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Columbia Missourian

Love 'em and challenge 'em — that goes for sports fans and journalists

By Tom Warhover
January 2, 2009 | 12:33 p.m. CST

Dear Reader,

I’m convinced: Tigers fans would make good journalists.

My relatives proved it Monday night.

They were skeptical – of the team, the coaching, and occasionally each other — until the final play of the Missouri-Northwestern game.

They asked pointed questions. Does icing the kicker really ever work? (Apparently so.) Why doesn’t the offense look for the “deep ball” more often? (I have no idea.)

They challenged authority. At one point, a brother-in-law screamed at the officials, noting that a Northwestern defensive player was offsides.

By the third quarter, that same brother-in-law took over play calling, a decidedly un-journalistic role. The alum and alum-to-be who were gathered at his suburban St. Louis home enjoyed free food and beverage, which is common in sporting venue press boxes but frowned on by Missourian sports editors.

(Note to the MU School of Journalism: A course in “reporting for fans” might be in the offing.)

Here’s the deal, though: These same relatives are completely loyal.

And that’s a quality of journalism, too.

The in-laws support the Missouri Tigers. Newspapers support the communities they live in.

Honest complaint and sincere love aren’t exclusive.

For example, I often cite Hodding Carter III to my journalism students. The journalist and professor once said: If you can’t love your community and kick it in the rear-end, it’s time to get out of the business.

A lot of people don’t get that.

Here’s what outgoing NC governor Mike Easley said about journalists this week:

“My job is to be nice to other people, and their job is to be nice to me.”

Nope.

A journalist’s job is to ask why a governor won’t release his e-mails to the public. It’s to question the priority of a government official’s salary or the quality of a school system.

A sports reporter’s job is to ask many of the same questions my in-laws asked, even when (perhaps especially when) the team is experiencing the best two-year period in its history.

So … How ‘bout those Tigers?