Over-hyped media to the extreme

Last Wednesday something so incredibly important happened that it attracted the eyes of the whole world. More than two hundred journalists were on hand to cover this momentous occasion, including such big names as Tom Brokaw and Dick Schapp. Seventeen satellite trucks were at the scene to assure live coverage to points all over the world. It caused various government leaders (including President Clinton) to release official statements.

“Did the hostilities in Somalia come to an end? Did the former Yugoslavia finally attain a lasting peace? Did we achieve world peace?” Hardly.

Michael Jordan, basketball’s most famous legend, retired.

“And?” There’s nothing else. That’s it. M.J. threw in the towel. That’s all, he simply had enough.

It started harmless enough. A national priority, one news bulletin was broadcast over the Associated Press wire on Tuesday evening. “The Denver Post and NBC have reported that Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls will announce his retirement Wednesday. The AP is pursuing.”

Considering the type of news the AP usually sends as priority one bulletins, I was not surprised to see this. What I was surprised with was the contents of the AP wire on Wednesday when I got to work.

As wire editor for the past year, I thought I had seen it all. But I had never seen anything like this! There were a total of 54 news items moving for the Thursday morning papers. When the World Trade Center was attacked, there were about ten. During the early part and the end of the Waco standoff, there were about fifteen items available. But for Michael there were fifty-four different stories, updates, quote files, statements, bulletins and statistics.

The AP “pursued” the Jordan story by having every single sports writer offer his own private thoughts. They had their business writers covering it, their feature writers, their national writers and their international writers.

Excuse me, but does a famous basketball player’s retirement warrant an official press release by Bill Clinton? Are we really concerned with how this news will affect McDonald’s and Nike? How about his effect on the entire NBA? And what about little eight year old Zac Stutts (who?!?) in North Carolina. How does it affect him? Every conceivable angle was covered by the AP and its writers. Whether it was the actual Jordan statement, or perhaps Magic Johnson’s reactions, or maybe a simple Jordan profile (for those who hadn’t heard of him)—the AP had it all.

My personal favorite was the international story. Romanian TV stated that, “Basketball without Jordan is like ballet without Maya Plisetskaya.” (Yeah, I don’t get it either.) The “voice of Italian basketball” (I didn’t know there was one) was quoted as saying, “He was a symbol of the way sports should be played, a model for younger kids around the world.” Newspapers from Japan, the Philippines, France, and Australia gave the story front page coverage. Before Israel’s LIVE broadcast of Jordan’s news conference, the network there billed it as a “sporting bomb” from the United States.

Does one man, one sports figure, deserve this type of coverage? I don’t think so. Even I (an information junkie) was overwhelmed by it all. However, there is one thing that’s certain. All of this coverage leads up to one unmistakable conclusion. Michael Jordan is a popular and well-liked guy throughout the entire world. To be given front page space in Japan, you have to be pretty special. Maybe Clinton was on to something, perhaps the whole world really is “striving to be like Mike.” Judging by the amount of news coverage he received, I would have to say that Michael Jordan has made his mark. And I don’t blame him one bit for retiring. It’s just like he said, “I’ve reached the pinnacle of my career, I’ve achieved a lot in a short amount of time, if you want to call it short, but I just feel that I don’t have anything else to prove to myself.”

That’s good enough for me. Mike, thanks for always giving 110 percent. You’ll never be forgotten.