Some Words On Agenda And Bias

Submitted by Brian on September 8th, 2009 at 2:39 PM

jason-richardson-albom watermelon-cat

It was with some trepidation that I agreed to be on Mitch Albom's show last week during the jihad reaction*. But I figured, hey, what the hell, the worst thing that happens is some guy listening thinks I might be worth reading. So I go on, and express my point of view. Albom asks some pointed but fair questions, and I hang up. Fine. But the next 30 minutes or whatever are then dedicated to the proposition that I am just an example of Michigan fans "circling the wagons"; none of the points made are actually addressed. Instead I am dismissed as the Google Master from the MGoBlog… by Mitch Albom of the Free Press.

While the rest of the planet has moved past the idea of true objectivity, grizzled newspapermen still cling to the idea that a fact is a fact and the manner of its presentation and the context its surrounded with have no impact on how that fact is received. Albom asked me "do you think the writers of this piece have an agenda?" in a fashion that made it clear that this would be the journalistic equivalent of crossing the streams. Sure, they heard tell some guys down yonder tried it once but that's why there's this big smoking crater and everyone's kids have three heads.

chad-henne-smallish I responded "well, agenda is a loaded word" because the context I was in—hey there you go—but my immediate thought was of course they have an agenda. Albom might as well asked me if I thought the reporters were robots. (A man without an agenda @ right.) People who are not robots have agendas, motivations, desires, and so forth and so on. They want to be tall and have hair and people who read their writing who can actually remember what the writer identifies himself as. Or they want a shiny prize. Or they want to jump off a sinking ship.

The most obvious and universal agenda to want your work to be important. I'm always annoyed when I've got this cool theory that the stats don't bear out. I then have to actively remind myself to present the full story when I (usually) try to make my case anyway. Most recent example: rugby punting reduces long returns. There's a natural tendency to ignore or downplay things that detract from your argument, especially when you've put a ton of work into it. Everyone wants their work to be meaningful.

So no one gets away without having their motivation examined anymore. No one. Jim Carty just put up an interesting post about "faith-based reporting," which is the idea that increasingly the people in the room at press conferences are working for GBW or the Wolverine or this site and make little pretense about being generally in favor of Michigan winning football games. Unsurprisingly, I disagree with large swaths of it (around 50%) but no section more than this one:

The suggestion that Rosenberg shouldn't have worked on the piece is nothing less than bunk, as I've covered above. He's a terrific journalist - just recruited to contribute for SI.com, incidentally - and one of the most fair people I know. Nothing he's written in the past would be cause for him to be removed from this piece. The suggestion that the Freep somehow took advantage of the freshman because it didn't fully brief them on their full agenda is similarly silly.

That's gone, man. The days when people could be expected to take it on faith that the reporters in question were noble just-the-facts truth-seekers, ma'am, has been steadily evaporating for 30 years and boiling off since the people formerly known as the audience started firing back. I do not care what people who personally know the guy think. I automatically suspect bullcrap in all ways that fit into conventional narratives or wishful thinking too easily, whether it's LOL NC$$ hates SEMO or Andrew Maxwell casually outing MSU on the MSU official site. There is no way I'm exempting a columnist who's regularly deployed false assumptions in the pursuit of Rodriguez or a newspaper that headlined said columnist's ill-researched Justin Feagin column "Win at all costs poor formula for Rodriguez." Carty interprets the Deadspin post defending Rosenberg's objectivity as legitimate; I don't see how anyone who's followed the Free Press' inflammatory headlines and snotty opinion pieces can come to that conclusion. A preposterously long breakdown of said article is at the foot of this post. I've thrown it behind the jump because it's tedious.

My base assumption is that unnecessary lack of transparency is always in the service of concealing dishonesty. And there are plenty of instances of concealment or outright dishonesty in the article in question:

  • Misrepresenting quotes from two freshmen. Even leaving aside the questionable ethics of asking players questions about a piece you're planning without disclosing the unusual focus of the piece, the quotes from Hawthorne and Stokes are flat misrepresentations of what they said. At no point did they say any of the activities were "required," and in fact literally everything they list can and likely will fall under the NCAA definition of a noncountable hour. The problem with quoting the freshmen is not that they were not briefed on the agenda of the piece but that quotes were blatantly misrepresented.
  • Providing anonymity for flimsy reasons. I'd be surprised if a single current player is one of the anonymous sources providing damning quotes. It's certain that at least some of them come from departures. And there are no potential repercussions for a departed player outside of what happened to Toney Clemons at Colorado, who was told "don't do that again" and directed to release a statement that made him seem like less of a dip. That is not sufficient justification for anonymous quotes in a story that you think makes a case for major NCAA infractions.
  • Cloaking the distribution of current and former players. Even if you provide anonymity to the departed players, there's no reason to cite ten people interviewed for the story, drop the bombshell of "current and former," and not clarify whether or not the only current players in the story are the aforementioned duped freshmen. There is zero reason to not put "current" or "former" between the words "anonymous" and "player" after the anonymous player drops a damning quote.
  • Ignoring the extremely obvious context. As previously stated, "everyone does it" is not a moral defense (which, IME, is unnecessary) but it's certainly a technical one.

In a media environment where you are always (rightfully) under suspicion it's imperative to show how the piece came together, to forthrightly address reasonable criticism, and provide the primary-source data that you used to construct the story.

The Free Press did none of this. Worse than that, there are sections of the story that are clearly disingenuous. That kills your credibility. That goes double when you are on record as the sort of extreme Rodriguez skeptic that would trot out a host of weak sauce in a column that slams Rodriguez for doing literally the exact same thing John Beilein—who you've never said a discouraging word about—did when he broke his contract. It goes triple when you couldn't be bothered to do the simple legwork of calling Justin Feagin's high school coach or checking his juvenile record before launching a broadside at the sort of kids Rodriguez is bringing into the program. (And don't give me that "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" stuff. Couching your work in disclaimers doesn't change the thrust.)

There was a way to go about this in a fair manner: disclose the names of the transferred kids. Clarify where the damning quotes are coming from. Provide appropriate context (45 hours a week) for the allegations. Don't misrepresent quotes from kids you're about to hang out to dry.

I've heard a lot about how I'm a Michigan fan. I've heard a lot about how I identify myself as Brian. I haven't heard one word about the actual content of my criticisms. Eventually, it becomes clear the lack of response is because they simply don't have one. 

*(For the record: this isn't my jihad. The whole jihad bit is a reference to the first Jihad, which was way closer to an actual jihad. It was launched when an incredibly credulous West Virginia reporter announced that Rich Rodriguez had shredded every last document concerning West Virginia football.

I mean, really, which side here is a technologically deficient society bitter about its fading glory and hugely resistant to change? That's what I thought.)

**(Specifically here. I didn't want to do this but sometimes you just started writing a brief bit for UV and it expands to fill the universe:

Blogfight. Tommy Craggs responded to John Chait's response to Dashiell Bennett's response to Jon Chait's response to The Article In Question, and I guess this is my response to that. Woo internet. Quickly skipping to the snarky end:

I know plenty of people who say the very same things about Rodriguez. Sure, I guess you could say they're biased, too, but no one ever accuses them of secretly campaigning to undermine the program. That's because they're Michigan fans.

Those links go to diaries by BlueFront and the Barking Sphincter, both of whom got negbanged into oblivion and banned because everyone hated them. I have no idea how long it must have taken Craggs to dig up the bloated corpses he linked, how  many pages and pages of Michigan fans who generally support Rich Rodriguez it took before arriving at his destination. Probably a long time. I do know how long he spent checking the general reaction to these guys: zero seconds.

The content of the post is a bunch of Rosenberg copypasta that purports to show Rosenberg is a critical but fair evaluator of the situation. An assessment of that:

  • Articles before the infamous July 10 Vader hat column—all of which came before Rodriguez's first spring practice—shouldn't be part of the survey since there was a severe shift in Rosenberg's opinion after he caught a practice or two and got an earful o' swearing, leading to the "I find it sad that the University of Michigan is paying a man millions of dollars a year to humiliate some of its students" line that Craggs ignores. How can you ignore that without shooting your entire theory in the foot?
  • Article 1: declares that Michigan fans should cease deifying Rodriguez; marks first appearance of fancy rhetorical device: "I'm not saying Rodriguez should be dipped in butter and thrown into Notre Dame stadium, but now that I've established I'm reasonable let's do that." States "free pass ends when team takes the field," which is… um… insane, right?
  • Article 2: something on McGuffie after the Miami game. One paragraph is excerpted and no link is provided (not that it would matter since it's locked behind a paywall). It says nothing, really.
  • Article 3: Headlined "SYSTEM FAILURE: THE EARLY TAKE ON RODRIGUEZ: ATROCIOUS." This one doesn't need explaining, I don't think, but was taken apart anyway.
  • Article 4: About how Michigan's shift in offensive focus is helping Michigan State. True. Sort of negative and obvious.
  • Articles 5 and 6 take their highlights from the Fancy Rhetorical Device, and are repetitive notes about Michigan not being very good.
  • Article 7… later.
  • Articles 8, 9: boilerplate I don't remember. It's just typical sportswriter talk like "Michigan obviously won't go 3-9 but how not 3-9 will they go?" Reads like it was rattled off in 30 minutes without thought.
  • Article 10: The extremely well-researched and fair Feagin article.

On article 7: I missed this when it came out but it appears to be a direct response to this here blog. I try to be cautious about assuming someone is reading you or responding to you or plagiarizing from you when they've probably never heard of you—most ideas aren't so original that they cannot be replicated. But I think there's a case here. The extremely well-researched and fair Feagin article took a shot at "Rodriguez defenders" whose initial take to the cocaine FOIA was to assume Michigan hadn't run background checks as thoroughly as they should have because Rodriguez was scrambling to reassemble a Carr recruiting class and find someone, anyone to play quarterback. This site's initial take:

It's also one guy that Michigan apparently didn't run as thorough of a background check on—or possibly any background check on—as they scrambled to reconfigure Rodriguez's first recruiting class.

Article 7 is a response to "Rodriguez defenders" who noted that the "Get a life" quote was taken out of context, which this site did. Rosenberg thinks that lack of context lacks context:

Rodriguez's defenders say the comment was taken out of context. They are correct. It was taken out of two contexts.

First, of course, Rodriguez was definitely not telling all fans to "get a life." He was speaking to a small group of fans who go way over the line. Most of us agree that some fans are indeed rude, vulgar and hurtful.

But the second context is the question that Rodriguez was asked. I don't think many people have any idea what it was:

Q: What have you learned about yourself this year?

How do you go from that question to telling some fans to get a life?

This criticism, it will not surprise you to find out, lacks context itself. It gives the "full answer" as provided on this site but not the full answer as provided by Rich Rodriguez:

Q. What have you learned about yourself as a coach and as a person?
COACH RODRIGUEZ: I've learned. I think you've got to keep learning. There's probably a lot of fans that think I'm dumber than I was a year ago or two years ago, back when we were winning games. I'd like to think I'm smarter. We showed up on Saturdays. I think you've got to learn a little about personality, about your place. I've learned more about this place. I learned a whole lot more about our team which I think is important your team, your staff.

You know, obviously you've got to learn to have thick skin. But I learned that a long time ago with coaches. The last ten months, even before I started the season we've learned the effect it can have on your family, and the things that you've got deal with as a coach.
This is a public position. It's not like a politician, I'm not running for office. I mean, God bless them. They choose to have that public scrutiny. As coaches, we know it's part of the job, but we don't choose to have it. Most of us would rather not.

It's at this point Rodriguez starts into his disappointment at some of the stuff he's heard or read. He says "to make it personal to a coach or player" isn't right, emphasizes the players are amateurs, and makes it clear he's talking about personal comments not related to coaching or playing.

This is all about perspective, right? From my perspective, that's a guy who's talked extemporaneously (read: rambled) for a bit and found himself naturally drawn to something that's bothering him—attacks on his players and coaches—and attempts to defend them. This is not a character flaw to me. To Rosenberg it is, which is the entire point. He casts the world into "Rodriguez defenders" and… well, himself. He willfully interprets ambiguous things as negative. He won't let even the most off-base Rodriguez criticism go, instead hoarding non-events like team captaincy changes and kerfuffles over the #1 jersey like they're precious gold.

And he was put in charge of a major investigative piece that seems slanted to the point where national ESPN folk are calling it a "joke" and a "witch hunt." Chris Spielman(!!!) did the same on local Columbus red-meat Buckeye radio. So, yeah… very convincing there, Craggs. )

Comments

ChilhowieBlue

September 8th, 2009 at 2:52 PM ^

Stick it to the man! And, for the record, if SI hired this turd as a contributor, I not only will quit reading SI and SI.com, I will immediately cancel all fantasy leagues and anything else having to do with SI.

Anyone who would hire this hack from the FreeP gets no respect from me.

Keep fighting the good fight Brian, and as always, Go Blue!

EZMIKEP

September 8th, 2009 at 2:53 PM ^

Not a thing left untouched. Also I remember running into this WV fan at a bar last February and he said that RR was absolute trash. When he realized he wasn't getting a negative reaction so we could argue, he switched into lets be friends mode and told me we were lucky and that JB was a "great" & "classy coach" and we were lucky. I asked him what the difference was in his opinion and I got one of those just cuz answers.

nicknick

September 8th, 2009 at 3:01 PM ^

The longer that this goes on (where "this" is the freep's avoidance of answering valid criticism to its story), the more that I doubt the critical thinking skills of its journalists and editors.

And that's important, because critical thinking is an essential part of intelligence, and if they're not intelligent then there's no reason for me to pay any attention at all to the words that they produce.

I'm a former freep subscriber. Since they dropped daily delivery, I read it online daily up until the second jihad. I don't anymore, though, and I stopped for the same reason that I stopped reading the a2 news.

It's not that I disagree with their opinions -- it's that I disagree with their journalism. If the freep wants to stand by their story, then I'm done with them, because its illogical, and I've got far better things to do with my time then listen to their nonsensical defenses, like watch youtube clips of former Michigan teams wail on the domers.

Don

September 8th, 2009 at 3:49 PM ^

It takes a lot of brainpower to peruse the menu at the nearest watering hole during lunch. Reuben or tuna melt? Coke or Pepsi? Soup or salad? Decisions, decisions, decisions. After all that intellectual effort, you can't really expect those poor exhausted souls to really interview people on the record, do you?

Engin77

September 8th, 2009 at 3:01 PM ^

because you didn't spend your first four years after college sharpening their pencils and covering div II non-revenue sports.

You mastered the technologies they call IT to complain about

You are self-motivated and inventive ( UFR-rah! )

Your success is not measured with bylines and column-inches, but by hits and page views and other terms they have to call IT to define.

You're a 21st century man, and they resent you for it.

We *love* you for it.

Mattinboots

September 8th, 2009 at 3:15 PM ^

You also did something none of them have had to do - start from scratch.

They all followed a time honored and consistent pay-your-dues-and-you-will-eventually-be-rewarded system.

There was no guarantee you'd succeed no matter how hard you worked. But because you found success in a niche, you surpassed their accomplishments in a much shorter time.

Plenty of reason to be jealous of what you've accomplished.

TSWC

September 8th, 2009 at 3:14 PM ^

You're awesome, Brian.

I think I'll head over to Amazon and give everything written by Albom 1 star, just because I'm "an example of Michigan fans 'circling the wagons.'"

Niels

September 8th, 2009 at 3:15 PM ^

Maybe you meant to highlight this in Carty's comment, Brian, but one thing I havne't seen mentioned much is that for someone working for a dying industry (and looking for a way out, repsumably), what better way to get notices by "the show" (ESPN, CNNSI, etc) than to create a big splash? As much as MR apparently doesn't like RichRod, the drive to leave a sinking ship that is the Freep is (to me) as much if not more of a motivation to be sneaky.

colin

September 8th, 2009 at 4:25 PM ^

is anywhere near correct wrt its criticisms of journalism, then this particular angle deserves more light. The prize-orientation of non-sports journalists should find its analog in parlaying national attention into a national gig. ESPN and SI are to sports journalism as the WaPo and NYT are to journalism as a whole. If this is the business model, then we'd expect the quality of the national enterprises to sink in accordance with the talent they attract. Seems true enough to me.

ShockFX

September 8th, 2009 at 3:15 PM ^

Reading the Free Press sports section for intelligent, knowledgeable content about sports is like looking for true love in Craigslist Casual Encounters. It's only the same to depraved middle-aged people that just learned what the internet is.

goblueclassof03

September 8th, 2009 at 3:23 PM ^

means a personal struggle for the sake of God. A large number of people who partake in Jihad are not technologically deficient, are not bitter about any fading glory, and are not resistant to change. Some extremists (OBL) misrepresent that religion and the concept of Jihad.

jamiemac

September 8th, 2009 at 3:23 PM ^

So what do you do for your real job?

That might have been the funniest part of the whole interview when he asked you that.

It would have been funny had Mitch proved once again just how out of touch he is.

Wolverine 98284

September 8th, 2009 at 3:26 PM ^

I think a better answer to the agenda question would have been, "Of course, to sell newspapers!"

The editor allowed the piece, probably with the publisher's knowledge. I wonder about the fallout. It appears the gamble may not have paid off as evidenced by Rosenburg's apparent banishment to East Lansing sports. I wonder if and by how much sales dropped?

There was a time when major cities had two papers, politics creating the divide with one conservative and one liberal. With Detroit nearly homogenous politically, will the Detroit papers divide themselves into one pro UM and the other pro MSU?

Interesting times.

ScoobyBlue

September 8th, 2009 at 3:55 PM ^

They will never respond to your factual critisms, because at this point, they are only interested in winning the battle of perception...and the facts will only hurt their cause.

CincyBlue

September 8th, 2009 at 3:29 PM ^

Albom used to be the best sports writer in the country.
He now focuses on being a ficton author

When was the last time he wrote a sports article? (sorry a good one)

He looked like a fool on the HBO special with the Deadspin guy.

He is part of a dying industry that is on life support.

The only reason the Freep ran that article was to sell a few more papers and delay death.

It's pretty obvious that Rosenberg has an agenda since he is now covering MSU. I wonder why?

Rosenberg and Synder clearly didn't do enough research on the topic. They are like parents of the kids that can't catch,throw, or field and complain to the little league coach that their son didn't play second base when all kids have to play one inning in the infield.

This story is dead.

Michigan is 1-0 and has ND this week.

jblaze

September 8th, 2009 at 3:30 PM ^

example of why newspapers are dying. AA News is another.

On a similar note, I was at a local grocery store who mentioned they were not stocking any non-local papers because their customers can usually read the content for free on the internet, and it is expensive to stock unsold papers. This is just more revenue lost from papers.

bronxblue

September 8th, 2009 at 4:44 PM ^

I read Carty's article, and I think 50% might be a bit generous. I understand his desire to support journalism and its place in society, but he also paints in broad strokes the "backlash" to the Freep article as some witch hunt by a bunch of disgruntled UM fanbois. He rails against writers and radio hosts who "all put exponentially more effort into debunking the piece rather than examining whether all or part of it might be correct," but fails to recognize that debunking the falsehoods of a piece necessarily require one to determine what portions, if any, are true.

Listen, I think the Ann Arbor report about academic standards with respect to athletes was at least interesting in the sense that it highlighted a reality most people already knew - athletes at top-ranked schools receive different treatment than the rest of the student body (not necessarily good or bad, but just different), and to think otherwise is foolish. I'm not saying I agree with the hackneyed delivery, but at least there was a point and it was treated with some objectivity.

The Freep piece was clearly a hack job from its inception; misleading questions were used, false characterizations were made, an agenda was adopted before the facts appeared, and the end result was a piece that deserves the pilloring that it received. I agree with Carty that UM fans shouldn't have turned this into a Rosenberg-based campaign (the negging of his book was stupid but expected), but quite a bit of ink was spilled in support of Rosenberg immediately after the piece was released. Only later on, once the context and content issues were exposed, did the world turn on Rosenberg et al.

Carty writes as if Rosenberg was trying to expose some massive cover-up at UM, some widespread institutional abuse that would make Alabama, UNLV, or SMU cringe. But unfortunately for Rosenberg and the Freep, UM isn't like the schools portrayed in Blue Chips or The Program - it is a top-notch institution with a healthy compliance department ever-vigilant since the Fab Five debacle. At worst, RR might have exceed the allocated 20 hours by 1 or 2 on a random week, an offense worthy of a reprimand but not the systemic, death-penalty-worthy sweatshop the article purported to expose.

I honestly like Rosenberg, at least as far as Detroit-area columnists go. He's a smart guy, and his takes tend to be more interesting than Sharp's and others in that vein. If Rosenberg has an issue with RR, that's fine; it is foolish to believe that writers wouldn't have favorites and/or "frenemies." At the same time, though, if journalists truly have a duty to the people (per Carty's sentiment) to expose the truth, then it is also their duty to make sure these pure facts are not sullied by personal grudges and agendas.

EDIT: And by the way, Carty drives me crazy when he does this (I've read enough posts to notice a trend): He will argue something is black-and-white - in this case, the fact that many people arguing against the Freep piece are fans of UM football and, thus, biased - but then counter-argue that some of the egregious mistakes made by the Freep, such as the lack of supporting quotes from current players, more details about the hours breakdowns, etc, as minor flaws and occupy a gray area that precludes them from showing bias. You can't have it both ways - either admit that humans can have personal connections to stories on BOTH ends, or hold everyone to a single, objective standard.

formerlyanonymous

September 8th, 2009 at 5:11 PM ^

Yeah, ~50% might be generous, and my use of the word "agree" wasn't the best of choices either. It's an interesting perspective Carty poses here. I have to agree that if this investigation shows any minor violations, it is a victory for both sides, including the freep. I thought Carty did a decent job of defending Rosenberg while still pointing out a couple of key flaws in the original piece.

More importantly, and the reason I thought it was worth the read, I think he's right when it comes to fans desiring only sugarcoat reporting. When I posted this comment earlier, I was around -3 on the mgopoints because a few people don't read, nor do they want to even think about the idea of bad things written about their team or people (Brian/Chait) who defend their team. Those people come on here and take Brian's opinions as gospel. They think Chait's mgoblog op-ed is 100% correct just because it defends their viewpoint. That doesn't make it right, but it happens here - a lot.

This is by no means a blanket statement about all the fans here, but there is definitely a group of them who are taking this jihad thing much further than it needs to go.

bronxblue

September 8th, 2009 at 8:06 PM ^

I agree with Carty's take that a subsection of fans only expect sugar-coated reports on their teams, but that is true for virtually every facet of life. There are some people who simply do not want to hear/read anything negative about a cherished institution or ingrained dogma, and for those people articles like the Freep's and the Ann Arbor News' will strike a negative chord. But as we saw with the Fab Five era, rational fans are willing to accept the truth if it is presented with appropriate facts and transparent research. As an alumni, it hurt to see UM's name dragged through the mud with respect to the basketball team, but I accepted it because it was the truth and, if there was an agenda, it was pretty muted. By comparison, these articles tried to create mountains out of mole hills, and their tone had the feeling of calculated muckraking instead of true journalism.

tecknogyk

September 9th, 2009 at 4:39 AM ^

I fail to see how it's being taken too far. The article in question is a joke. The author didn't research countable and non-countable hours. He had a conclusion and set out to prove the conclusion. It's like a religious zealot that only seeks out evidence that supports his worldview. It's ludicrous and needs to be scorned and ridiculed. If anything, this article and the author that wrote it needs to be ridiculed more by the national media instead of being supported by them.

Wolverine318

September 8th, 2009 at 3:40 PM ^

What angers me the most about the stituation invovling Rosenberg, is that if I published my research in an academic journal with disingenuous and half-assed research, I would be out on my ass after my university would be forced to publish a retraction. This is assuming the piece makes it through peer review. I would love to see the private journalism market held the same standards as those of us in academia. Anonymous peer review alone would solve the majority of issues with agenda based journalism.

I guess this situation is an example, those of us in the public with ability of free thought and to dissect arguments are starting to equate newspapers with the National Enquirer.

misrara

September 8th, 2009 at 3:41 PM ^

I listened to the podcast on WJR. It was a total setup. Albom was being a pompous prick as he usually is (which is why he's on the air) and you were good to not take the bait. He clearly had 2 agendas as I listened to him when he was talking to you:

1. Newspapers are better than silly old blogs

2. People who write for newspapers can do no wrong

I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. Hey at least you get press for your blog.

notYOURmom

September 8th, 2009 at 7:36 PM ^

In football as in politics(and whatall) all non-robot debaters have an agenda, have a conclusion they HOPE to be true. The thing that distinguishes the swift from the braindead is the ability to back up the conclusions with real arguments and analysis.

If you can, you are Superman. Even if people wish you ill, you can defend your position with your xray mind and the near-mystical powers of LOGIC. Even against jihad, or Lex Luthor.

I'm totally sick and tired of people saying "well he has an agenda" as though that settled the matter. You have to have an agenda AND A VALID ARGUMENT to win. If Richrod has played by the rules, he can withstand the world's most scrupulous and authoritative investigation.

I'm also totally sick and tired of so-called "legimitate journalists" using a sort of ad-hominem argument "if it's some web guy how legit could it be" instead of actually breaking addressing the points. A grown man like Albom should know better, and if he were in my class, I'd prove that even a middle-aged lady could take him out at the knees (metaphorically speaking).*

*Take him out at the knees is the metaphor. Middle-aged lady, unfortunately, is not.

The FannMan

September 8th, 2009 at 3:46 PM ^

Brian - I think you are giving Mitch too much priase by reponding to him here.

Mitch Albom hasn't been a journalist for the last, what, 15-20 years. He does Weekends with Maurie and human interest fluff peices which sometmes talk about sports. I didn't know he still had a show.

Also, consider his record. I actually have a copy of his 1993 epic "Fab Five" He did 350 plus pages on the team. Now, its been, well, 16 years since I read it. But I recall that Albom made it seem like he was there with the guys and lived the experience. He never once mentioned Ed Martin and the rest. Either he wasn't really there, wasn't paying attention, or ignored what he saw so as not to spoil his story. A decade or so latter, we find out he is reporting on games he doesn't cover.

You are letting this guy's tactics surprise you? Come on, you are better than that man.

Dave

September 8th, 2009 at 4:35 PM ^

And I'll pile on the Carty post by pointing out his repeated refrain:

"Aside from Brian Cook's fair and accurate criticism that the paper did a bad job of differentiating between activities that count toward the NCAA's 20-hour limit and those that don't"

and

"First, Brian Cook is right, the story would have benefited from greater detail about what sort of activities count toward the NCAA's 20 hour limit and what kind don't."

Carty is so, so very wrong. The problem isn't that the Freep "did a bad job of differentiating" or needed "greater detail" -- it's that they didn't do -any- of that. It's clear that they -never- did an in-depth analysis of the rules on which they were reporting. The great irony is that if that had bothered to interview a single coach about their supposedly unbiased story, they would have learned about it immediately.

Also, bit of a minor point, Carty fails when he complains about users starting up threads at The Wolverine dedicating to negbanging Rosenberg's book, and criticizes Chait's postings there...but then totally fails to note that Chait's subsequent post specifically told people to knock off that practice. Ridiculous.

Finally, he makes the claim that "[i]f Michigan has to admit to any rules violations, the Free Press piece will essentially be vindicated[.]" If you can't figure out why newspapers are dying read that one more time. Carty is claiming that the report's value is not based on the total accuracy of the facts it asserts, and instead is determined by the result it achieves. Good to know, friend. Say, how vindicated is that Academics / Athletics series?

In sum, the only "faith-based" reporting I'm seeing these days is by agenda-driven jerks who still deeply believe that no one can see through their tired, tired schtick.

Ralph

September 8th, 2009 at 7:48 PM ^

Carty somehow wants to be the naysayer the agent provocateur. He delights in taking the opposite side which might have worked in the old days but does not work now. I love Michigan and want to hear positive things about Michigan. Thats how fans work. We seek out sites that say positive things about our team and our school. In the old days we had to read Drew Sharp-not anymore. We can get Michigan sports from a Michigan's fan perspective not from some guy from New Jersey. I don't want negative and I don't want negative that is especially completely off base like the Rosenberg piece. It is good that Carty got out of journalism because the financial side of it, the way to get fans to read you, has passed him by.

BleedingBlue

September 8th, 2009 at 4:06 PM ^

I would bet some heads a-sploded after Rosenberg, Snyder, Carty and Albom finished processing this sentence:

"My base assumption is that unnecessary lack of transparency is always in the service of concealing dishonesty."

Or, on second thought, I would bet they just skipped over it because their leetle brains couldn't wrap a penetrating thought blanket around it. Apparently that's what happens to all arguments that are not 'right' (read 'theirs'), or what happens to information that is 'wrong' (read 'doesn't support thesis').

Isn't that what we are really talking about here? Supposed 'journalists' are creating flimsy, flimsy arguments built on horrible theses instead of reporting facts.

2Blue4You

September 8th, 2009 at 3:49 PM ^

First of all great Post!! Second, anyone would expect the Michigan faithful to question and defend their school if their is any gray area to dispute. What is sad is all of those who are not the Michigan faithful will take it all at face value and form their opinions relying on newspapers that may not have done their full research. It is stupid for any of the reporters to not expect a backlash from Michigan fans/media/players as any other school would defend themselves if such allegations were brought against them. In striving for journalistic integrity they should try to understand the points brought up by the Michigan faithful to try to maintain objectivity.

I thought it was good in the broadcast of the game Craig James came out and said that it was a witch hunt, no doubt in his mind. It was good to hear the announcers have our back and it didn't seem like it was brought up too much.

DHerrick

September 8th, 2009 at 4:01 PM ^

I cannot believe anybody took it seriously. People who know about college football (e.g., the coaches) certainly didn't. Note how the commentary during the Western game was entirely favorable.

As Brian as observed, "mandatory" within the meaning of the rule essentially means "can lose your scholarship if you do not attend." I.e., it does not mean "will never see the field if you do not attend." This distinction is HUGE. Asking a kid how much mandatory time he spends on football without first explaining the distinction is prima facie evidence of either an agenda or incompetence.

The headline of the article, implying that the players understood the rules and concluded, based upon their first hand knowledge of what happened, that rules were broken is completely misleading. The headline should have read "Michigan broke rules, reporter concludes."

We have the last laugh -- these allegations will go nowhere and a year from now everybody at the Freep will be that much closer to unemployment. F--k them.