Sunday, February 27, 2011

Avs/Kings recap

In this article, Adrian Dater recaps the LA Kings' 4-3 win over the reeling Avalanche, now losers of 12 of their last 13 games. As usual, his "real" coverage is a few notches better than his blog entries, but there are a couple things in this article that I will use to demonstrate how the conflict of interest between his highly-opinionated and much-less-highly-educated blog negatively affects his regular coverage.

The intro to this article, in stark contrast to a lot of Dater's work, is really not bad. Flowery language such as  "swirling, snow-driven puck" and "Quick's guarded twine" is a bit too Dickie Dunn for my taste, but he does a good job setting the stage here. As I've said before, his intros are very often awkward at best, so when he comes close to pulling one off, I feel I should give him props for it.

He accurately notes that while the score was close, the game was not, as the Avs pretty much got manhandled in the first 40 minutes, and only a bad shift from the Kings where Jones scored twice, and a misplayed puck by Quick in the final minute which led to a fluky Stastny goal, made this one appear to be a close game. Dater also includes a quote from Liles, which is good. It's always a sign of good journalism when the subjects, rather than the author, tell the story.

A problem -- or the seeds of one, anyway -- crops up when he describes the play of newly acquired goalie Brian Elliot:

New goalie Brian Elliott wasn't to blame for this one. The recently acquired netminder made many good saves among his 38. Yeah, he might want one back, scored by L.A.'s Drew Doughty with 1.1 seconds left in the second period that made it a 3-0 game. But otherwise, Elliott was the only Av who looked like he cared in the first two periods.

Is there a problem with that description? No, not at all... but Dater's well-documented bias against Peter Budaj makes this stand out a bit. Had Budaj allowed those four goals, I am confident in saying that Dater would have described at least two, if not three of them as "soft." Any shot that makes its way in through the five-hole or from the point is "soft" in Dater's book, as long as it's Budaj who lets it in. Elliot gets a far different treatment than Budaj would likely have received in the same situation.

Here is what Dater had to say about Peter Budaj in the team's only win in the last month, a 4-3 win over the Blues in which Budaj made 42 saves:

"                                                                                                                                                                "

Budaj, who was very solid all through that game and made two or three huge saves in the frantic final minute to seal the win, got nary a mention in that writeup... but Dater not only mentions Elliot's play in this loss, but he's wearing the kid gloves, even giving Elliot a pat on the back.

Now, to be clear, I'm not down on Elliot after this game -- I've said for quite a while that no goalie is going to look good playing for a team this defensively irresponsible -- I'm only using this as an example of how Dater demonstrates his bias, and how it seeps into his "real" coverage of the team.

Why is it a problem? Here's why: because those who did not watch the game are counting on Dater's article to tell them how it went down... that's the entire point of newspaper coverage, when you get right down to it. The people who read the article now have an idea about Elliot's play... but is it accurate, or is Dater boosting Elliot's play (just as he often did Anderson's) so he can continue to have a contrast to hold Budaj up to? Right there is the problem we get when we allow a journalist to exploit his bias... the reader cannot trust Dater's descriptions in this regard because he has already emphatically stated his preferences. The reader cannot trust that Elliot really wasn't too bad in this loss, any more than he can trust that Budaj was not a factor in that win... bias such as Dater's poisons the journalism, and it should not be allowed, period.

Overall, a good article on a bad game, but the article includes hints at the possibility that Dater has already started allowing his pro-Anderson/ anti-Budaj bias to seep into his coverage of Elliot.


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