BONUS Dead Horse Beatin' during Dead Horse Beatin' Week on MGoBlog! A promise: this is the very last thing written about the Free Press in this space.
On the Day of Slight Reckoning I mentioned that the epic seven-page Free Press article addressing it failed to even mention the U's assertion that the initial reports were "greatly exaggerated if not flatly incorrect." I should point out that Rosenberg's follow up article which, like all of these articles, quotes some guy named Michael Buckner—the News, Free Press, and AA.com have all quoted this guy in the last couple days in multiple articles for each—touches briefly on the University's pointed shot:
"When the media reports painted a picture of serious student-athlete abuse, the university immediately investigated these claims, as its primary concern has always been the welfare of its student athletes. ... The university is satisfied that the initial media reports were greatly exaggerated if not flatly incorrect."
Numerous former players, current players and parents of players told the Free Press that the football team violated NCAA rules that govern practice and workout sessions during the season and off-season. The players also described quality-control staff members handling voluntary seven-on-seven scrimmages.
In any event, the infractions committee is unlikely to spend much, if any, time on media reports.
Obviously, this is a response that completely fails to address the criticism leveled by the university: the picture painted by the initial article made it seem like Rodriguez was an uncaring task-master violating NCAA regs willy-nilly in a demonstration of his will to power. It then dismisses the importance of "media reports" to the committee. As defenses go it's… well, it meets the exacting standards of the Free Press. Jon Chait demolished the original piece (again) a couple days ago and I'll just quote him:
The paper reported that "the Wolverines were expected to spend two to three times more than the eight hours allowed for required workouts each week." It further alleged, "Players spent at least nine hours on football activities on Sundays after games last fall. NCAA rules mandate a daily 4-hour limit." And it further portrayed this alleged epidemic of rule-flouting as the product of Rich Rodriguez's obsession with conditioning, and the near-mania of his prized assistant Mike Barwis - a natural conclusion from the article's anonymous sourcing from players and parents of players disgruntled with the new coaching regime. The Free Press article breaking the allegations is entitled, "A look inside Rodriguez's rigorous program."
Chait has also addressed the infuriating Free Press editorial, for which I thank him because now I can just close it and not write and delete several paragraphs with a curse density immense enough to make a Scotsman blush.
If you want a truly comprehensive breakdown of all the ways in which the article was sensationalized, this site will wear out even the most dedicated torch-bearer. The best high-level view from me is probably the Words on Agenda And Bias in the aftermath of the Great Albom What-Is-Your-Job Debacle. If you're looking for something shorter and in a very narrow column, that guy who still reads the Free Press because he wonders "how was Rosenberg supposed to determine what was true and what was not?"—guh—received a number of responses, the best from Section 1 and M-stache, in a thread that oscillated from dismissive flaming to patient explanation from better men than I.
After all of it poor neg-bombed MgoMatt, the poster of that thread, returned to edit his original post like so:
EDIT: Based on the responses below, I suppose my standards for responsible journalism are pretty low. I blame 24 hour cable news.
True. But Matt's standards are also the exact same ones Rosenberg and the rest of the Free Press hold themselves to. Note the defense above: "players told us this." How were they to know different? People said things, the Free Press reported them. Asking for anything else is madness, and anyone questioning the framing of the story… well, we're objective. We just happen to find it "sad" that Rich Rodriguez is Michigan's coach, you know, objective-like.
ESPN's dealt with a number of screwed up recent stories featuring anonymous sourcing, leading to an apropos column from ESPN ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer:
In theory, anonymous sources are a last resort. Reporters are challenged to get people to speak on the record, but sometimes that's just not possible. If the source remains unnamed, it must be a trade-off for candor and quality of information. Of course, there are times when information a source ardently believes to be true … turns out to be false. That's why independent corroboration by a reporter is key. Bad sourcing or lax oversight can result in the equivalent of a journalistic drive-by shooting, aided and abetted by information cloaked in a shroud of anonymity.
Check, check, check, straight outta Compton. So it goes.