When bias clouds reporting judgment


College football writer Brett McMurphy has had an impressive career and gained the respect of many college football fans for his outstanding reporting. In 2017, after spending five years at ESPN, McMurphy was included in the round of layoffs that saw many writers and analysts let go by ESPN.

Since leaving ESPN, McMurphy saw his notoriety rise when he published a story about former Ohio State assistant football coach Zach Smith and his alleged history of domestic assault. McMurphy’s report led to an internal investigation by Ohio State and eventually a three-game suspension of head coach Urban Meyer stemming from his role in potentially covering up Smith’s alleged indiscretions. Unfortunately, this week McMurphy published another story about Ohio State that was irresponsible and exemplified his disdain for the program.

McMurphy’s story surrounded former Ohio State receiver Trevon Grimes and an altercation he may have had during a practice. According to McMurphy’s reporting, an altercation during an Ohio State practice ended in Smith directing the N-word towards Grimes, which led to his decision to transfer to the University of Florida. Before this story, it is widely believed that Grimes, a South Florida native, transferred due to his mother having been diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer and his desire to be closer to home.

The story also alleges that the waiver Grimes’ received from the NCAA that allowed him to play right away due to his mother’s condition may have been based on false, and that his mother does not have cancer at all. McMurphy’s main source for the story was Grimes’ estranged father Lebron Grimes, who Trevon claims he has not spoken to in over two years.

In reading the story, it is clear McMurphy was extremely diligent in his research for the story. He reached out to various players on the Ohio State team, Ohio State’s Athletic Department, friends of Grimes, and attempted to contact Grimes and his mother. Unfortunately, he wrote a story that was at the very least incomplete, and at the worst irresponsible.

He was also reckless in conducting his research, badgering both Grimes and his mother despite both of them personally, and through a University of Florida spokesperson, requesting he stop reaching out. McMurphy admitted as much in his actual story. McMurphy also gave a lot of credence to the story presented by Lebron Grimes despite his description of Grimes’ legal indiscretions and the allegations of domestic abuse that had been made against him by his ex-wife, Grimes’ mother.

Since the story has been published, Grimes, Ohio State’s Athletic Department, and all of his former Ohio State teammates have publicly denied the accusations in the story. While this is to be expected, McMurphy’s ultimate error was publishing a story prior to verifying the allegations in said story. Without a single Ohio State player or even Grimes agreeing to corroborate the Smith incident, it was irresponsible to publish that part of the story based on Grimes’ estranged fathers account.

As to the allegation regarding Grimes’ mother potentially lying about having cancer, McMurphy once again published a baseless accusation and badgered a woman who is not a public figure. While McMurphy’s research allowed him to create context for this story, without any evidence that Grimes’ mother actually lied about her condition, it was an irresponsible accusation to publish.

While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 makes finding medical information about an individual very difficult, McMurphy had a responsibility not to publish the accusation without a source other than Grimes’ estranged father.

The story illustrated that McMurphy is a talented writer who conducts extremely thorough research, but it also showed his judgment has been clouded by a deep contempt of the current Ohio State program. The story was so diligently researched and transparently written that his own conclusions were both debunked. McMurphy’s search for the truth can be seen as a noble crusade, but he published a story with conclusions that he may have been able to prove or even disprove had he waited for further evidence.

Jon Stewart, news media genius


This week, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta had his press credentials suspended after a controversial incident during President Trump’s post-midterm election press conference.

The incident stemmed from Acosta repeatedly asking the president questions about the migrant caravan heading toward the southern border, with Trump eventually cutting Acosta off. When a female aide attempted to remove the microphone from Acosta’s hand, he attempted to hold on and what has followed has been a circus.

In response to the incident, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a doctored video of the incident, accusing Acosta of placing his hands on the female aide. Producing an edited video and denying access can objectively be seen as the Trump administration acting in totalitarian fashion, but the news media have turned a winning issue for credibility into a food fight with the president.

Just last week, comedians Jon Stewart and Dave Chappelle sat down with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour to discuss various issues about comedy, Trump, and the press today. In discussing the media’s role in the age of Trump, Amanpour said, “But we the journalists, we I think believe that our job is to navigate the truth and do the fact-checking and all the rest of it.”

While this may be true, and most journalists do have this intention, Stewart’s response perfectly described why the news media have grown hostile in the face of Trump’s constant attacks.

“But I think the journalists have taken it personally,” Stewart said. “They’re personally offended and wounded by [Trump]. He baits them and they dive in — and what he’s done well I thought was to appeal to their own narcissism, to their own ego.”

Stewart’s understanding of the news media can be seen in Acosta’s actions during the post-midterm press conference. Acosta was asking a question about a hot-button issue (the migrant caravan) but was overtaken by his own ego and lashed out. While the administration’s response has been dishonest and possibly immoral, Acosta’s own antics have allowed what should be a one-sided issue to become more complex than it should be. Had he remained totally respectful, it would be impossible for anyone to condemn him.

Covering the Rams’ perfect start


Since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, no NFL has been able to finish the regular and postseason undefeated. In recent years, only the 2007 New England Patriots have come close, with the Patriots losing in the Super Bowl XLII to the Giants in a 17-14 game.

While no team has accomplished the feat in more than 40 years, whenever a team can win the first seven games of the regular season like the Los Angeles Rams have thus far, it is natural for NFL writers to discuss the possibility of an undefeated season. While the odds are unlikely, the Rams have earned the right for a potential undefeated season to become a discussion. Ranking in the top five in both scoring offense and defense, while also leading the league in average margin of victory, the Rams have had an incredible season.

When most NFL writers discuss the Rams’ potential for an undefeated season, most will properly indicate that the feat is so difficult, it’s unlikely to ever be accomplished. But ESPN’s Bill Barnwell covering the topic from a different provided the type of context that all sports reporters should strive towards.

Instead of discussing the unlikely possibility of the Rams running the table, Barnwell explained how the way Rams head coach Sean McVay operates his football team makes the feat all but impossible. Barnwell explains that McVay rarely subs players when healthy and his history of resting players whenever possible. This manifested itself in resting starters in week 17 of the NFL season, despite the opportunity to secure the third seed in the NFC. McVay also rested most of his starters during the preseason, with starting quarterback Jared Goff not taking a single snap in four preseason games.

While much of an NFL writer’s job is report team news and provide basic scouting reports/team trends, Barnwell was able to talk about an unlikely scenario in a way that properly informed readers. By refraining from hyperbole and recording strong research for his article, Barnwell provides an example of excellent coverage from an NFL writer.

Roy Williams’ needs to be questioned


During the University of North Carolina’s news media day for its basketball team, Coach Roy Williams was asked about the ongoing FBI investigation concerning players receiving improper benefits. When discussing the investigation, Williams said, “It’s a massive thing that’s still going on, and I’m just dumbfounded.”

Williams was adamant that he had no knowledge of players receiving money from shoe executives in order to play for certain universities. Williams’ claim that he had no idea what has been going on in college basketball recruiting is, at its best, ignorance and, at its worst, an outright lie.

For reference, here’s Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey when asked a similar question, “We’ve had this underworld as part of the fabric [of college basketball] for a long, long time,” Brey told the Indianapolis Star. “A long, long time.”

Another issue with Williams’ claim is that he was indirectly involved in a similar incident back in 2000. Back then, AAU Coach Myron Piggie had been indicted on charges that he had funneled money to recruits to play for Nike schools. One of these recruits was JaRon Rush, who was at the time committed to Kansas when Williams was coach there. While Kansas was not involved in the payments to Rush, for Williams to claim he had no idea what was going on in college basketball recruiting is a bit of stretch.

While not a reliable source of information, in response to Williams’ press conference, Piggie told Yahoo Sports, “Well, that [expletive], I mean, come on. Come on. You know Roy knew. He was in the mix. He knew what was going on. Roy’s got amnesia.”

When a massive figure in college basketball makes such a definitive statement, one that on the surface seems untrue, college basketball sportswriters have a duty to question Williams’ statement.

Unfortunately, outside of Yahoo Sports, most major news media figures have not even mentioned Williams’ statement. Currently, ESPN has not written a single story on the comments and the sports two biggest media figures, Jay Bilas and Jeff Goodman, have made no mention of them.

While most in the news media have no issue broadly claiming corruption in college basketball exists, they were hesitant to criticize the coach at one of college basketball’s most popular teams. Until members of the news media are willing to question those at the top, don’t expect the corruption to end any time soon.

College basketball is broken


This past week, a trial regarding James Gatto, a former Adidas executive, began as he is being charged with two counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charges stem from a $100,000 payment to University of Louisville guard Brian Bowen. The payment was made on behalf of the university in order to ensure Bowen would play basketball for the school.

While the trial has only just begun, Gatto’s attorneys have shed light on an issue that has been well known among college basketball fans for a long time. The issue is that major college basketball programs work with agents and apparel companies to pay high school students to play for them. Bowen’s case is hardly the first known instance of students being paid and certainly not the last.

Another recent example is Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton who also received $100,000 from an agent that was orchestrated through University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller. These cases are just in the past year, but the issue is widespread and widely known. The Ringer’s Mark Titus, a former Ohio State basketball player, explained the issue in a February column when he said, “For decades, it’s been the worst-kept secret in sports that the highest level of college basketball has been controlled by agents, shoe companies, runners, and rogue coaches.”

In response to these “new” findings, the NCAA will suspend the few players who were unlucky enough to get caught receiving benefits and ignore the fact that most top-level recruits are paid for their services. But why aren’t journalists looking to expose the entire system?

Young men who are offered great sums of money shouldn’t be expected to refuse, especially those who may need the money to support their families. And the coaches who participate in this system are required to in order to win games, because if they don’t, they will be fired for someone else willing participate in the scam. The fault lies on the governing body who is supposed to oversee and protect these student-athletes, the NCAA.

While it is easy to pick on the NCAA’s hypocrisy, all journalists, not just college sports journalists, should look to expose the entire issue. Unless someone is a die-hard sports fan, they would have no knowledge of the corruption involved in college basketball. But the issue of young men being offered grand sums of money while being expected to refuse it is something that should be exposed to all. Especially when you consider that march madness, college basketball’s premier event, generated almost $900 million in profit during the 2017 season.

Widespread corruption, big money and the potential abuse of young men should be a national story every day until everyone understands just how flawed the system is. Because handing down phony suspensions and sanctions to the programs that are caught won’t stop the issue anytime soon.

When sports media get it right


On Wednesday, Sept. 26, Clemson University senior quarterback Kelly Bryant announced his decision to transfer after being replaced by freshman Trevor Lawrence as the starting quarterback. After posting a 16-2 record as a starter, Bryant was frustrated by the decision from Coach Dabo Swinney and will finish his collegiate career at another school.

Due to a change in NCAA redshirt guidelines, Bryant will be able to regain his final year of eligibility by transferring prior to appearing in five games. of the season.

Despite having tremendous success on the field, Bryant had been facing competition from Lawrence since his arrival in the spring as the top-ranked high school player in the class of 2018. Upon learning that Lawrence would be named the starter moving forward, Bryant was quick to voice his frustration. In speaking to the Greenville News regarding the demotion, Bryant said, “I’ve never been a distraction. I’ve never been in trouble with anything. To me, it was kind of a slap in the face.”

While his frustration was clear and can be understood, sports news media members were careful not to disparage a young man going through a tough situation. Rather, many in the news media have provided context to the situation and have been careful not to mitigate how difficult the decision was for Bryant.

Grace Raynor, a Clemson beat reporter for the Charleston-based The Post and Courier, showed proper reporting in a tweet following the transfer announcement, “Thoughts on Kelly Bryant: 1. Kelly is good people. Super kind. I think he’ll be just fine. 2. Not many QBs have had the pressure he has had. Being sandwiched in between Deshaun and Trevor is no easy task. 3. There is no shame in sitting behind Trevor. That dude is crazy good.”

Other college sports reporters have also done a good job in pointing out exactly why this decision from Swinney was made now, despite being four weeks into the season. In a tweet following Swinney’s press conference addressing the issue, Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman tweeted, “Good on Dabo Swinney to have made his QB decision before #Clemson’s 5th game. If he let this drag out another wk, it would’ve given his team more depth at a crucial spot but cost Kelly Bryant the season. Instead, he can transfer out & gets to play someplace else as a SR in 2019.”

The new transfer guidelines will likely lead to more instances of high-profile transfers, but as the first major example of the effects of the new rule, reporters have done a tremendous job in their coverage. From providing context to refraining from attacking a young man in a difficult situation, the coverage of Kelly Bryant has provided the blueprint for covering high-profile transfers.

Partisanship rules during confirmation


This past week, the already contentious U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process of nominee Brett Kavanaugh has become embroiled in controversy since allegations of sexual misconduct were revealed. The accuser, Dr. Christine Ford, wrote to her local representative and senator in July regarding an incident that occurred when she and Kavanaugh were in high school.

Since the allegations have been made public, much of the news media on both sides have failed to examine all of the facts in the case in favor of repeating talking points from politicians on each side.

For conservatives, many commentators have stuck to the talking point that until there is more information, nothing can be done. While usually delivering a message that does err on the side of caution, news media commentators on the right have failed to acknowledge that since it is unlikely facts can be discovered within the next week.

Waiting for more information would lead to a vote on Kavanaugh before the credibility of the allegations can be confirmed. In a tweet after the allegations surfaced, Ben Shapiro, founder of the Daily Wire tweeted, “The point here isn’t that we should DISBELIEVE all women. We should give women the presumption of truth — but then we should ask for supporting details and evidence if we actually give a good damn about due process or truth itself.”

This carefully crafted message ignores the issue that additional information will be difficult to ascertain, and that this line of thinking will lead to Kavanaugh’s confirmation prior to the discovery of any corroborating evidence for the allegations.

For the left, many news media commentators have repeated the Democratic talking points that ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley should halt the nomination process and institute an FBI investigation. The only issue with this idea is that the Senate does not actually have the authority to order an investigation from the FBI, as it exists as an executive branch agency.

One member of the news media who has been an example of simply reporting the facts has been Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow, famous for his investigative work exposing allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Farrow’s reporting on the subject featured a detailed account of the allegations against Kavanaugh, along with reporting that the allegations have been known to senator Dianne Feinstein since July.

With information difficult to come across for extremely serious allegations regarding a Supreme Court nominee, Farrow has simply informed the public without inserting his own opinion and allowing the facts to inform the public as to where the situation stands.

Soccer incident stirs controversy


For fans of the U.S. men’s national soccer team, the past year has been more disappointing then any in recent memory. Failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup was a devastating end to a tumultuous qualifying campaign that saw the team lose the first two games of the Hexagonal stage of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) qualifying process and never bounce back.

Now 11 months removed from failing to qualify, fans finally had a reason to celebrate when the United States defeated rival Mexico 1-0 in an international friendly on the 17-year anniversary of 9/11. The team bounced back from a forgettable first half and was able to frustrate the Mexican side with extremely physical play.

The highlight of the game came in the 63rd minute when 6’4 center back Matt Miazga stared down the 5-foot-5 Mexican midfielder Diego Lainez and ended with Miazga mocking the Mexican player for his diminutive stature.

Following the encounter Mexican forward was shown a red-card hard foul and the U.S. capitalized three minutes later with a goal.

With both teams fielding extremely young squads for the friendly, it would seem that post-game commentary would reflect how the squads reacted to the incident. The youthful Mexican squad reacted poorly to the incident and allowed themselves to become frustrated by the antics of the U.S. When asked about the incident, Mexican forward Angel Zaldivar said, “They poked fun [and] tried to play a dirty game that honestly we don’t think is how you should play. That’s their game and we couldn’t do anything about it.”

Some in the news media also felt Miazga’s actions may have represented some greater issue with the overall mentality in U.S. soccer culture. As ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar tweeted following the incident, “Not surprised it was a #USMNT player who made a short joke on a soccer field. Obsession with & size in ‘coaching’ circle in this country is absurd.”

While Salazar’s claim should be considered inherently absurd, especially considering that two of the U.S.’s greatest talents ever, Christian Pulisic and Landon Donovan, both stand at 5-foot-8, it does illustrate a dangerous tendency in sports commentary. To make one instance of juvenile smack talk between two competitors a part of a greater discussion about U.S. soccer development is not productive and fails to enjoy what should have been a fun moment in a fun rivalry.

Saban comments draw criticism


As the college football season kicked off this past weekend, the major off-season story surrounding the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide has been the quarterback battle between junior Jalen Hurts and sophomore Tua Tagovailia. After a dominant 51-14 win over Louisville in the opening game, the prevailing story surrounding Alabama has been the behavior of Coach Nick Saban in his post-game interview.

In an interview with ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor, in which she asked about whether the game provided any answers to the ongoing quarterback battle, Saban gave an answer that drew the ire of most members of the sports media.

“I think both guys are good players. I think both guys can help our team, all right? So why do you continually try to get me to say something that doesn’t respect one of them? I’m not going to. So quit asking,” said an irate Saban to the reporter.

Following the interview, many in the sports news media expressed their disgust with Saban’s answer to a question he should have seen coming. “He may be the best coach of all time, but when he continues to treat people like that … it’s classless,” said veteran college football analyst Paul Finebaum.

Along with the news media, some experts in sports journalism also weighed in on the controversy. Following the interview, director of sports journalism at Northwestern University J.A. Adande tweeted, “It’s hard to respect Nick Saban when he won’t respect other professionals who are doing their jobs and doing their jobs well.”

Although Saban has since issued an apology, none of the coverage surrounding the incident has focused on the source of Saban’s anger. In providing a defense for the outburst, former Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri tweeted, “Love seeing Coach get animated when asked about QB’s after the game! Why he’s so great, cares for them on a personal level and respects both Jalen and Tua too much to say anything negative about either one ever!! #kingsaban.”

While Saban’s behavior was unprofessional and disrespectful towards Taylor, who asked a question that should have been expected, the root of Saban’s anger should have also been a part of the story.