Friday, September 29, 2023

Dueling columns: student newspapers take the rivalry to heart

October 4, 2017
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts to a call by the referees during the game against the University of Michigan on Oct. 29, 2016 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans were defeated by the Wolverines, 32-23.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts to a call by the referees during the game against the University of Michigan on Oct. 29, 2016 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans were defeated by the Wolverines, 32-23. —

Each year before the MSU vs. University of Michigan football game, The State News and the Michigan Daily, the student newspaper at U-M, share columns on the rivalry. Below is this year's edition.

Kevin Santo, The Michigan Daily

Respecting our opponents in this “touch” football game has become very difficult.

Every year, The Michigan Daily plays The State News. And every year, your staff continues to degrade itself.

Maybe I should have expected that, but to be honest, as a New York native, the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry was entirely foreign to me four years ago.

With all due respect to Cortland and Ithaca’s annual matchup, my home state isn’t exactly the epicenter of college football. It took much convincing on my brothers’ part for me to come to Michigan at all. The only memory I had of the Wolverines’ football program was their loss to Appalachian State in 2007.

It didn’t take long for me to catch up on the history, but the first real taste I had of the in-state rivalry didn’t happen within the confines of a football stadium.

I worked in a deli the summer before I came to Ann Arbor for the first time. And on my last day of work, I was ringing up my final customer. I turned to hand a woman her bags, expecting the interaction to be no different than the hundreds like it that I’d experienced that summer. I was wrong.  

As it turned out, she was a Michigan State alum. I handed her the bag, she glanced at the block ‘M’ hat I was wearing and looked me in the eyes. 

“Don’t start thinking you’re better than everyone else,” she said, “just because you go to Michigan.”

I didn’t then. I don’t now.

At that point, I never planned on contributing to my university’s student publication. But after joining the Daily during my first year here, I have come to realize the rivalry between our newspapers is what I really care about.

As a freshman, I watched one of your players get ejected for tackling one of our writers to the ground and punching him in the head. Later in the same game, I watched members of your staff — and your adviser,  for that matter — laugh at my friend after he tore his ACL.

A year later, having not spent a minute actually playing in the game, your editor in chief had some choice words for me at the 50-yard line. Sorry to disappoint, but the one-sided dialogue isn’t fit to print here. Children might be reading.

And last year, your team still found comic relief in an injury, making a backhanded comment to one of our staffers about his “daddy’s health care” as he struggled to walk off the field.

But that game — the Daily’s 12th consecutive win — did have one redeeming moment. After we won on your field, one of your football beat writers came to our sideline and thanked us for making the trip to East Lansing.

I appreciated the rare case of sportsmanship — almost as much as I appreciated the column he needed to write two days later, clarifying the headline printed on The State News’ front page following Michigan’s 32-23 win over Michigan State.

That headline read, “Defeated with Dignity – MSU lost the Paul Bunyan trophy but prevented a blowout against U-M.

That’s quite the spin, so much that I had to go back and make sure Michigan State still had that journalism school State Newsers always talk about.

In the second and third paragraphs of his column, he wrote:

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“Upon filing the story, I left the spot for the headline blank, as I usually have no say in the process of titling an article. I left the newsroom after the story was complete, long before it ever went to print.

“By the time I woke on Monday, I saw the headline and was disgusted.”

He went on to write critically about Michigan State’s effort and performance to that point in the 2016 season, and he wrote it well. Somehow, though, somebody in your newsroom thought — or, it seems, desperately hoped — that headline was indicative of the game.

But here’s the thing: that debacle wouldn’t happen at the Daily. Not only do our writers create their own headlines, but we have a thorough editing process to ensure we aren’t hopelessly biased. Apparently that’s not the case in East Lansing.

Our writers are given the opportunity to chase a passion and make this newspaper what it has been for 127 years, whether that’s by covering a soccer team, a volleyball team or, eventually, a football team.

When it comes to our football game, some may take exception to the size of our staff — claiming that it has contributed to our success over the last 12 years. But it’s for that same reason that we don’t need a journalism school. 

Our staff is given the chance to learn through the experience of publishing a daily newspaper. That requires individuals to work collaboratively until 1 a.m. every night. Sitting in a college lecture hall, or publishing a print edition just twice a week, can’t replicate that. 

At the end of the day, the broader rivalry can be boiled down to my interaction in that deli. 

Students at Michigan make assumptions about their counterparts in East Lansing. Students at Michigan State make assumptions about their counterparts in Ann Arbor.

I’m not here to make assumptions. I haven’t grown to know anyone at Michigan State well enough to make any sweeping declarations about your student body.

What I have grown to know pretty well, though, is The State News. And I think I’ve gathered enough knowledge to say this: I don’t think I’m better than you. But I know my newspaper — on a football field and in every journalistic sense — is.

We’ve defeated you 12 years in a row. We’re going to defeat you again Friday night. And the saddest part is, if past games are any indicator, you won’t be able to claim dignity this time, either. 

Kevin Santo is a co-managing sports editor at the Michigan Daily. 

Rachel Fradette, The State News

Note: Most of you are likely confused because I am not a football reporter, a sports editor or a man. This column over the years somehow became dominated by one type of person, so welcome to my readers.

I’m reminded of “Mad Men” Season 5, Episode 8. Michael Ginsberg approaches Don Draper livid about a call Draper made during a pitch meeting.

Ginsberg attacks Draper for his choices, his role and more importantly, his character. He finishes his frustrated exaggeration with one final jab and says, “I feel bad for you.”

In a calm, almost soothing voice, without looking Ginsberg in the eye, Draper says, “I don’t think about you at all.”

The State News, only in this sense, is Draper. The Michigan Daily is Ginsberg. That is the best way to explain how The State News feels about the Michigan Daily.

We don’t think about you. We don’t care what you do.

But, the last year of name-calling and "fake news" made me decide that we can no longer afford to ignore you. News organizations need each other for both competition and camaraderie. We are under attack in some respects.

By attacking each other we not only show our immaturity, but we don’t get anywhere. We’re tearing each other down and people are already trying to do that enough.

My mom always says you should say what you believe, but it is all a lie if you don’t walk the walk. So, I donated $5 to the Michigan Daily.

No, seriously.

I believe in what all of you do, but I do think you can do it a lot better. We serve our community. We work hard. We do all of this quietly, no fuss. Despite what all of you may think about us, you can learn from our newsroom.

As an investor, here are some of my thoughts.

The digital age is here and your newsroom needs to adapt better. I admire the diligent connection to a print product. I read two print newspapers a day. However, your content needs to make better shifts to online. Infographics and interactives are a perfect example of where you can succeed. Instead, I see screenshotted infographics made for print.

Event coverage — you do plenty of it. One more story on a panel and I will scream. Trends and issues stories are in short supply.

One of my favorite stories from your newsroom was reported by your editor-in-chief and it delved into mental health issues on your campus. The in-depth reporting made an impression, and more importantly it shined a light on a real issue.

Your sports section is, as usual, the part of your newsroom which receives the most attention. Don’t ignore that. Hold athletics accountable. In some ways you do, but both of our newsrooms need to shift our focus to that conclusion.

The State News is not perfect, but I’ll tell you a secret: neither is the Michigan Daily. We are learning our craft. Regardless, collegiate journalism is essential to our audiences.

People like to pit us against each other. Despite what all of you might think, I don’t hate you. In most ways, I root for you. I would hope all of you could get over yourselves enough to root for us, too. We’re on the same team, just on opposite sides of the field. In my mind, the rivalry is a technicality.

I suppose I didn’t really write a dueling column, which might upset some, but I’m fine with that. I spoke my truth. That’s all I want to do.

My last piece of advice: If you want to stand on someone’s shoulders and call yourselves tall that’s fine, but you’re better than it. We both need to be better than that.

A few years ago, during my first football game, I realized something.

After your players scored the final touchdown and all of you rushed the field, I was upset for a split second and then it hit me — like that elbow which broke one of our player’s teeth, still waiting on that apology, but I digress — this game means so much more to all of you than it does to all of us.

I looked back at my comrades who were exiting the field. All of them appeared disappointed, but then like a switch they started to smile and congratulate each other.

After that, you left my mind for good.

You can have your football games and ivory towers because even when you win, you lose. There are always people like you, but nobody roots for you. No one ever will until you understand what is so much more important — your newsroom – even if the "impossible" happens and you lose on Friday.

I have a group of scrappy kids who work hard for me every day. They make me better version of myself.

You take your track record, your numbers and your shiny fields, I’ll still take my underdogs any news day.

I like my pick. I hope you like yours.

Stay vigilant, my rivals.

Rachel Fradette is the editor-in-chief of The State News.


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