Vanguard Response: Soccer Article Taken Too Narrowly

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Sometime last year, I approached Dan Carson to see what role he might like to take in helping the Vanguard.  After some discussion, he chose not to be an editorial board member, but  agreed to do an occasional column – sometimes on city finances and other times with him acting as a de facto public editor, as well as reviewing the practices of the Vanguard.

As we push for transparency, the Vanguard needs to be open to criticism.  Mr. Carson emailed me in advance, met with me on Tuesday, explained his position and concerns about the November 23, 2014, “Sunday Commentary: Is Soccer Incident an Embodiment of a Larger Problem?” article, and asked questions.

What became clear in our discussion was that his concerns about the soccer article fall into a category that we had not previously contemplated.  While Mr. Carson is ostensibly acting in a role of de facto public editor, in this instance he is not a neutral party.  He is the parent of one of the players on the team.  While that does not mitigate the value/validity of his commentary, in my mind at least, it shifts it to a role of “the other side of the story.”

As one of our readers pointed out, the Vanguard in part exists to hold a mirror up to society – in this case, Davis – and ask it to reflect upon what it sees.  When Mr. Carson cites our comment policy and attempts to use it to criticize our editorial, it conflates two separate issues.  In the course of community comments and discussion, we have found that “pejorative references to any general class of people” are inflammatory … often by design.

My aim in my commentary was to reflect upon Davis society.  And here I think my criticism of Davis school culture is well-grounded – I cited my on-the-record conversation with Dennis Foster from the spring and what he shared about his belief that Davis is very unique in allowing a culture where parents can/will take on-the-field disputes up the chain of command, often to the superintendent and/or school board members.

Mr. Foster’s observation appears to run more deeply, specifically in the areas of classroom disputes over grades and other policies, which are notorious in this community.

I cited another example of a school board candidate talking about chants, which apparently were relayed from a teacher to that candidate and apparently it wasn’t a gas pumping reference but a comment that “you’ll be working for us someday.”

I was painting a very broad, but general, picture here, and the key point I was trying to make was not to put this incident entirely on the students.  I wrote, “We can teach our students to act properly and use this as an educational moment. But we need to go further than just our student-athletes, we need to take it to the student population itself, the parents, and the community at large.”

In discussing that concept with Dan Carson, he described how his son reacted to reading the piece, and he took it very personally.  It was not intended to be personalized by the individual players, but rather be a flag to raise to the community about changing our collective culture.

Will some disagree with this conclusion?  Clearly so.  But that is the point of an editorial.

I concluded the piece with, “Until we can have an honest dialogue in this community, I see these incidents happening more frequently rather than less frequently.”

I still think we haven’t had that.  People got too caught up in the notion of punishment and not enough into the notion of self-reflection.

Prior to publication, this piece was submitted both to Dan Carson and the Vanguard Editorial Board.  Mr. Carson’s feeling was that no one here is a neutral party as the Vanguard criticized the entire community.   He also felt I should respond to his belief that we should speak in advance with all parties before writing a piece critical of them.

After some discussion, the editorial board and I arrived at a few thoughts on this.  First, I still believe that, while the soccer players were subject matter in the initial article, they were not directly the targets of the piece – rather the incident was used more generally to reflect on our community.  Second, there is a fundamental difference in writing a news story, where we would absolutely want to talk to all parties, and writing a commentary.  But third, it was pointed out that one of the strengths of the Vanguard is that we don’t have to get the whole story in one fell swoop.

In this case, we had the initial article and then a response piece.  The interaction here and discussion that ensued has produced a rich dialogue that has allowed all sides to weigh in and inspired a dialogue on a number of different lines.

So, in the end, I respectfully disagree with Dan Carson.  Still, I appreciate the feedback he provided and I encourage others to do the same when they feel like either the Vanguard or myself has gotten things wrong.  I can see how things that I had not intended to convey were read into my piece and this reflection will make the next piece better.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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42 thoughts on “Vanguard Response: Soccer Article Taken Too Narrowly”

  1. SODA

    I appreciate today’s reflection and Dan’s article. I think his assessment/critique of the V’s title and tone are appropriate for his role as ‘ombudsman’  but don’t feel his experience as a parent of a player is appropriate for his article.

    Not to say it wasn’t valuable to contribute to the mix, I thought it was, but not in his role as David has described.

    Two posts by Dan, one article on the former and a comment on the latter would be appropriate in my opinion.

  2. Tia Will

    BP

    It might have been worth a little side story but not the narrative and drama that you managed to inject into it.”

    Some people did not seem to agree. There were 66 comments on the first article in November, and 72 comments on Dan Carson’s rejoinder. This would indicate to me that a number of posters felt that there were issues raised worthy of discusson.

     

    1. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      > There were 66 comments on the first article

      If David writes an article on a girl at a Davis Bobby Sox game slapping another girl and blaming the problem in Davis having so many elitist stuck up little girls it wouldn’t be much of a story but it would get comments…

  3. Tia Will

    South of Davis

    I think that “what is much of a story” just like what major priorities are for the city is in the eye of the beholder. However, I will concede one point based on your comment and the posts of BP, which is that not all posts are actually about the story at all. Some are merely commentary on the value ( or lack thereof ) of any particular article that is posted.

        1. Barack Palin

          Since you brought it up, are you talking about total views or unique views?  Everyone has to click on the story in order to update the posts so you might get hundreds from just one commenter.

          1. Matt Williams

            Each IP Address is counted once a day. If that IP address views the article multiple times a day, it still only counts as one view. So since David gets on the Vanguard very early in the morning, when Cecilia gets on later that day from their same home computer, her visit is actually not counted as a visit, because the IP address is for the computer, not the person.

        2. Adam Smith

          I’m pretty confident that a unique view is nothing more than a new click on the story.  So, if you click on the story and read a few replies,  leave the site, and  then come back to see new comments,  that would be two unique views  but not two individuals.

  4. Frankly

    This topic ended up fomenting a much broader discussion that I believe is useful and appropriate for the VG giving its mission as a community blog.

    The actual incident itself has been overblown to some degree.  Although even in professional sports, any player putting a hand on a ref or umpire is cause for news.  There is really a zero tolerance expectation here.  And it is for good reason.  Allowing even a slight amount of physicality between players and officials is a slippery slope leading to profound ugliness.  There are times when I want to throttle officials.  One example was the 2002 NBA playoffs where the Sacramento Kings lost to the LA Lakers due to many more than questionably calls against the Kings, and questionable no calls against the Lakers.  LA shot 27 free throws to the King’s 9.

    Later referee Tim Donaghy was found guilty of gambling on those games, and during testimony he claimed that the other refs were pushed by the NBA to call the game in LA’s favor.

    So refs are corruptible just like all people.  And players have a right to be outraged when the refs are not calling the game fairly and/or miss obvious and critical calls.  But there needs to be zero tolerance for anything physical.  You can yell all you want… get a “red card”… get ejected… that is all part of the game and players need some release from their frustration of putting everything on the line in their play only to have it negated by something very bad from an official.

    But getting back to the community discussion.   From my perspective, the real meat of this story is the community reaction to the incident.   Is Davis unique in how it responded?   I’m thinking it is… but maybe I am wrong.

    1. Southie

      “You can yell all you want… get a “red card”… get ejected… that is all part of the game and players need some release from their frustration of putting everything on the line in their play only to have it negated by something very bad from an official.”

      Seriously?  You teach your children it’s acceptable to yell at officials?  As a coach, you would tell your athletes that their emotions during a match are the most important thing?  That the teenage athlete’s view of what is happening in the game is more reliable and more accurate than the adult official?  I really can’t begin to explain how profoundly I disagree with you.  I have cut more than a few kids who feel this way and conduct themselves with attitude during a match.

      1. Matt Williams

        Southie, would you have cut John McEnroe if he were on the tennis team you were coaching? Do you think Earl Weaver was a good major league baseball manager?

  5. TrueBlueDevil

    I found this interesting: that when Mr. Carson writes for the Vanguard, he is paid “sometimes on city finances”. How many city employees / contractors write for the Vanguard? Can you elaborate?

    Might Mr. Carson be related to Dr. Ben Carson?

    1. Dan Carson

      I am an unpaid volunteer member of the commission and not paid city staff.  My pay for my work for the Vanguard is also zero.  I am not related to Ben Carson and feel torn about his candidacy. My ego loves the “Carson for President” bumper stickers popping up on cars recently (even in Davis).  My worst fear is being associated in any way with some of the outrageous things he says. We are not related. Oh, and I am not running.

  6. ryankelly

    I found the article from Dan Carson valuable.  I can imagine the upset and embarrassment created by the media attention and criticism involving the entire team.  What I was reminded by the article was that the team is made up of individuals and not all players misbehaved and are suffering under the blanket criticism for the poor behavior of some of the team.  The push was a clear violation, but the other players’ menacing behavior toward the referee was disturbing for me.  Did they really think that the referee would be convinced to change his call in this way?

    The entire program will be on probation next year, which will include players that didn’t even play this year.  I think that is fair.  The program needs to be on probation.  The community, and especially the parents of players, can help by butting out and give the coaches and administrators space and time to establish stronger oversight and supervision of its players, and raise the level of respect for coaches, referees and administrators.  The returning players that weren’t involved in the altercation this year can take the lead in establishing an environment of respectful interaction, fair play and good sportsmanship.   The parents can continue to drive their players to the games, attend and cheer them on.

      1. ryankelly

        What I meant by “butt out” is to cease to be involved in trying to intervene in the management of the team and discipline for players or coaches.  Just let people do their jobs.

  7. Anon

    David Greenwald:

    “People got too caught up in the notion of punishment and not enough into the notion of self-reflection.”

    “But third, it was pointed out that one of the strengths of the Vanguard is that we don’t have to get the whole story in one fell swoop.”

    Sorry if this is going to sound harsh, but it goes to a fundamental problem I personally have with this blog.  Clearly the first article written by the Vanguard about the 7 soccer players’ bad behavior was written with a pre-conceived agenda in mind – that there is an elitist culture in Davis among adults that filters down to the way athletic students act.  Rather than find out how other students/parents not involved in the fracas felt about the incident in question, which would be basic journalism 101, the Vanguard chose not to hear any inconvenient truths that might not fit within its preconceived agenda that there is elitism among parents of athletes (and perhaps other Davis children in GATE, etc).

    Just to add context to this comment, from the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics:

    Journalists should:

    * Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.  Deliberate distortion is never permissible.

    * Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

    * Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.

    * Avoid stereotyping by … social status.

    * Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.

    * Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort.  Pursuit of news  is not a license for arrogance.

    The problem I had with the approach that there is alleged elitism among adults in Davis that may or may not have contributed to the bad behavior of the soccer athletes who misbehaved, is that not one shred of evidence that I could tell was offered to prove such a broad brush allegation, other than perhaps one past school board member’s indefensible conduct.  It cast aspersions on not only the parents of the bad actors, but also on parents of student athletes that had done nothing wrong.  Students would understandably be angry at what they considered the unjust aspersions cast upon their parents.  I have to agree with Dan Carson on this one.  IMO, the Vanguard should have taken the trouble to talk to parents and students alike, to get their perspective before writing a story that was so sweeping in its condemnation that parents of students in Davis are elitists.

    Having said that, I recognize the Vanguard is not a news source, but an opinion blog, so it doesn’t have to abide by journalistic ethics.  However, I also believe because it does not stick to some basic journalistic ethics, its methodology hurts its credibility and often chases readers away (know this for a fact).  Nevertheless, the Vanguard does cover issues that the Davis Enterprise does not, which is the Vanguard’s strength.  Just my two cents worth…

  8. Alan Miller

    “the Vanguard in part exists to hold a mirror up to society – in this case, Davis – and ask it to reflect upon what it sees.”

    I would say a more accurate assessment is that the Vanguard holds up a fun-house mirror in bad fluorescent lighting, tells Davis it’s a regular mirror in good lighting, and a handful of suckers see their image in the fun-house mirror, cry-out in self-pity, then lash out at “Davis” for making them so ugly.

    Most of Davis says, “It’s a fun-house mirror in bad lighting”.

  9. MrsW

    “People got too caught up in the notion of punishment and not enough into the notion of self-reflection.”

    I agree with this.  I also agree that this event could provide a teaching moment for our community, but I don’t think I’ve seen it articulated yet.  What do we want our children to learn from this event?

     

    1. Tia Will

      MrsW

      What do we want our children to learn from this event?”

      I think that I would like to stab at this question which I do think is the heart of this issue.

      I would want my child to learn that acting with grace, compassion, humility and respect for others is more important than winning or losing a game. I would want him to learn that life will have disappointments and that these disappointments should not drive us to act aggressively or in a demeaning or threatening manner to anyone else. For his own protection, I would also like him to learn that inappropriate actions will frequently lead to worse consequences possibly not only for himself, but also for others that he cares about.

      I would be really interested in hearing what others would like to see as the lessons, either for the children, or for the involved adults. I know that if my child had been involved in this event, I would be asking myself if and how I had contributed to this behavior and how to go about improving my parenting.

      1. Don Shor

        What do we want our children to learn from this event?

        I seem to recall a few things I was taught:
        Winning isn’t everything.
        It isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.
        It’s only a game.

        1. Alan Miller

          “I seem to recall a few things I was taught:
          Winning isn’t everything.
          It isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.
          It’s only a game.”

          And when you get super-frustrated with the game, throw the board into the air.

        2. wdf1

          And that if you retaliate physically and demonstrably, you draw negative attention to yourself for those acts instead of positive attention for your skills as an athlete and a human being.

  10. MrsW

    “I would want my child to learn that acting with grace, compassion, humility and respect for others is more important than winning or losing a game.” 

    “I would be asking myself if and how I had contributed to this behavior and how to go about improving my parenting.”

    Since it takes a village to raise a child, I would add– If I were a DJUSD leader of children (every employee), I would be asking myself if the school culture (group-think, peer pressure), reinforces the above values that are taught at home and, if not, what are the concrete steps the adults need to take charge of the narrative.  For example, should the coach be modeling to the players and the community that a leader takes responsibility for what happens on his watch?

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