Writing a Report on Freep Sports Bias

Writing a Report on Freep Sports Bias

Submitted by Seth9 on February 13th, 2010 at 8:58 PM
I am currently in the early stages of writing a report that will speak to whether or not the Detroit Free Press has demonstrated a clear double standard with regards to Michigan and Michigan State and whether the Detroit Free Press has a bias towards Michigan State (or against Michigan) in its reporting. My first intention is to send questions regarding a perceived bias on the part of the Free Press sports department to every editor on the Free Press staff, as well as every reporter there who has written any articles concerning collegiate athletics. I will also ask various MSU fans in the blogosphere of their opinion on such a possibility. As such, I have prepared a preliminary list of Freep reports that appear to demonstrate an anti-Michigan bias on the part of the Free Press. I am aware that this list is somewhat derivative of topics that have been heavily discussed on this blog. However, my goal is to develop a comprehensive list of incidents suggesting journalistic bias, which requires that a comprehensive list of incidents of potential bias be formed. As this list is probably flawed and incomplete, I would be grateful for any comments regarding the list of topics, as well as suggestions for additional points that I could add to the list.

List of Instances Suggesting a Potential Journalistic Bias by The Detroit Free Press Sports Department

·  Concerns Regarding the Free Press investigation on alleged practice violations by Michigan:

o Rosenberg and Snyder do not, at any point in their investigation, explain what they mean when they term the Michigan practices “mandatory”. They claim that Rodriguez and the coaching staff called extra-hour practices voluntary but these were actually required, without specifying what the consequences of missing these practices were. For instance, it could well be the case that players who did not attend voluntary practices were denied playing time. However, that would not be a violation, because the coaches could correctly argue that they award players who put in extra work playing time. It would be a violation to threaten to kick a player off the team for failing to show up at these practices. The only consequence specified for failing to show up at voluntary practices was extra work at practice, according to the report, which makes sense when you consider that they would need to work harder if they were going to catch up to their teammates in terms of physique and skill level in order to play. As none of the consequences specified for failing to show up for voluntary practices broke NCAA rules, I fail to see how Rosenberg and Snyder can legitimately call these practices mandatory in the context of violating NCAA rules.

o The report failed to specify that any strength and conditioning sessions outside of practice hours can be considered voluntary, so long as missing the sessions do not jeopardize a player’s status as a member of the team. The same goes for 7-on-7 scrimmages and various other activities.

o The only alleged violation in the report that is specifically defined is the presence of quality-control staffers at 7-on-7 practices. None of the other specified practice violations are explained in a matter such as being irrefutably in opposition to existing NCAA practice rules.

o There is no reason given for allowing the former members of the Michigan football team to remain anonymous, especially when former team member Toney Clemons came forward publically with accusations. As the Michigan coaching staff lacks the ability to sanction former players, there is no reason to allow former players to function as anonymous sources.

o The distribution of current and former players is never specified. Also unspecified is whether any of the named interviewed players (including Stokes and Hawthorne) counted to the total number of 10 current and former players. Furthermore, the number of current players who are anonymous sources is never specified.

o On September 5, the Free Press released an article acknowledging that a 2006 survey showed that high level collegiate football players spend an average of 44.8 hours on football. Furthermore, it was noted in that article that there was big question surrounding whether hours beyond the 20-hour limit were considered mandatory or voluntary. The Free Press willfully ignored this in its initial coverage, waiting a week to release this story. Doing so was an unethical method of attempting to increase the ‘importance’ of the original story.

o The article entitled “MSU plays by the rules, says ex-players” should never have been published. It is impossible to compare a few interviews with ex-MSU players with an investigation that took months to complete. Including that article alongside the Michigan Practice investigation is highly unethical.

o The coverage of the online reaction to the Free Press investigation from the Michigan blogosphere amounted to little more than an ad hominem attack. Rather than address the validity of any points about the investigation made by the Michigan blogosphere, the Free Press published an article that was designed to make the entire forum of the complaints look ridiculous. For instance, it noted that the coverage from mgoblog regarding the investigation was entitled Jihad the Second, without explaining the satirical intent. Furthermore, it noted that a petition urging a boycott of the Free Press appeared in the same forum as petitions made about saving television shows. In doing so, the Free Press acknowledged that there is a sizable segment of Michigan fans who disbelieve their report without actually naming a single reason they have for doing so, something that is ethically dubious if the Free Press truly desires to make a balanced report about the online reaction to their investigation.

·  Concerns regarding the Free Press Coverage on Demar Dorsey

o The coverage of Demar Dorsey has failed to acknowledge the fact that recruiting players with his history in college football is commonplace.

o The coverage of Demar Dorsey has failed to acknowledge that Michigan State has taken players with similar histories (exp. Roderick Jenrette) onto their team. Furthermore, the Free Press has failed to report on any Michigan State recruits with similar criminal backgrounds in the past.

o I question the logic of the lack of any major coverage surrounding Glenn Winston’s return to the team after being released from prison and Demar Dorsey’s signing. It suggests that the Free Press considers that Mark Dantonio’s policy of giving second chances for violent offenses committed as adults is not overly objectionable, but Rich Rodriguez’s policy of giving second chances for non-violent offenses committed as minors is overly objectionable. This speaks to a double standard when comparing Michigan and Michigan State.

·  Examples of a Double Standard Regarding Michigan and Michigan State Employed by the Free Press

o The Free Press Practice Investigation Page includes 57 individual stories, most written over the course of the first couple weeks. The Free Press page on the Spartan altercation at Rather Hall includes 13 stories.

§ This is an issue because it shows that the Free Press considers a potential NCAA violation regarding Michigan practicing too much as more important than a large number of Michigan State football players being prosecuted for acts of violence.

§ It should be noted that certain stories concerning the Rather Hall altercation are omitted from the Rather Hall Coverage Page, such as an interview with Mark Dell Sr., an article that heavily features the father of Mark Dell Jr., one of the players charged with assault and battery. In the article, Dell Sr. claims that his son was innocent further claims that only a few of the charged players actually committed acts of violence. Later, Dell Jr. pled guilty to a count of misdemeanor assault and battery. The article can be found and purchased in the Free Press archive. At the time the article was released, no coverage was given regarding any statements made by any of the victims of the assaults.

o Feagin and Winston

§ When Justin Feagin was kicked off the Michigan football team for his involvement in a rather unclear situation involving an aborted cocaine deal that turned violent, the Free Press released an opinion article, written by Michael Rosenberg, one of the authors of the Free Press investigation into Michigan’s practice hours, stating that the Feagin incident was indicative of a lack of standards by the Michigan football team.

§ When Glenn Winston was released from prison and rejoined the Michigan State football team on the same day, the only mention of the occurrence by the Free Press was a brief article stating that Winston had rejoined the team.