Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Story questioning athlete’s attitude spurs thoughts about journalism morals

One of the toughest parts of being a respectable journalist, whether it is online or at an actual news outlet, is knowing where to draw the line. Sometimes these lines are drawn by our superiors, but a lot of them need to be drawn by our own morals.

While I was in high school there was a group of athletes on a highly ranked sports team that were caught talking about partying and drinking that they had participated in during the weekend. Although there was no proof of this other than what their coach overheard, they could have been punished for their actions immediately. However, the players were not immediately punished and a silent uproar began to spread around school.

At this point I was the Sports Editor for our high school newspaper. When the story got around, some members of our staff smelled blood and wanted to go in for the kill; conjuring up a story about athletes receiving special treatment. Obviously, as a high school publication we were regulated by our teacher and administrators, and the story never got off the ground. Instead, we published a story about athletic code infringements.

I bring this up in response to a story published by columnist Jenni Carlson about Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid, which has drawn national coverage because of Carlson’s negative comments about Reid’s character and off-field attitudes. In the story, Carlson questions Reid’s dedication and maturity, among other things. Carlson even goes as far to admit that some of what she is writing is based completely on rumor.

“Word is that Reid has considered transferring a couple different times, the first as early as 2005. Reid, then a redshirt freshman, was facing competition from returner Donovan Woods, and apparently, Reid considered leaving OSU just because he had to compete for the spot.”

Anytime a journalist uses “word is” and “apparently” to introduce so-called facts you know something is wrong. If you read the column, there is very little actual reporting and mostly speculation. How Carlson can attack Reid’s character without cold, hard facts is beyond me.

Carlson’s actions violate my morals as a journalist, much like how I opposed running the story on our sports team without facts as to why the team members were not immediately published. It is one thing to speculate on the next head coach at Michigan or where A-Rod will be headed next year, but to question a player’s attitude with rumors is just plain wrong.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Many comments opposed to Carlson’s story have been posted all over the internet, and OSU head coach Mike Gundy lambasted Carlson in his press conference last Saturday. Whether or not Gundy’s actions were acceptable is still up in the air, but I’m glad to see a head coach step up in defense of his quarterback.

1 comment:

Katy said...

Way to be Cody. I think too many people take what they see on SportsCenter or CNN or in the newspaper as fact without looking critically at it the way they maybe should be. And because of that, journalists have to default to hard facts and not anything speculative the way Carlson seems to be. Either the media needs to "step it up, trash"* or the audience needs to force them to.


*"Step it up, trash" is something my COM 101 Prof says a lot.