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Columbia Missourian

The story behind the story of the Missouri Tigers

By Tom Warhover
March 20, 2009 | 5:01 p.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

I like stories with high MPI – meaning per inch.

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I’m a big fan of facts. They are delightful nuggets, each morsel feeding a hungry brain.

But facts can’t frame themselves. People do.

Consider the story Thursday about MU athletics.

There’s a lot for fans to love these days. The basketball team is in the NCAA tourney and ranked ninth in the nation by The Associated Press.

In fact, as Missourian reporters Alex Ruppenthal and Matt Schiffman note, “more than half of Missouri’s teams have been ranked in the top 25 at some point in 2008-09.”

That’s one story.

MU also has fewer conference and division titles than any other school in the Big 12. The Tigers have six titles; Kansas, the Team We Love to Hate, has 21. Texas? 104.

That’s another story.

Alex and Matt, along with graphics reporter Andrew Carpenter, wove a story that went beyond the top-of-mind factoids. They presented a compelling history and challenging future. They made the story of MU athletics three-dimensional.

Consider just one sentence. Newspaper writers often concentrate on “the nut graf,” the paragraph answering a basic question: Why should I care about this story enough to read further?

Alex and Matt got to the nut of it: “Missouri’s teams, which traditionally have been good at being mediocre, are starting to flirt with conference supremacy.”

So much is said in so few words. Through relentless reporting and from the views of experts, administrators and alumni, the story unwraps the details of the sentence.

Good journalism doesn’t just provide you information; it makes sense of the facts.

Good journalism, as the MU athletics story showed, is fueled with high MPI.

Tom