Pedley: Roush Not Totally Wrong
People in the media are dumping all over Jack Roush this week because of something the hyper-blunt team owner said during the Sprint NASCAR Media Tour on Tuesday.
Being a natural contrarian, I hereby do my duty:
There is some truth in what Roush said. He got some details wrong, he clearly does not have a total grasp as to the function of the media in an open society and the fact that it was Jack Roush saying it is, well, interesting. But there is a point in the rant Roush unleashed that should be considered.
It’s the point to which Marshall McLuhan dedicated his life: The media affects mass opinion.
This is paraphrasing, but what Roush indicated during a monologue during the a Tour presss conference is that fans think the racing in the Sprint Cup Series is good. He implied that complaints – those that have led to the decision to alter rules this coming season – have come mainly from the media. The media complaints have then rubbed off on fans, Roush reasons.
Roush then seemed to indicate that the media has a responsibility to promote the sport, not just report on it.
OK, the promote-the-sport thing? Garbage. Its an absurd and dangerous concept. (Interestingly, he is joined by Darrell Waltrip, whom Roush targeted by name, in that assessment as DW has, on more than one occasion, taken the print media to task for begin negative.)
Fans not complaining? I invite him to view some of my emails. It’s always tough to decide how much credence to give rants from outside world as those which find their way here do not always – if ever – represent an accurate cross section of the racing fandom. But displeased with the racing is what many, many fans are.
But the central factoid of what Roush said is correct. Believe it or not, know it or not, opinions are colored by what people hear and read in the media.
Yes, as wonderful columnist Tom Sorenson of the Charlotte Observer correctly points out, fans are capable of making up their own minds. But I think it is also correct that opinions are the result of not only what their eyes see, but what their ears hear.
That is, people’s opinions, even on common sense issues, can be, and are, swayed by the white noise of the media.
Madison Avenue is built on that premise: How else to explain the fact that people will pay for bottled water which is the same as virtually free tap water but costs more than gasoline?
I have a friend who is a huge racing fan. Smart guy, too. College grad. During the season, he calls or emails fairly often with complaints and compliments and observations about the sport.
All are interesting and valid. All are also colored in one way or another by information he has received by way of the media. Having never been in a garage, having never directly talked to a driver or a crew chief or Bernie Eccleston or Brian France, everything he knows about the sport he has picked up by reading or watching.
The guy does not always agree with what he reads or hears, but his frame of reference is shaped by the media whether he knows it or not.
And, garbage in-garbage out as they say in computer programming. (And there is more garbage than ever making its way onto the information superhighway these days as everybody with a computer has an on-ramp.)
No, Jack, not all fans are happy with the racing in NASCAR right now. And no, it is not TV or even the bloggosphere’s job to promote the sport.
But your point on the media influencing public opinion is spot on.
If you want to go after the media, go after it on bigger issues.
What you should have pointed out was the fact that the networks which cover the sport employ analysts who have direct ties – both familial and/or finanical – to the sport they are covering.
You don’t need to be an expert on McLuhan to recognize the ramifications of that.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at racintoday.com17 Comments