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Tim Beckman Wants Illinois Media More Friendly; Parallels Nebraska Situation

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

At the conclusion of a news conference announcing Illinois' latest football recruiting class, Tim Beckman called on the media's help in building his program.

And the last I'm gonna leave this up to you guys, k? We're all in this state. We all want to build the best football team that we can. We want to build champions and be a consistent champion. K? So I'm gonna put it on you. What are they reading? K? Social media is big nowadays. What are you saying? What are you saying? Well, I can say that we've gotten better every year. OK? I can say that our academic standards have gone skyrocket. I can say that our young men in this program right now are doing what they need to do to be successful at life. OK? So the challenge again, as I said after that Northwestern game, the challenge is still how important is the University of Illinois to you? Because it is very, very important to us. And we know that we can be successful if we're all in it together. Because our intentions are to build a champion. Ok? One day at a time, whatever it takes. But our intention is to build a champion.

[snip]

I think as much positive stuff as we can continue to broadcast about this great institution and the athletic programs we have and how our athletic programs are moving forward in, really, every category of sports that we play, what we're doing academically. I think there's a lot of things you can talk about positively with this program.

[Beckman is then asked specifically if he's asking the media to be more positive]

Everybody. Everybody. Let's build this thing into a championship, and the more positive stuff you can talk about, the better off we all are.

He's right... but also dead wrong.

There's no doubt in my mind that positive media attention goes a long way towards helping a program grow. Or maybe more accurately, the proof is actually in the contradiction. Take Bo Pelini, who grew weary of the criticism from some writers at the Omaha World-Herald over the years. Actions that wouldn't even raise an eyebrow when another coach did it became front page news because it was Pelini who did it.

(And yes, /WisconsinScoredAgain, so let's not rehash his firing. My point is that Pelini's tenure at Nebraska wasn't helped by how the media covered him.)

Why is Beckman dead wrong?

Because it's not the media's job to be a cheerleader.  Yes, the media can be helped by having a successful football program to cover. Just ask the sales department at the World-Herald; they sell more papers and advertising when the team is good than when they are not.  But their job is to cover it as objectively as possible.

In fact, it's their obligation.

It's not fair to fans of the program or to the program itself for the media to "sugar coat" problems.  It's also not fair to unfairly manufacture or mischaracterize the problems the program faces.  Fair is the key word here; the media simply needs to be balanced and make sure that their analysis is truly fair.

Tim Beckman is dead wrong when he says that Illinois needs the help of the media to make his football program a success.  But he's right when he points out that positive media mentions will help the program. It's Beckman's job to give them positive topics to cover; it's the media's job to cover the team fairly.

When either party fails to live up to their obligations, the fans and the program are the losers.