My son's recreation soccer team at TYSA got pummeled by a team from his old program at the local YMCA. I thought our coach was a great story, since he was also, at that time, editing The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe.
I was wrong.
It was the opponent who was the story. They were called the Fugees, as in the old musical group fronted by Wyclef Jean. They had game. They were respectful, good kids. And after the game, I noticed, they didn't have snacks.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution never wrote about them. I never did, either. Neither did Creative Loafing or any other media company, despite the team's cool Web site. It was left to The New York Times to get the story. (The picture is from that story.)
The Clarkston Mayor
who dislikes the team is on his way out. The area around Clarkston,
which is due east of where I live in Decatur, is becoming poorer, just
as other areas just outside I-285 like Smyrna and Norcross are. The
Mayor wants his small town to be an enclave, separated by high property
values from unincorporated DeKalb County, which surrounds it. The
county, in general, welcomes the Fugees, and their games are played on
good fields, some with lights. The coach's problems involve only finding a practice field. The DDY's delay in getting goals onto the field is typical. The "Triumph" club mentioned in the
Times story is actually the Tucker Youth Soccer Association, which
plays on county-owned fields three miles north of Clarkston.
The team I saw was sponsored by the local YMCA. And while the coach
says they have try-outs our game was in a recreation league, not
Select. The rules of the league are that everyone on the team gets to
play. The story is unclear about whether the 2006 season played here is Select or rec.
But the story is good, and the point is this. The story was missed. The story was never found by the local newspaper, nor any of the local TV stations, nor the alternative weekly, or even me. I failed to ask questions after our game -- I didn't keep my journalism hat on. I missed the Clue.
So did every other reporter in town. The reason is clear. There are fewer-and-fewer of us. In cities like Atlanta, with just one daily newspaper, which is being squeezed for profits to invest in things like cable, there is a myth of local news, but very little reality. The staffs at the groups that are taking away the AJC's market are tiny, and rely heavily on freelancers. TV only covers car wrecks.
There remains enormous opportunity in covering local news, in
getting stories like this one. But we still lack a compelling business
model. Blog ad revenues dropped off a cliff after the last election,
and even some of the biggest blogs are now begging readers for funding.
This is not good.
Journalism has yet to replace its decrepit business model, and
things are starting to fall through the cracks. As the Times cuts back,
stories like this might not be told at all.
And that's a tragedy. How many other stories are being missed because we lack the resources to get them?