News Unfiltered

July 12, 2017

During the first summer after my college graduation, I was the campaign advance man outside of the Milwaukee and Madison areas for a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin. A great job.

Sometime during that summer, I met the head of the campaign in a café. He was reading a newspaper as I arrived; and as I sat down at the table, I asked him what he was reading. I’ll always remember his response. He said, “I’m looking for what could go wrong today?”

It was the campaign manager’s job to think about worst-case scenarios and consider how the campaign might get taken off message by the news of the day.

I was young and impressionable, and I soon began to consume the daily news through the same filter.

It was not difficult to do so in the 1970s. The daily newspaper was printed and delivered to my door every day. Television had just three networks, and each provided brief news reports two or three times a day.

Today, what passes as news comes from hundreds or thousands or millions of sources and it is changing constantly, 24/7/365. Only a small portion of those sources is professionally operated with accountability for the substance and/or style of the so-called reporting.

Today it drives me nuts to consume news – that is, to really think about what I’m reading or hearing the way I did in the 1970s. Today, meaningful matters often get buried in trivia while the most inane and inaccurate stories and comments can go viral overnight.

I’ve always said you can get too much of a good thing – too much food; too much free time; and certainly, too much sports. And clearly, we have too much “news” about sports.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.