March 22, 2005, on this blog: What’s the score?
Turn to the sports pages and there you can read the unambiguous results of a sporting event. You will find the final score and statistics for any given contest. Sports writers may inject into their stories a bit of personal opinion and local sympathy, but whatever biases they might have, the facts of the game are never in dispute. A sports writer may detest Bobby Knight and may say so explicitly in his story, but he won’t therefore go on to question whether it is in fact true that Texas Tech has advanced to the Sweet 16 of the men’s NCAA Tournament.
Contrast this with the alleged “hard” news sections of the newspaper. Here the facts are rarely stated as plainly or as confidently as “Texas Tech 71, Gonzaga 69.” Instead, all claims are treated as equally valid by virtue of the fact that someone is claiming them. News reporters consider it their responsibility to quote these claims accurately, not to evaluate them against any notion of knowable reality or anything as seemingly objective as a scoreboard.
Imagine trying to update your brackets for the NCAAs if your only source of information were, say, members of the White House Press Corps: “Texas Tech supporters were claiming victory Sunday after their regional quarterfinal game against Gonzaga. In Spokane, however, proponents of Gonzaga disputed this claim, noting that their team’s point total was equal to that of Kentucky’s and greater than that of Utah’s, and that both of these teams are advancing to the next round.”