Misinformation spreads easily in the information age

By Gary Thorne, Special to the News
Posted Nov. 19, 2010, at 8:38 p.m.

The work of sports journalism is not getting any easier.

As I watch Georgia and Auburn play football last weekend amid the ongoing issue of whether Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and/or his family improperly requested/received money for his going to Auburn, the many blockades to a legitimate reporter seeking the truth swirled around the game.

Recognize that PR departments in sports, at every level, are not created to conduct investigative reporting. While they may not lie — that’s MAY not — they certainly will spin any negative story about their program or one of their athletes.

We continue to see athletes made “unavailable” by college teams when there is a negative issue around them. Newton was not available to talk with the press after the game Saturday and his coach, Gene Chizik, had already labeled the money issues surrounding his quarterback as “pure garbage.”

Chizik was quoted in the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger Enquirer as mocking the whole matter, saying of the allegations, “Is there a wizard behind the curtain? I don’t know and I don’t care. But what I do care about is coming to the defense of not only a great football player, but a great human being who comes from a great family.”

Really? Newton’s father is the one who allegedly sought money in return for his son attending Auburn. That father is a preacher whose church in Georgia was reported by the St. Augustine Times to look like it had not been used in months.

Newton himself is reported to have faced expulsion from the University of Florida in 2008, his freshman year there, for three instances of academic cheating.

Newton transferred to Blinn College, saying he did so for personal reasons not related to any misconduct, but he has recently refused to address the cheating issues as part of the questions surrounding his ending up at Auburn.

Any reporter attempting to find answers also confronts the endless Twitters, blogs and Facebook entries screaming out with “who cares what Newton did as long as he can score touchdowns.”

We live in a time where fanatics who have too much time on their hands now have a way to reach the world with their own irresponsible rants. For some reason, we give these people the time of day.

Real journalists have to contend with these crazies because other media outlets cite these rants. We seem to like the drama more than the truth.

Additionally, we have seen pro athletes in particular turn to their own spinning machines, namely, their own blogs, Tweets and Facebook entries. There are no tough questions when you get to write both the question and the answer.

What all of this means is the reader who actually cares about reading the truth needs to be a critical reader more than ever.

Objective reporting is not about crucifying anyone, although where needed, let it be printed or aired. Such reporting is about the endless search for what actually happened.

Unfortunately, one of the results of 24/7 news — sports news included — being instantly available on your phone or computer is the minimization of everything. We have unlimited resources and limited time.

Objective reporting takes time to complete and the results take time to read. There are fewer places for that reporting to be printed or aired and where are the readers who demand it?

We seem to be choosing the quick entertainment version of “reporting” over the real deal: The media because it costs less and the public because we don’t seem to care.

If that is true, there will be more Tweets, Facebook entries, blogs and spin for the purpose of obfuscation. When the bad guys win, we all lose.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/11/19/sports/misinformation-spreads-easily-in-the-information-age/ printed on September 19, 2014