Freeasco: The Morning After

After reading through the Free Press “investigation” last night, I, like most of you (judging by various blog posts, comments, and message board posts) was irate at what appeared to be a couple anonymous quotes from “current or former players” (emphasis mine) and two quotes from freshmen with no context provided (the Stokes and Hawthorne quotes) blown up into a national news story that had ‘agenda’ written all over it. I even screwed around with Photoshop and had this ready to go for this morning:

spartyfreep
I was very close to not posting that after reading various, level-headed reactions from Michigan fans (as well as Joe Schad’s corroboration of the report at ESPN.com) that pushed homerism aside and believed the accusations to be both serious and difficult (or, in the WLA’s case, “nearly impossible”) to refute. However, I’m very stuck on a few things:

  1. The timing. There is just no freaking way that putting out the story on the Saturday before the first game of the season, just in time for maximum exposure (as well as the Sunday edition of the paper) was a total coincidence. It’s tough not to think of this as a grasp for attention when the timing of the report is so obviously calculated
  2. The tone behind the report. Your soap box, Rivalry, Esq.:

    I mean, have you looked at the Freep website? The Freep brought down the hammer, article wise, with an armada of supplemental articles to the major breaking story.MSU plays by the rules, say ex-players,” A look inside Rodriguez’s rigorous program,” and my personal favorite, “National voices provide context on issue.”The last one is my favorite because they ask a 70 year old about what weight training was like in his playing days. Shockingly enough, things were different when he played in late 1950’s.

    The Detroit Free Press decided they had landed a big Michigan story and have attacked on all fronts. After bringing the story to the University of Michigan’s attention, they dropped this huge stack of articles and reactions. These are not, I repeat, these are not two-sided articles. Take a look at the “rigorous program” article. As Rosenberg goes on about the hard-ass qualities of Barwis and RichRod’s workout programs, one heading reads “Wow, this is absurd.” WOAH, you say, caught off-guard by this bold heading, Barwis and RichRod must have done something horrendous to inspire such a reaction from someone. Of course you quickly find out that a) the quote was taken out of context and b) the quote was never actually said by anyone. It was simply Barwis stating what he thought former NFL players would think of his workout. As Dave from Maize and Brew would say, “SEE! See what I did there??!!” Tricky writing/reporting from Rosenberg.

  3. The precedent set by the Freep. There was a whole lot of hubbub over the Justin Feagin dismissal, and rightfully so. Cocaine is a big deal, no matter how you spin it (although I was pleased with how quickly RichRod dealt with the matter). However, remember Glenn Winston, convicted assailant of MSU hockey player A.J. Sturges, being immediately let back onto the team right around the same time? And then one day later Drew Sharp pens the article “Michigan State glad to take boredom anytime“? That’s hitting Fox News levels of “fair and balanced”.
  4. The vagueness of the anonymous sources. The amount of times quotes pick up in the middle of a sentence (or even just quote one word) while Rosenberg gives the context gives me pause. Call me crazy, but I know the NCAA, if/when they investigate, will want a lot more than some choice quotes hand-picked from interviews where the subjects are (1) anonymous and (2) may or may not have known what they were being interviewed about. I want the same thing. (For a great breakdown of the journalism tactics used for the investigation, check out this post on The Fort by Chuck Jaffe, former Michigan Daily sports editor and current columnist for MarketWatch, who, like me, wants more concrete proof.)

While I will still wait to pass total judgment until the NCAA investigates (and, according to MGoBrian, any potential repercussions should be minor if any penalties are levied at all, based on NCAA precedent), I still find this to be (1) irresponsible journalism and (2) therefore totally overblown until someone can actually prove to me that these accusations are true. Unless something bigger (like in-context quotes taken from current players or an NCAA investigation) comes down, consider this the last time I pay any attention to Rosenberg and the Freep.

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6 comments
  1. Mikey said:

    Nice photoshop job Ace, my sentiments exactly about the Free Press. My guess is that Rosenberg was waiting for a chance to strike and obviously had an open shot considering the vulnerability of the program as of now. He’s been waiting for this moment a very time I bet. Basically he probably interviewed Toney Clemons, Wermers, Artis Chambers, and some others who decided to transfer just because they knew they were going to be low on the depth chart if they stayed. Seriously, Adam Rittenberg says it best….

    “You’re naïve if you think every FBS program practices for no more than 20 hours a week or no more than four hours a day. You’re naïve if you think members of the coaching staff don’t attend voluntary 7-on-7 scrimmages during the offseason — or receive direct reports about what happened. You’re naïve if you think players aren’t strongly encouraged to spend more than the required eight hours a week working out during the winter and summer.”

    I feel like some of the guys on the team felt like they were recruited to attend U of M on academics as well as football, which I think is hysterical. If you don’t want to do what it takes to be high on the depth, then STFU and make yourself cozy on the bench. Obviously we all know Rich Rod is a complete polar opposite of Lloyd, but seriously if you’re not willing to put in the time to get high on the depth chart then leave with dignity. The football climate has changed dramtically from what it used to be, if Michigan is going to stay with the rest of the pack in football then I highly doubt the motto, the “Michigan difference” is going to be the only thing that helps them to victory.

  2. Nicole said:

    Do you understand the definition of an anonymous quote? It’s not like it’s made up. It’s not like the player didn’t know what he was being interviewed. AT ALL. It’s a direct quote from a person being interviewed that knows it’s on the record but can’t have his/her name attached to it for fear of repercussions (usually job-related). I’m 200% sure Rosenberg, Snyder and the Freep understand that.

    To call that story “irresponsible journalism” is absurd. You really think Rosenberg, Snyder and a major newspaper overall wouldn’t fact check? Wouldn’t read and re-read interviews and make sure the story was accurate before they attached their names to it?

    That’s how newspapers work. I really don’t think bloggers/casual fans understand that newspapers DON’T take shortcuts and just report whatever they feel like if it’s not true. Especially with a big news story. So while I understand you’re an upset fan right now, I don’t think you can blame a newspaper for it and make ridiculous claims about “irresponsible journalism.” Journalism isn’t about biases and rose-colored glasses. This article doesn’t mean the Freep hates Michigan football at all. Every time the Freep writes a glowing article about a Michigan football player, do State fans think that’s totally unfair and the paper is totally pro-Michigan? No.

  3. Sam said:

    Nicole,

    Jonathan Chait, The New Republic’s point-man on health care reform, profoundly disagrees with you (http://michigan.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=982287) in calling for the firing Michael Rosenberg’s editor. You’re describing how newspapers should act, not how they always do. Newspapers generally operate on a division of labor. Michael Rosenberg is a columnist, not a reporter. By attempting an investigative report into a coaching stuff he has censured for the last 18 months, Rosenberg has violated any conceivable standard for journalistic objectivity. The reports don’t even attempt to understand the distinction between voluntary and mandatory, the discernment of which is at the heart of understand what rules Rodriguez has broken, if any. I don’t need Rosenberg’s editor to be fired, but a retraction and an apology would be nice. And your assumption that, by definition, newspaper reports are well-researched. unbiased, and true is as naive as the bloggers who, you claim, assume that every journalist is out to get their favorite program.

  4. qaton said:

    Nicole is clueless, obviously naive about how things are (personal vendettas et. al.), and needs to grow up.

    As a former photographer for a college newspaper, I saw the way the editors would seek to manipulate quotes into headlines, juxtaposed with pictures to do the most damage to their enemies, all while still being able to claim objectivity and innocence. I should state that I quit after less than two weeks due to just such behavior.

    I’m sure that the “masters” who make it to the big league newspapers excel at the same skills.

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