Paul Valencia: Bias is often in eye of accuser

Commentary: Paul Valencia

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

I got a strange critique the other day. It was an accusation of bias from a reader, an accusation that proves the reader criticizing me does not, actually, read the newspaper.

Doh!

I was going to leave it alone, but reconsidered.

Perhaps it was time again to write about how we cover things.

How there are times when one school gets a lot of coverage in a short amount of time.

How some schools do not get much coverage.

How a lot of times these are perceptions, not reality.

And yet, there are times when these things are absolutely true.

On Friday, the Skyview Storm beat Columbia River in boys basketball. I was there on assignment. It was our "game of the night" coverage. The story would run on the Sports cover.

Skyview won. I wrote a story detailing how important this non-league rivalry was to the athletes. I noted the great crowds from both teams. Oh, and I wrote that Skyview won.

Which was a big mistake, apparently. A reader complained that we only write about Skyview. The reader even suggested that if Columbia River had won, it would not have been on the cover.

Interestingly, last week, I wrote four stories for The Columbian. A news story on Isaiah Smith's record-breaking performance for the Chieftains. A column on the new Columbia River athletics hall of fame. And a feature on the start of winter sports, focusing on two new coaches -- including one from Columbia River.

Had Columbia River won the basketball game Friday night, all four of my stories last week would have had Columbia River angles.

Yet, we never write about Columbia River. Yeah, thanks for reading.

The two biggest football games in Week 9 this fall were Columbia River vs. Mountain View and Union vs. Skyview. Even though we could have made a case that more readers were interested in the 4A game for second place, we chose to lead with the 3A Greater St. Helens League champions as our centerpiece story and photo. Oh, that was Columbia River. Even though Skyview won the other game.

Columbia River also won the state soccer title. We had the Chieftains on the cover for that, too.

Goodness, to look at the last few paragraphs, if I were a Skyview fan, I'd be wondering what's up? It's all River all the time.

Of course, it's not all River. It's not all Skyview. It's not all Union.

If anything, Camas has received more coverage this fall than any other school.

But you know what? Camas had great seasons in everything: State champion in girls cross country, state semifinals for girls soccer and football. State trophy for volleyball.

For postseason coverage the winning programs get more of the coverage. Our coverage with particular schools ebbs and flows. Some years, Union is the big school on The Columbian's campus. Some years it is Skyview. It varies with sports and seasons, too. Prairie girls basketball has owned late February and March through the years.

As for our reports on regular-season games, yes, the winning team usually gets the lead of the story. But when I go to these games, I have no idea who is going to win.

We have a great team at The Columbian dedicated to bringing our readers high school sports news. We cannot be at all of the games, so we appreciate the help from area coaches who understand we need their help in compiling all the box scores.

We write features on every WIAA-sanctioned sport, every season. We try to spread those features around to different schools.

From time to time, we will mess up. Maybe we'll go to one game when, in hindsight, we should have gone to another.

But I can assure you we are not picking one school over another based on the school. Often, our game coverage is based on the records, or the rivalry.

Have a question about our coverage? Upset with how we covered something? Email me. I will read it. I will learn from it. I will respond to it. And if you have an open mind, maybe you will learn a little something, too.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valencia@columbian.com.