‘Jam’ needed accurate headcount

It’s not that regional media members covering Penn State during Big Ten Conference kickoff activities last week in Chicago were intentionally incorrect, but they let a few words muddy their reporting in at least one key instance.

When athletic director Sandy Barbour confirmed a concert would return to Beaver Stadium in 2018, context about the inaugural concert earlier this month was necessary. Almost every report dutifully stated attendance and revenue numbers from Happy Valley Jam featuring Blake Shelton “were not available.”

They’re available and known, but they were not disclosed. There’s a difference between the source not having access to information and choosing not to share the information. In this case, it’s the latter.

Clearly, officials from the Penn State athletic department know how many people were at the concert, just as they know their expenses and revenue for the event. If they did not know, they would be incompetent.

And it’s only logical if those folks can count more than 100,000 people on a football Saturday in the fall then they should be able to count a little more than a quarter of that many people on a Saturday in early July.

There’s no need for an adversarial relationship between media members and the people they cover, but there is a need for media members to serve consumers (in this instance fans, ironically the people whom athletic department officials want to buy tickets in the future) and either ask specifically about information or point to the inconsistencies.

Clearly caught

Here’s an example of sports media bias, or at least perception not matching reality and that impacting what gets shared with consumers.

A Sports Illustrated teaser on Twitter this week offered: “Penn State is laying out the blueprint for how to catch Michigan and Ohio State.”

It directed readers to a story about recruiting, outlining Penn State’s recent approach and success. But it was somewhat misleading, a click-bait teaser.

Maybe Penn State has to catch Michigan and Ohio State in recruiting, with the number of football players who have certain star ratings according to ratings services. But, the “how to catch …” phrase misled because, well, Penn State is the defending Big Ten Conference champion — something on the resume of neither Michigan nor Ohio State.

TV tailgates

We’re just under five weeks away from the first Saturday of college football season, when tailgaters again flock to the lots around Beaver Stadium.

Accordingly, it seems like a solid bet that one, and maybe two, high-profile TV tailgates will set up shop outside the stadium at some point this season.

As the defending Big Ten champs, the Nittany Lions will be the focus of the Big Ten Network’s pregame show, “BTN Tailgate,” at some point this season. The show made its debut last season, originating from different conference venues each week. Penn State did not get a visit last season, so it should be on the list this season.

The show features former Nittany Lion standout Anthony Adams as one of its analysts. An even more high-profile visit could come from ESPN’s “College GameDay.”

As arguably the best show of its kind on TV and certainly a cultural touchstone for college football, “GameDay” travels the country and sets up shop at the site of big games every week. Hosting the show legitimatizes both the individual games and the programs involved.

Penn State has not hosted “GameDay” since Sept. 26, 2009, when Iowa visited. PSU lost, 21-10.

Tuner tidbits

n Former Steelers Ryan Clark and Willie Colon have deservedly earned more airtime as NFL analysts for ESPN entering this season. Both bring honesty and opinion, scoring points with insights rather than bombast. That’s a good thing.

n Regional sports-talk listeners got a bit more national talk last week with Cory Giger on vacation and off the air, and it was generally a loss because local is usually better — even when people might disagree with or dislike a host. It’s a shame Forever Broadcasting does not find local voices to fill in at such times.

n That said, national sports talk did record a highlight in at least once instance last week. That’s when Dan LeBetard and guest co-host Sarah Spain took aim at the efforts of fellow ESPN talent Stephen A. Smith. Specifically, it was Smith’s bombast, as LeBetard and Spain correctly questioned Smith making himself part of the story in regard to NBA superstar LeBron James. It was timely talk, and a tough topic because it’s a challenge to know if Smith wants to be a caricature, an entertainer or a journalist. That ambiguity hurts his credibility with some.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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