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High school wrestling charged with assault, more

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SEeditor, Feb 8, 2009.

  1. SEeditor

    SEeditor Member

    OK, here's the deal, on Dec. 15 two high school wrestlers were suspended from school for five and 10 days, respectively, for an alleged hazing incident involving other members of the team. I found out about the incident on Dec. 18 at a match when the two previously mentioned wrestlers weren't there. After digging around that night and the next day I found out what the deal was and wrote an article for our Web site and later for the weekly newspaper.

    A couple of weeks later one of the wrestlers and his parents wanted to talk about the issue. It came across that he was suspended for five days and that he wasn't going back to the team. He and his family claimed they were being accused in the matter to take the blame for the other wrestler. This kid has moved from town now, but is still enrolled in the school through the end of the school year though he's got enough credits to graduate now.

    The other kid returned to the team in mid-January, but about 10 days ago he was charged with four counts of third-degree assault. Our message board has filled up with both pro and con opinions on the matter. Some blaming the police and media for bringing this to light when it wasn't "that big of a deal." Others claiming it is a big deal since he's 18 and allegedly assaulted four underclassmen.

    The wrestling community is very tight-knit and there seems to be a history of racial profiling, hazing and bullying in the school system that has been swept under the rug.

    Now yesterday the coach of the team refused to talk to me after a meet for a preview story for next week's regional meet because, as he put it, I was "putting his team in a bad light." I've written three articles on the matter since Dec. 25 -- one when the two were suspended, one on the wrestler who talked to me and one on the kid still on the team who was charged last week.

    Some in the wrestling community have asked me to "drop the story" to keep a good relationship with them so that the court hearing can run its course. One comment from the parent of the wrestler who quit the team claimed that the coach never asked for her son to come back to the team, but he was open to the other kid coming back because he is one of the team's best wrestlers.

    Now he's not talking to me though he's never been portrayed poorly in the articles. Our News Editor is working on hazing and bullying in the school system. Needless to say I'll be glad when wrestling season is over in two weeks so we can move on to spring sports.

    What really gets me is that the people who want this to "run its course" and those who are adament that this kid was in the wrong and needs to be punished don't want to seem to talk. It's a small community and everybody knows everybody. Seems like some serious intimidation there.

    I'm thankful my kids don't go to that school system.
  2. franticscribe

    franticscribe Well-Known Member

    Sounds to me like you've done the right thing and should keep doing the right thing by letting your readers know when there is a significant, new development.

    Sometimes good journalism means stepping on once-good relationships with sources. Your obligation is to the reader, not the source.

    It took an incident along these lines to finally break the cycle of hazing in the wrestling program I was involved with some 15 years go. It continues to be a major problem on many athletic teams. Five wrestlers were just charged with assault recently in the community where I started my journalism career because of hazing.
  3. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    For whatever consolation it's worth, you did the right thing. Everyone wants to talk when they win, but hides when something like this happens.

    It's part of your job to report whatever facts you have. It's up to you (and your bosses) how aggressively you decide to pursue it, but I would never withhold information you have on the basis of hurting someone's feelings. It's one of the perils of the job.
  4. SEeditor

    SEeditor Member

    Oh, I have no doubt we did the right thing. We've reported three or four articles now pertaining to the issue -- one on the suspensions, one on the one wrestler who quit the team, another on hazing/bullying in schools and another on the charges filed against the one wrestler.

    They're all pissed now, but, as I've told them before, I have a job to do and I'm doing it.
  5. slappy4428

    slappy4428 Active Member

    It's wrestling. They're a different breed and very closed mouth... like carnies...
    you're doing the right thing...
  6. Pete Incaviglia

    Pete Incaviglia Active Member

    They have small hands and smell like cabbage?
  7. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Beware of any sport where a common tactic is to reach for the other man crotch.
  8. I Digress

    I Digress Guest

    we had a situation with baseball... this stuff is hard to do... coach lost his job.. but sounds like the same sort of thing in that the community rallied around the hazers mostly because I think it had gone on for years and finally someone had the balls to come forward and shed a little light.
  9. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    If the SE in your moniker means Southeast, I don't think it's any big loss if the whole wrestling community refuses to speak with you.

    The hazing and criminal charges sound like a lot bigger deal than any gamers or wrestling features, unless you are in Iowa or Pennsylvania or something.
  10. SEeditor

    SEeditor Member

    Ace, I used to be in the Southeast when I created this file name. I'm no longer there.

    As for the wrestling community, I'm not sweating it. I'll just roll on like a professional and let them do as they see fit.
  11. Drip

    Drip Active Member

    You are letting your personal feelings get into this a little too much in my opinion. He doesn't want to talk, fine, write around him. If he doesn't want to cooperate and not give you information, keep his information out of the paper.
    He's playing a jedi mind game with you and you are falling for it. Coach won't have his way so he's going to show you kind of deal.
    SE, be a professional. Do your job. Sorry if it sounds blunt but I don't like bullying and that's what the coach is doing. I also don't like journalist not being able to put their personal feelings aside to get a job done and I think that's what you're doing to a degree.
  12. SEeditor

    SEeditor Member

    Drip, don't worry, that's why I wrote this down here so I could let go of the personal feelings on this matter. I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeves. When he didn't want to be quoted the other day it didn't bother me so much until after the fact -- well after we weren't in each other's sight.

    Now, three days out, it's not an issue. I'm already working on another article about how hazing is a nationwide problem, with quotes, sources and background info. Our paper is meeting today to determine further coverage, and I'm going to start digging around to find out if he (the coach) has been dumped in hot water here because I have a sense that's the case. I get a feeling he may be disciplined or not back after the season, which ends in about a week and half.
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