Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yahoo Sports Unleashes a Tsunami on the Hurricanes

The Once-Mighty Miami Herald Scrapes an Omelette Off Its Masthead Playing Catch-Up

Check out this big-time, kick-ass story from Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports about a college football booster gone rogue.
In this case, it was a convicted Ponzi schemer named Nevin Shapiro, who over eight years lavished dozens of University of Miami football and basketball players with gifts, entertainment, rides on his yacht, and a healthy supply of hookers. Not surprisingly, all of this is a no-no under NCAA rules.
Seems that Shapiro got all cheesed up over the fact that a lot of his "friends" suddenly lost the ability to return a call after he got in trouble with the law, and decided to spill the beans to Robinson, after abandoning the idea of a tell-all book.
Robinson spent 11 months reporting the story, including 100 hours of jailhouse interviews with Shapiro. In addition:

"In an effort to substantiate the booster’s claims, Yahoo! Sports audited approximately 20,000 pages of financial and business records from his bankruptcy case, more than 5,000 pages of cell phone records, multiple interview summaries tied to his federal Ponzi case, and more than 1,000 photos. Nearly 100 interviews were also conducted with individuals living in six different states. In the process, documents, photos and 21 human sources – including nine former Miami players or recruits, and one former coach – corroborated multiple parts of Shapiro’s rule-breaking."

Kudos. The sweat equity paid off in dividends. It's a great read.

As for the Miami Herald, well, you can only imagine the cursing emanating from the sports department. So, the main story today gives credit where credit is due and basically gets reaction to a story that cleaned the Herald's clock. Columnist Greg Cote also weighed in pondering the tenuous future of the high-profile football program in Coral Gables.
The Herald can play catch-up. But the damage has been done. Robinson has left town.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Revisionist Journalism--20 Years Too Late

Ari Goldman's Mea Culpa for Times'--and His--Crown Heights Riot Coverage

During the time he spent as a religion reporter at The New York Times, I rarely found fault with the work of Ari Goldman. He knew his beat, especially on Jewish matters, and made the most of the space he was given, usually in the Saturday editions.
In the latest Jewish Week, Goldman recounts what it was like covering the Crown Heights riots 20 years ago, precipitated by a black youth fatally struck by a car, which led to an Australian yeshiva student being stabbed to death.
It was an ugly episode in New York City, which spilled over into how it was covered by the local papers. Goldman writes about how he was among those who covered the riots, but was dismayed to find his dispatches ignored or rewritten. Goldman said much of the violence was driven by anti-Semitism. Yet, he says, the Times' initial coverage portrayed it as a full-on race riot.

I was outraged but I held my tongue. I was a loyal Times employee and deferred to my editors. I figured that other reporters on the streets were witnessing parts of the story I was not seeing.
But then I reached my breaking point. On Aug. 21, as I stood in a group of chasidic men in front of the Lubavitch headquarters, a group of demonstrators were coming down Eastern Parkway. “Heil Hitler,” they chanted. “Death to the Jews.”

Yet, he held his tongue. Apparently, he was a good company soldier who liked his job a little too much. But he had a change of heart:

“You don’t know what’s happening here!” I yelled. “I am on the streets getting attacked. Someone next to me just got hit. I am writing memos and what comes out in the paper? ‘Hasidim and blacks clashed’? That’s not what is happening here. Jews are being attacked! You’ve got this story all wrong. All wrong.”
I didn’t blame the “rewrite” reporter. I blamed the editors. It was clear that they had settled on a “frame” for the story. The way they saw it, there were two narratives here: the white narrative and the black narrative. And both had equal weight.

So, the Times eventually straightened out the narrative, at least to Goldman's satisfaction. But many Jewish Week readers were left wondering why Goldman waited 20 years to tell his story? He's been a former Times employee for well over a decade, and yet only now we're first hearing about this--a potentially important teaching moment for journalists now and in the future.
As one commenter noted:

Mr. Goldman should have the necessary courage to name the pusillanimous editors he is castigating with his recollection. There is no corrective measure better than public shaming. Blaming an institution in this generalized way is a weak tea for a story that is 20 years old.

Goldman harshly questioned the motives of his editors. Now, it behooves him to provide answers for his silence two decades later.

A Hail Mary Pass for Football On The Radio

Jets Broadcasts Jet Westward

SportsNewser has an item about how regular-season New York Jets games will also be heard on 710 ESPN--in Los Angeles.
In some respects, the decision is a no-brainer, rather than a display of a lack of brains. The Jets' QB is Mark Sanchez, the former USC golden boy who decamped for the NFL draft and is now among the richest denizens of the Meadowlands.
Still, this is L.A. Are there really enough fans out there?
”There is tremendous passion for the NFL here in LA, and this partnership with an elite franchise will further energize the Southland’s sizable population of football fans, who continue to express excitement about the potential return of an NFL team to the region,” chirps station GM Scott McCarthy.
Yeah, maybe.
After all, this was a town that couldn't hold on to either the Rams or the Raiders. What's changed? And if listeners were truly interested in what the Jets were up to, aren't they the ones more inclined to pony up for the DirecTV NFL package? Even if they didn't, at least six games will be on national TV, and several more, including those against the Raiders and Chargers, will likely wind up on L.A. stations.
So, where does that leave 710 ESPN. Essentially in a no-lose situation. Listenership would likely be light anyway on a football Sunday. Bulking up on game coverage means not having to pay a host or run irrelevant syndicated shows. And the Jets are already on ESPN in New York.
Sure, this is an out-of-market stretch you rarely see. But the revenue from a few extra local spots will cover up those stretch marks in a hurry.
And if you have guys in Tarzana and Redondo Beach screaming J-E-T-S, so much the better.