Veteran journalists like to believe they're the keepers of some grand secret when it comes to certain aspects of reporting. While, no, I don't imagine you're filing FOIA requests for your personal blog, sometimes the work of a good journalist is just being thoughtful and asking an informed question at the right time. Such was the situation with a young reporter by the name of Max Bonnstetter at a press conference last night after No. 7 seed South Carolina defeated No. 3 seed Baylor.
Bonnstetter, a reporter with SI For Kids, got up in front of a room of dusty, disaffected old beat reporters and asked Gamecocks coach Frank Martin a clear, concise, definitive question about the ethos behind South Carolina's defense.
Bonstetter: "Your team clearly won the defensive battle tonight. When you coach and teach your team defense, what's more important, technique or attitude?"
Martin: First of all, a lot of respect to you. That's a heck of a question. I've been doing this a long time and that's the first time anyone's ever asked me that. That's a heck of a question. Attitude comes first. We got to have guys that are going to believe in our mission, that are going to believe in what we want to do. Once they believe, then we can teach them the technique. It all starts with our mindset. We have got guys that are completely bought into what we do.
Bonstetter's question was extremely solid—how do you build that kind of defense from the locker room-out? While you could argue that it's the kind of question that might elicit a boring response of 'hustle, determination, fight, keeping your eyes on the prize, etc.' that's certainly not Bonstetter's fault. And sure, Martin's answer kind of fell along those lines. But the reason why coaches and players dole out canned ham-like answers is because a rash of bored, battle-axe reporters across the years have asked so many shallow questions that there's practically an 'insert answer here' copy-paste media guide to avoid considering a question at face value. And by all appearances, this kid's fresh delivery seemed to cause Martin to at least attempt to approach that idea from a new angle.
But some of those battle axe reporters decided they had something to say about Bonstetter:
Now let's be clear here. There's nothing off-topic about this Bonstetter's question and there's certainly no insult to journalism about how he asked it. If anything, Martin kind of threw Bonstetter under the bus by giving him a longwinded and mildly patronizing 'great question' preamble. (The kid was just trying to do his job, Martin....) But for these grown adults to come out and try and disparage this kid from asking legitimate questions? It's hard to tell who's stuck on the playground here.
And, of course, there was a bit of backtracking after some backlash—David Caraviello, of Charleston's Post and Courier claimed he was talking about a question asked at the Florida game. But he still had to defend himself from the onslaught:
Though the backtracking wasn't really effective enough.
But if we had to actually try and qualify Bonstetter's question compared to his contemporaries, here are a couple of other questions from the same presser—asked by adult human beings—that were unquestionably worse:
If this blog post happens to find its way to you, Max Bonstetter (I left out my usual potty words this time on purpose), listen up, man—though not like you need any advice from me. You're doing great stuff out there. And guess what? Having a bunch of other journalists hate on you sometimes means you're doing your job. Keep it up.