Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The New York Times' bizarre World Cup coverage

Soccer fans who picked up the New York Times sports section the day after the World Cup final can be forgiven if they were confused.  Who had actually played in the game?  Was it Germany and Argentina? Or Brazil and Argentina?

The NYT's main game story, by Sam Borden, focused on Brazil for the first eight sentences, noting, "In the tournament’s final game, the Brazilians managed to dodge the ultimate on-field nightmare."

So Brazil won? 

No, Brazil wasn't even playing; Argentina and Germany were. The NYT was trying to make the point that Brazil, the host of the World Cup, was relieved that its arch-rival, Argentina, had lost.

It was a curious angle to lead with, and it slighted Germany at the team's brightest moment. The Times didn't get around to even mentioning Germany until after the story jumped a good 185 words into the story. And you have to read even further to find out that Germany won, 1-0.

Even stranger was that the accompanying column on the World Cup final also focused on the Brazilian reaction. Author Jere Longman quotes a Brazilian, in the third paragraph, saying "Argentina winning would have been the worst thing I could think of."

In case two stories saying the same thing were not enough, inside the section was a third story focusing on Brazilian relief that Argentina had lost. The subhead on this story, by Simon Romero, said that for Brazil, "an Argentina victory would have been intolerable."

In all, the three stories on the World Cup in the Times Sports section mentioned the words "Brazil" or "Brazilian" 71 times. "Argentina" and its variations were mentioned just 42 times.

And how about Germany, the winner? "Germany" or "German" was mentioned just 33 times. 

It makes you wonder what the Times would have written if Brazil had actually played.

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