBA

What do news media and the NBA have in common?

If you guessed a trust problem, go to the head of the class.

So it’s interesting to see two pieces within a day of each other, suggesting the same solution to the respective industries’ woes.

Henry Abbott, in What the NBA Needs: Transparency offers a radical suggestion:

the crisis is if all those people who love watching the NBA find themselves in the position of not trusting the referees. That’s an indictment of the game itself…

The NBA keeps telling us how many ways they assess their referees. They insinuate that if we knew what they know, we’d trust those referees, too. Maybe that’s true. But telling us so isn’t going to convince anyone.

NBA, you’re going to have to show us.

… Let us go online after every single game and see video of every single call, all neatly sliced and diced by player, by time of game, by type of call, by referee, and by a bunch of other things I haven’t thought of yet.

Henry makes an important point about transparency—it’s hard to be partly transparent, because being partly transparent immediately suggests you’re hiding something. Call that a negative feedback loop. Don’t tell us—show us.

Alicia Shepard at the Chicago Tribune writes For News Media, Transparency Is a Matter of Trust, saying:

Poll after poll, year after year, the message is the same: Journalists are ranked down with used-car salesmen and snake-oil peddlers when it comes to credibility.

Is it because reporters lie? Is it because reporters make so many mistakes? Or because reporters are biased?

No. It’s because the public does not understand what journalists do or how the news gets put together, whether it’s for TV, print, radio or the Internet.

… The news industry should work harder at exhibiting the same transparency about how it operates that it demands from public corporations and all levels of government.

…. "Transparency is essential because it’s inextricably tied to credibility," said Susan Moeller, director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda. "Transparency doesn’t ensure accuracy. But it does ensure that when a news outlet makes a mistake … its audience can be assured that the news outlet is going to admit to it and correct it and will have policies in place for following it up."

Several other industries look at the same diagnosis—“the public does not understand us”—and conclude they have a PR problem, solvable by “getting the word out.”

NBA fans and media hounds know that won’t cut it. Transparency is not great spin—it’s a spin-free zone.

In our personal lives, the solution to mistrust is to “come clean,” “let it all hang out,” “just put it out there,” “tell the whole truth.” Be transparent.

At an industry level, the same dynamics are at play.

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