Monday, August 07, 2006

Media Day fallout

Yesterday was Media Day for Notre Dame football, and there was plenty to get excited about in the press conferences from Coach Weis and Brady Quinn.

But before I can get to the really juicy stuff, I feel like I should address the worst piece of hack job reporting I have ever seen (even worse than the Carroll/Weinke articles I wrote about previously).

Because I don't want to link to this writer's newspaper and give him the internet hits that justify him writing something like this, here is the text of the offending article:

Good Charlie, Stubborn Charlie, a fact of life
Al Hamnick
Charlie Weis is as blunt as a butter knife when he warns the media: "Just follow protocol. That's all. Follow protocol."
Jump when he yells JUMP! Don't second-guess, sneak around, or be a distraction. Then, and only then, can you expect player accessibility and a sound working relationship with the football department. Disobey his wishes, pay him no mind and you're treated like a leper, banished from the pressbox.
It's Charlie's way, or the closest you'll get to Irish football is the car radio. Behind the scenes, away from cameras and tape recorders, we're told he's got the people skills of a prison guard. And a temper to match.
What's so frustrating is that Weis can be genuinely charming one moment, a tyrant the next. He had that split personality as an NFL coordinator with the Jets and Patriots, and continues to irritate other coaches at Notre Dame with his moody nature and short fuse.
A large number of alumni reportedly are upset by his behavior. As long as the Irish win, they'll bite their lip. But if the program struggles, his critics will multiply like roaches.
Notre Dame's Football Media Day was Sunday morning, not Saturday, if you can believe that. The media turnout could've been better. We have a Catholic university, on a church day, a traditional family day, basically forcing some to work.
It didn't take Charlie long to flex some muscle. Former Times Sports Writer Jeff Carroll, now working for the Irish Sports Report, was informed by school officials that he could not ask questions of Weis, his staff or players during the three-hour session. It seems Weis and senior associate athletics director John Heisler weren't happy with some of Carroll's reporting endeavors.
Here's an idea: Have someone ask the questions for you.
Personally, I think the intention was to embarrass Carroll, publicly.
Right off the bat, Weis said he appreciated the media showing patience and allowing coaches and players to use their summer to kick back and relax. He said working with us is important to him. But with high expectations, Weis doesn't want his team to buy into the hype and start looking too far ahead.
As for player accessibility, Weis usually allows media the standard 20 minutes ("that everybody whines about") before practices -- all of which are closed -- once a week. Next Saturday morning, he'll throw the media a bone by having the entire practice open, followed by a bribe -- lunch.
"Please follow protocol. Don't try to steal behind the scenes to get to any of the guys," said Weis. "We've been pretty accessible.
Meeting the Rolling Stones backstage is easier to do.
Twenty minutes to chase down local products Jeff Samardzija and Carl Gioia of Valparaiso, plus Merrillville's James Aldridge, is sufficient if you're able to clone yourself.

There are so many problems with this article, it boggles the mind.

First - nowhere in this article does the writer ever appear to have actually talked to anyone at the University of Notre Dame for a comment on the freeze-out of writer Jeff Carroll. He doesn't mention that Carroll violated Notre Dame's access policy regarding its players in publishing a quote from recruit Paddy Mullen (taken out of context) in their ethically questionable articles earlier this summer.

Second - nowhere in this article does he attribute any of his conjectures about perceptions of Coach Weis. He mentions "a large number of alumni," but apparently can't get any of that large number to go on the record. Fishy. He also makes the claim that Coach Weis "continues to irritate other coaches at Notre Dame." That's some pretty heavy lumber to swing without actually naming any names. He doesn't even have a vaguely attributed quote in the story, like "someone close to the athletic department." If he is reporting on stuff he has heard off the record, then he has already violated the confidences of a slew of alumnni and persons within the athletic department for even mentioning the issue.

Third - He states as fact many things which are simply untrue. He says that the turnout at the Media Day was disappointing. From all other accounts, including Mike Frank of Irish Eyes, the auditorium for the press conferences was standing room only, and attended by more press than any other team's media day. He whines about the level of access, complaining that 20 minutes before practice isn't enough access for him to write his stories. What he fails to mention is that that is 20 minutes EVERY DAMN DAY that he has full access to the players. Coach Weis is even opening an entire practice to the media, which is far more access than media get at many other universities. He attacks Coach Weis for being overly protective of his players, making him out to be some kind of bad guy for limiting access. Weis is responsible for making sure that his team is focused on the goal of winning football games, and as importantly, making sure that the team does not run afoul of NCAA rules. To criticize him for minimizing the distractions for his football team is petty.

Fourth, and finally the worst transgression - This writer is good friends with Jeff Carroll, and is writing this hack job as a swipe at Notre Dame because the petulant Carroll, after being informed that he could not ask any questions during media day, whined to anyone who would listen in the press room, calling the University of Notre Dame a "Mickey Mouse organization." The author decided to compromise his journalistic integrity because Coach Weis hurt his friends feelings. And then failed to disclose his personal relationship with Jeff Carroll. He seemed to think that disclosing Carroll's former relationship with the Northwest Indiana Times was enough. It wasn't.

He accuses the University of Notre Dame of attempting to publicly embarass Carroll by denying access. If the University of Notre Dame wanted to publicly embarass Carroll, they would revoke all press passes from the South Bend Tribune, and issue a press release blaming Carroll for the lack of access, detailing how Carroll violated the team's access rules. Instead, Carroll was quietly informed of his status just prior to the press conferences - a mere slap on the wrist for a malicious and borderline libelous series of articles. It was Carroll that made his freeze-out public by crying like a little baby about it. It was Carroll that childishly stood in the front of the press conference, hoping that ESPN2 would catch him petulantly harrumphing everything that Coach Weis said. It was Carroll that brought this upon himself.

And then he doesn't have the guts to write about it himself, he has to send his friend in to do the dirty work. These people are a disgrace to their profession and should be fired.

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