Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Going the Extra Mile

Going the Extra MileB.J. Nemeth, terrific tournament reporter for PokerNews and other outlets, has weighed in on the idea to postpone the final table of the WSOP Main Event in order to televise it live (or “plausibly live”) at some later date -- discussed a couple of days ago here. (Incidentally, the latest buzz appears to suggest we won’t necessarily see this change happen this summer, but will most certainly see something like it in 2009.)

Head over to Tao of Poker and read Nemeth’s thoughts in the post dated April 8th. There Nemeth provides some good arguments for why he thinks the idea to create a “must see” final table event is a good one for poker. And while I still have reservations -- the main one concerning the notion of waiting three whole months to complete the tournament -- I can appreciate where Nemeth is coming from.

Regardless of the position being argued, I especially like this kind of thoughtful, well-reasoned editorial. I appreciate writers who take the time to present their ideas clearly and thoughtfully, taking into consideration the audience’s needs (for clarity, for sound reasoning, etc.). Nice, also, to see a subject like this addressed with a sense of historical perspective (which Nemeth definitely has).

Fact is, there are a number folks out there -- if you’re willing to seek ’em out -- who are writing about poker who will take the time to think ideas through and communicate them as effectively as they can. Poker ain’t all that different from the rest of the world, in that respect . . . .

Pulitzer Prize for Journalism (public service)Speaking of, was reading this week about the recently-awarded Pulitzer prizes for journalism. Looks like The Washington Post was the big winner this time around, being recognized for their in-depth reports on subjects like the mistreatment of wounded veterans at Walter Reed Hospital, the Virginia Tech shootings, the political influence of Dick Cheney, among others. A lot of times the stories that get singled out for praise in this way are investigative pieces that bring together all of the most-valued characteristics of excellent journalism -- characteristics that make them “distinguished” in the judges’ minds.

The criteria for judging are always somewhat subjective, of course, but to my way of thinking, the best journalism usually demonstrates a high degree of intellectual rigor, a faithfulness to “journalistic ethics” or responsible reporting, and evidence of supreme effort. Usually the winners are multi-part articles that (1) required a great deal from the author(s) in terms of investigative work, and (2) were written with an eye toward the “greater good” -- i.e., report on issues or concerns in a way that was both constructive and clearly of benefit to the community of readers.

All of which caused me to reflect a bit on poker journalism. Can we perhaps point to examples of that sort of excellence in our little corner of the news landscape? Thinking back over the last couple of years, three spring to mind:

  • Amy Calistri and Tim Lavalli’s multi-part investigation of the two million extra chips that suddenly materialized near the end of the 2006 WSOP Main Event. The pair produced three exhaustive articles in September 2006, then a follow-up in early 2007 that shared industry reaction:
    Two Million Questions. Will Poker Answer?: Part One
    Two Million Questions. Will Poker Answer?: Part Two
    Two Million Questions. Will Poker Answer?: Part Three
    Two Million Chips: Six Months After
  • Haley Hintze’s “Anatomy of a Cybersquatter” series of reports from early 2007 documenting the curious twists and turns in the battle over the “wsop.com” domain. Hintze meticulously presented the story in seven installments:
    Introduction: Binion’s Horseshoe on the Ropes
    Part 1: Bad Blood Runs Deep
    Part 2: Cybersquatting 101
    Part 3: From “World Series of Poker” to “WSOP”
    Part 4: The Lawyers Always Get Theirs
    Part 5: One for All, and All for One
    Part 6: Not Quite Coda
  • Jennifer Newell’s recent Poker Player Newspaper series on the Absolute Poker scandal. Her articles appeared from November 2007 to January 2008:
    An Absolute Mess, Part 1
    An Absolute Mess, Part 2
    An Absolute Mess, Part 3
    An Absolute Mess, Part 4
    An Absolute Mess, Part 5
    Of course, Newell’s series brought together and presented a lot of information compiled by those other super sleuths who helped crack the AP scandal in the first place. (And, as I wrote about a few weeks ago, still more folks also reported on that one as well.) By the way, I recently noticed Serge “Adanthar” Ravitch mention on his blog that the 60 Minutes story on Absolute Poker is “probably happening (at least, my segment is definitely getting shot).” Gary Wise mentioned on his podcast last week that he’d been interviewed as well.

    Plenty of other recent examples of excellence in poker journalism, too, of course. These were just a few that came to mind. Do go enjoy (and be inspired by) those series if you hadn’t already. And for more thoughtful discussion about poker, do check out Nemeth’s thoughts regarding that plan for a big ol’ ME final table extravaganza, as well.

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