My cell phone buzzed when the University of Connecticut trounced Notre Dame to win the NCAA title, thanks to my New York Times app.
But when I read the story I thought the editors made a mistake.
The lead begins with praise for some guy:
His record ninth NCAA title secured, Geno Auriemma climbed a ladder Tuesday night, snipped the final strands of the net and pumped it in his fist, literally standing above everyone in women’s basketball.
Turns out the story’s focus by Jere Longman is on the coach, not the team.
The writer gives details of the 79-58 women’s win and continues with the coach’s success:
He now has one more title than his former nemesis, Pat Summit of Tennessee.
Did I link to a feature story about the coach rather than the main story about the women’s basketball finals?
The news story turns out to be a valentine for the coach.
In social science research we call this the fundamental attribution error.
That means humans—and even journalists—fall victim to bias in our thinking.
We are quick to credit our successes and failures according to our biases, ignoring some other factor that might be the real culprit or angel.
For example, if we are skipped over for a promotion, it’s because the boss is a sleaze-ball who doesn’t see our talents.
And if a beautiful colleague lands the promotion we figure it’s because of her looks or because she’s sleeping with the boss.
In the case of the Connecticut team, the coach gets the credit.
But take a look at the Times coverage of the men’s win one day earlier.
The lead features player Shabazz Napier then segues into the team: the team that began…as outsiders before rumbling through the NCAA tournament.
Focus of the story in on the team, not the coach.
They stayed. They endured…their belief never wavered.
By now my question should be painfully obvious.
When the women’s team wins, why does the coach get the credit, and when the men win, why is the team praise-worthy?
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