Thursday, February 14, 2013

The One-Question Story Waiting to be Told

Doug Brown - a grad student at Kent State and a former student in my computer-assisted reporting class - has done some excellent reporting for Deadspin.   His report on the track coach at the University of Toledo  details a man who appears to have spent a career sexually harassing his female athletes.

A comparison between Doug's report and that in the Toledo Blade is a worthwhile editorial exercise.   Doug reports in detail on Coach Kevin Hadsell.   The Blade either hadn't done nearly as much reporting and therefore didn't have as much material or it intentionally minimized the behavior of a coach no responsible program would want anywhere near a woman's team or behind the wheel with a load of student athletes.

But there's one direct question that needs to be answered by the University of Toledo.   What steps is it taking to encourage other victims to come forward (and will some of those victims say they reported problems to university officials who did nothing)?   Whatever the answer, it's a story.

I'm sure Doug will be asking the question.   What about the Blade?  

One reason we see so many scandals in college athletics is because the press fails to do its job.   Too often, the local press doesn't report; it plays cheerleader.   When it comes to college athletics, in many newsrooms reporters don't even control their own story.  As sports commentator Bruce Hooley explains, the team decides.

Actual reporters, reporters like Doug Brown, don't play that game.   Reporters like Doug Brown follow the information and ask the questions that need to be asked.     With all the problems in college athletics, it's time local sports reporters put down their pom poms and pick up their pens.


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