John Drescher, the executive editor of The (Raleigh) News & Observer, is probably a bigger sports fan than most of his counterparts at the top of mastheads across the country. He has tickets to N.C. State basketball games, tries to take in games in Cameron Indoor Stadium whenever he can and self-deprecatingly says that “it’s probably not a good sign when you’ve read more John Feinstein books than books by Ernest Hemingway.” It’s also fortuitous that such a sports nut is the editor of the Triangle’s largest and most influential newspaper, because he is far from naive about the impact of athletics on the area.
And he’s certainly not one to dismiss press criticism from perhaps the most prominent figure in the area, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who blasted local newspapers Jan. 7 after he was displeased that no media outlet printed a story about his Blue Devils jumping to No. 2 in the rankings. “I know it’s not that big here,” Krzyzewski said, not-so-subtly alluding to his team’s status in comparison to the fan favorite, North Carolina. “But it’s pretty damn good. So when this group makes No. 2, it’s a new group, they should be celebrated for doing something good.”
Except, as Drescher pointed out in his weekly column Jan. 17, The N&O did write something about the team’s new placement in the polls. The newspaper printed the Associated Press’ top 5 on the front page of its section Jan. 6, and posted a short story detailing the new rankings Jan. 5 on ACC Now, one of its three flagship blogs.
Understandably, Drescher, who attended both UNC and Duke, did not let Krzyzewski’s thinly-veiled accusations of media bias go ignored. He fired back in the same spirit (“Know this–we love you, man. But like a good ref, we’ll keep calling ‘em like we see ‘em,” he wrote), vigorously defending his newspaper’s coverage and jabbing Coach K a few times in the process by insinuating that he overlooks the local media for the national allure of ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times.
“I thought he was tweaking us a little, so I tried to return that same kind of spirit in my piece,” Drescher told The Chronicle Monday. “I was fine with what he said, but I disagree with it, and that’s why I wrote a response.”