A Raleigh-area website “Raleigh&Co.com” recently did a quite detailed (and lengthy) two-part series about The N&O and TGU. Specifically How The N&O has reported the never-ending saga.
Since many/most of you can never get “too much” TGU stuff, here it is.
I know zilch about Raleigh&Company other than I recognize a few names of local contributors.
I get the impression it is connected to Jim Goodmon’s Capital Broadcasting Co (CBC) as several of the contributing pundits are employed by CBC. …. There are also former N&O employees involved. FWIW… The Triangle has A LOT of “former N&O employees” with more always being added.
I have no opinion on any bias of the author of this piece – R.L Bynum – other than EVERYONE – including yours truly – has some “bias” on this issue.
Reference is made to a LuLu of an editorial that appeared recently in The Robesonian – some “fish-wrapper” in the Lumberton area. That piece was written by the Robesonian’s “editor” (?) who comes across as The Ultimate Carolina Way Lifer. You know the type…. has spent his whole life spewing “all State fans drive tractors” and “all Duke fans are Jews from New Jersey” jokes. Yep, “one of those”. Hopefully he doesn’t “breed or vote” too often.
A certain faction of rabid TruBlues apparently got excited about this Robesonian editorial, thinking it was something other than just a UNC board monkey with a bully pulpit. That’s all it was.
I make no secret of my support for Dan Kane and his coverage of this mess. Dan is pretty much the only thing about The N&O I have any positive opinions for.
I am not endorsing or refuting anything in this long piece from Raleigh&Co…. just providing it for your ongoing edification and entertainment. …. Don’t “shoot the messenger” please.
N&O’s coverage of UNC scandal stirs emotions, shows power of press to influence: Part 1 & 2 of 2
NOTE: This is a two-part series examining how journalists view The News & Observer’s coverage of the UNC scandal.
It all began when Marvin Austin’s July 2010 tweet led the NCAA to investigate if agents provided improper benefits to him and other UNC football players. Since then, The News & Observer has doggedly covered developments and NCAA investigations as well as breaking its share of stories.
With the UNC academic scandal as his main focus, staff writer Dan Kane’s investigative journalism reported on bogus classes and no doubt pushed school officials and the NCAA to probe more deeply.
It’s certainly not the first time this has happened.
N&O reporting probably was instrumental in the criminal convictions of politicians Meg Scott Phipps, Jim Black and Mike Easley, as well as Dana Cope, the former executive director of the State Employees Association of N.C. Last week, a series titled Deadly Force raised questions about the role of Harnett County sheriff’s deputies in two deaths. The FBI opened an investigation shortly after the series began.
Most, but not all, journalism observers praise the newspaper’s coverage of the UNC story. There also are criticisms.
“I think the coverage has been fair and accurate,” said Andy Bechtel, who has taught journalism at UNC since 2005, and was a copy editor and wire editor at The N&O for about 10 years. “This was a significant story about the state’s flagship university, which happens to be in The N&O’s coverage area. So the newspaper’s focus on it is appropriate.”
The newspaper industry may be on the decline and struggling financially. But this UNC story, without a doubt, showed again the power of the press. David Glenn, the editor of the ACC Sports Journal and host of the syndicated weekday statewide radio show that bears his name, says the impact of Kane’s reporting was obvious.
“I’m not sure anyone at UNC would want to admit this publicly, but here’s the reality, and they know it: Without Dan Kane and The N&O pushing and pursuing this story so intensely and aggressively for so long, UNC officials wouldn’t have been essentially forced to turn over as many rocks as they ultimately did,” Glenn said. “There never would have been a Wainstein Report. There would have been far less damaging information for the NCAA to consider. The plug would have been pulled on the pursuit of the truth in this case a long time ago.”
Kenneth Wainstein, who was paid handsomely to investigate the academic fraud at UNC and issue his report, said that Kane’s reporting was helpful.
“His reporting played a large role in keeping a focus on the issues, on asking the difficult questions, often the non-obvious questions that were lurking in the body of public knowledge but others weren’t really focused on,” Wainstein said in a 2014 column by John Drescher, the executive editor of The N&O. “It was those questions that helped the university focus on the need to inquire further.”
Good investigative journalism gets results. But when the subject is the athletics department of a large university with a huge fan base, it also creates battle lines. And fandom — whether it be for UNC or against the Tar Heels — can shade opinions.
“The thing is that people are passionate about their sports and it makes it hard for them to analyze the facts,” said Kane, who also reported about the Black story. “They look at these stories and they see their beloved team under attack and that causes them to rise in defense, and I understand that. But that doesn’t mean that I’m just going to say let’s leave this alone because UNC fans are going to be upset with me.”
In the 1980s, Kentucky fans were outraged at the Lexington Herald-Leader’s reporting that led to probation for the Wildcats’ men’s basketball program. The illegal payments to UK players didn’t seem to upset some fans as much as the Herald-Leader reporting about them.
“The only people who complained about the intensity and aggressiveness of The N&O’s coverage are people who have absolutely no idea of the media’s role in society, or absolutely no respect for it, or a child-like habit of getting mad at anyone who tells them things they don’t want to hear, and that’s their problem,” Glenn said.
Jason Zengerle, a political correspondent for GQ and a Carolina fan, is both distressed by what happened at UNC and with some fans.
“The idea that these last few years of pain and suffering at UNC were because of Dan Kane and The N&O — rather than because of a very serious academic scandal and then an incompetent initial response by the university, not to mention all of the inherent hypocrisies and contradictions of big-time college sports — strikes me as very wrongheaded,” said Zengerle, who lives in Chapel Hill and is a season-ticket holder for UNC men’s basketball.
“Were there people hyping up the scandal and rooting for UNC’s downfall because they cheer for State or Duke or whomever? Definitely,” he said. “But to confuse them with a newspaper is silly.”
Drescher has heard from plenty of fans over the last six years as his newspaper has aggressively covered the scandal.
“I hear from people from both sides,” he said. “I hear from people critical of our coverage and I hear from people who are supportive of our coverage. I’m a UNC grad and still close to a lot of UNC grads. Some of my friends are very supportive of our coverage and are more mad at the university and then some of my friends are mad at The N&O. I tell them that we just tried to get to the bottom of what went wrong and that’s been our mission on this story.
“I think our coverage has been very good,” Drescher said. “I’d never say that our coverage of this or anything else was perfect or couldn’t have been better.”
The N&O reporters who brought down those politicians faced challenges. But covering an NCAA investigation might be more difficult.
“This has not been an easy case to cover, in part because it’s a set of facts the NCAA and everybody else have never encountered,” Glenn said. “UNC obviously limits what it’s willing to share and has a naturally slanted point of view, and the NCAA has been infamous for decades for its unwillingness to offer fact-specific comments on active cases.
“Meanwhile, there are NCAA critics who are happy to return every phone call and be quoted extensively about any scandal,” Glenn said. “But there aren’t nearly as many NCAA compliance experts or knowledgeable attorneys who are willing to share their expertise with a media member for free when they can charge $500 an hour to UNC or any other school for that same expertise.”
Bechtel said that one factor that may have accelerated The N&O’s pursuit of the story was UNC’s resistance to early records requests.
“I know from working at The N&O that if a politician or public institution appears to be hiding something, that sets off alarm bells in the newsroom, and rightly so,” Bechtel said. “Unfortunately in this instance, UNC was not forthcoming with public records, which may have led to increased scrutiny by The N&O and other media organizations.”
The N&O’s reporting delighted segments of opposing fan bases with visions of banners coming down, and those disturbed by the academic misconduct applauded it. But many Tar Heels fans tired of the coverage have contended that the newspaper has an agenda against UNC.
“I disagree that there’s an anti-UNC agenda in The N&O newsroom or an agenda for or against any university or political party,” said Bechtel, who wrote about this topic. “I know, however, that the newspaper has a history of being skeptical about college athletics generally, going back to its coverage of N.C. State basketball in the 1980s. That culture may have played a role here.”
Drescher bristles at the suggestion that the newspaper has an agenda against the school.
“Our agenda is to get to the bottom of what went wrong,” he said. “We have relentlessly pursued that mission when few others wanted to or were willing to. Certainly the university wasn’t willing to. Much of what the public knows about what went wrong at UNC is because of reporting by The News and Observer.”
Robesonian editorial blasts The N&O…
There is definitely a segment of UNC fans who see it differently, and view the coverage as excessive and repetitive. Giving voice to that frustration in this April 27 editorial in The Robesonian newspaper, without mentioning The N&O by name, was Donnie Douglas, who is a UNC alum, a Carolina fan and the editor of the newspaper.
Drescher didn’t put much stock in Douglas’ editorial.
“I thought it was long on emotion and short on facts,” Drescher said. “I thought it was a really emotional response. It didn’t point out anything in our coverage that wasn’t accurate. So far, nobody has pointed out anything in our coverage that wasn’t accurate. I think our coverage has been excellent and it has been highly scrutinized and it’s stood up to the scrutiny.” Zengerle called the editorial’s characterization of the two scandals “Pollyannaish.”
Douglas, who grew up in Lumberton reading Joe Tiede’s columns and A.J. Carr’s stories in The N&O and has been in the newspaper business for 35 years, has a theory about its UNC scandal coverage.
“I’m willing to guess as a journalist,” Douglas said. “I believe that when this stuff started unfolding, they had a staff meeting and said, ‘this is huge. This is how you win Pulitzers. We’re going shake this tree has hard as it can be shaken and we’re going to just be the go to on what’s happening on this.’ And I don’t think they followed the facts.”
There has been no Pulitzer, but the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno honored Kane with the Frank McCulloch Award for Courage in Journalism.
“The facts didn’t take them where they wanted to,” Douglas said. “It just looked like [Kane] was out looking and this was where he wanted to go and anything that would point him in that direction, he was willing to go there. So that’s my problem. I think it’s been dishonest journalism.”
Drescher’s response to Douglas?
“My friend in Lumberton has let his emotions get the best of him,” Drescher said. “He’s dreamed up meetings and conversations that never happened. He’s written that we were reckless in our reporting and spread disinformation — but, oddly, offers no evidence to support his accusations. He said we didn’t follow the facts; to the contrary, we relentlessly reported the facts.”
Douglas says that the quickest way to get a letter to the editor published in The Robesonian is to criticize him or his publication because it gives them credibility. He wonders why The N&O hasn’t published more letters to the editor criticizing its UNC scandal coverage.
“We’ll take a little heat, but we own our mistakes and I don’t think The News & Observer has done that,” Douglas said. “I think they’ve tried to set the narrative. I think they’ve tried to drown out the criticism. I think a lot of what they’ve done is pretty indefensible. How do you call for Roy Williams’ resignation?”
It was in an op-ed piece by Lewis Beale, not a member of The N&O‘s editorial staff, where the opinion that Williams should resign was expressed.
The editorial department, of course, is separate from the newsroom at The N&O, but Drescher disagreed with that contention.
“There were a lot of letters critical of our coverage, although I think they’ve lessened over time as more and more people who were originally skeptical realized that our reporting was right on target,” Drescher said.
To Douglas, The N&O, particularly the writers on the editorial page, didn’t get what they expected with the amended notice of allegations.
“It seems pretty apparent to me that The N&O was butt-hurt because the football program and the basketball program didn’t get dragged into this neck-deep,” Douglas said. “The News & Observer’s position is that the NCAA went soft. The only reason is because they didn’t go after football and basketball, which are the money-making sports.”
Douglas predicted that when the final NCAA penalties go down, regardless of what they are, that an N&O editorial will say that they weren’t enough.
COMING WEDNESDAY: The second story in this series looks at criticisms of The N&O’s coverage, including whether it provided the proper context about how UNC’s case was likely to be viewed by the NCAA and if some lengthy stories were short on new developments. In addition, Kane talks about pushback from readers.
NOTE: This LINKS to the second story in a two-part series examining how journalists view The N&O’s coverage of the UNC scandal. The first story looked at the power and influence of the newspaper’s coverage, the reaction of area fans and another newspaper’s editorial that blasted The N&O.
NOTE: We had a slight VIRUS attack Wed AM that AveryTheSuperTech quickly zapped. I am “a Mac guy” so I don’t see VIRUS Alert. If you do…. always let us know.