My writing process for this project was really more of my reading process. To fully comprehend what exactly I was going to write, I was forced to read and reread a lot of the coverage that I came across. I would read an article once all the way through to get the main idea of it. Then I would be forced to read it through again to specifically focus and pick out rhetorical strategies that I could identify in the pieces. Finally, I had to read them all over again sometimes more than once in order to recognize an overarching theme or goal that all of the coverage seemed to have in mind. Only at that point of realization was I able to start writing.
If I had more time and space I would have wanted to take a more in-depth look at the way the court proceedings were covered. A lot of that coverage was simply reporting, with cold hard news and little room for rhetoric influence. Therefore, I focused heavily on the coverage from Atlanta magazine. Magazines writers have much more room to stylize their work, whereas a newspaper has to stick to the straight and narrow. Also, with more time I would’ve liked to explore coverage of the offseason moves that the Braves made this winter. They are entirely a different topic in themselves but the moves brought emotions out of writers that I read. The rhetoric they used to analyze some of the trades were interesting, but had no place in this project.
Analyzing the Atlanta media’s rhetorical strategies in its coverage of the Braves’ move to Cobb County
On November 11th, 2013, the Atlanta Braves announced that they would be abandoning the spot on the Southside of Atlanta that had been their home for 47 years to build a new stadium outside of I-285 in Cobb County. Atlanta’s media was faced with somewhat of a difficult topic to cover, as there were two very distinct sides to the story. Journalists had to represent the mindset of the sentimental die-hard baseball fans and the people of Cobb County. Immediately following the announcement, the Braves’ organization faced backlash from fans that didn’t want to see their team depart from its place practically in the shadow of the state’s capital building. Cobb County residents were also disgruntled by the news because they did not have much of a say as to whether or not they wanted to host the franchise. Four days after the Braves’ announcement on that Veteran’s Day, Atlanta magazine took advantage of the Kairotic moment by publishing two pieces from contributing writers that appeared next to each other on the website. One article was a commentary from a self-proclaimed lifelong Braves fan, and the other was a mirroring post from a Cobb County resident. Therefore, each one of the authors possessed the corresponding ethos that would allow them to accurately convey the commonplace values that their respective communities would emphasize.
The common reaction from loyal Braves fans was to be upset at the idea of the team leaving Atlanta for a suburb, more specifically Cobb, which is a traffic-infested area that many ITP’ers (inside-the-perimeter people) loathe. Florio qualifies as both an ITP’er and a lifetime Braves’ fan and that gives her the ability to invent the correct ethos to comment on not only the mourning of the city’s loss of its team, but also the knee-jerk reaction of blaming Cobb County. Right away she makes an effort to quell the contempt for Cobb’s inhabitants with her empathetic tone. However, she shifts into a discussion of the baseball community’s commonplace values, namely its attachment to history, “This stuff matters to baseball fans. We’re a sentimental bunch. I won’t expound on my own very emotional attachment to the confines of Turner Field because most people reading this have their own: a first playoff game as a kid, or a last outing with a grandparent—memories as golden in our minds as the wheat field in which Roy Hobbs plays catch with his son in The Natural. I couldn’t have been the only one reading the news on Monday morning who felt as if part of my past had been erased.” Florio powerfully connects herself to other baseball fans by calling on her readers to remember their own special moments. Florio understands her audience’s state of mind and creates more emotion by not attempting to reproduce her memories for others at all. She asks her audience to rely on their own memories, which is a strong rhetorical move. The article is a well constructed and balanced work that accomplishes its goal to calm upset Braves fans that might be taking out their anger on their northwestern neighbors.
On the other hand, Betsy Riley’s piece in defense of Cobb County comes off as much more inflammatory. Clearly written in response to Florio’s post, Riley takes advantage of her own Kairotic moment that was created when Florio calls Cobb County “uncool”. While Florio opens with words that are sympathetic with the Cobb County people, Riley starts off with heated words towards ITP’ers in defense of her home. The defensive maneuvers are not convincing, as evidenced by the number of comments that are found below the article. The portion that sparked the most debate was Riley’s declaration that their neighborhood high school was more diverse than, “your (ITP) hipster charter school.” The issue is that Riley presents an extrinsic proof but does not back it up with any sort of data and damages her argument by not even naming a specific “hipster charter school.” Florio was successful because she recognized the attitude of her audience and adjusted accordingly. Riley was more combatant than she should have been if she wanted to win over the readers that she was pitted against. The pair of Atlanta magazine articles was an intriguing display of debate during a Kairotic moment to win the sympathies of readers.
The story that developed in the meetings at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners in the weeks following the announcement is one that still is being covered today due to its controversial nature. Atlanta magazine sent a reporter to sit in on the meeting where the county’s Board of Commissioners would come to a vote on the budget to build the stadium. The budget included a plan to use $300 million of Cobb’s tax money. The writer, Tony Rehagen, indulges in enargeia in order to get the reader to understand the plight of the people of Cobb County, “Only one formality remained: The commissioners had to idle their bulldozers and steamrollers for one hour to sit through public commentary. To act like they were paying attention while businesspeople wearing navy Braves t-shirts over their button-downs and ties eagerly pledged their blind faith to their leaders, despite having only fifteen days since the surprise announcement of the deal to review the scant details. To act like they cared while the other half of the speakers scolded them for the opaqueness with which they’d handled things.” The writer describes the appearance of the people and the atmosphere of the meeting in general throughout the article in a manner that emotionally connects the reader to the people fighting for control over the destiny of their own hometown and tax money. The dissenters were left uninformed during the whole process and they reacted by taking action in court, accusing the Commissioners of illegally reallocating public park funds for the Braves’ stadium, which they do not feel can be defined as a public park.
This spring, there were even more articles breaking down how the Cobb County Board of Commissioners improperly handled the deal by committing the green space budget to acquiring the Atlanta Braves. However, one article in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution at least attempted to ease the county’s pain by comparing their investment to the Arlington, Texas deal that brought the massively successful AT&T Cowboys super-stadium to its area. The comparison of AT&T Stadium to what will be called SunTrust Park is a brief historical proof that appeals to a person’s logic. The authors were Dan Klepal and Time Tucker. Klepal was very familiar with the timeline of the Braves’ move since he covered it from the start. They draw parallels between Cobb and Arlington and their respective relationship to Atlanta and Dallas. Cobb is just outside of Atlanta. Arlington is just outside of Dallas. The Cowboys distanced themselves from the city that is included in the organizations title and ended up finding great success. By framing the Cobb County transition in the historical context of the Dallas Cowboys relocation, the couple of writers build up hope that similar developments will occur in the county. They point out that Arlington got over the fact that the city took over 200 homes to build the stadium and insist that maybe Cobb County will have a similar change of heart along the way.
November 11th, 2013 was an emotionally volatile day regardless of whether or not you were a Cobb County resident or a Braves fan that wanted to see them remain in the city. The journalists covering the story had to process their own emotions and attachments to Turner Field, while also processing the financial and long-term implications that this move would have on both Atlanta and Cobb. The overall theme of each of these stories is coming to terms with the deal and accepting it, but not all of them share the same techniques or audiences. The authors utilize pathos, ethos, and logos in clever ways to empower their voices and make them heard.