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Reporter gets coach suspended for inappropriate comment....

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by stix, Sep 4, 2015.

  1. stix

    stix Member

    Interesting situation at a HS football game in my area last week.

    A colleague for a weekly not far away from the daily I work at (obviously I'll decline to mention a name) covered a game in which a player was hit hard and was motionless on the field. The player who hit him was called for a roughing penalty, which the coach didn't agree with.

    He reportedly yelled, "If my player was Caucasian, would you have made that call?" (Needless to say, the penalized player was black, and the game was between an inner-city school and a county school with an almost entirely white population, which always creates some tensions.) The coach was ejected because he'd been arguing all game, and this comment was particularly tasteless as he yelled it while the injured player was still down. But here's where it gets interesting:

    In his gamer, which ran the next day, the reporter led by quoting what the coach had yelled. Aside from the fact that it was on oddly written gamer, which kind of vacillated between an actual gamer and a column about what the coach yelled, the story clearly was written to draw attention to what was a racially charged comment by the coach.

    It got quite a bit of juice, especially since this reporter tweets, Facebooks and retweets every single thing he ever does, so it caught attention. The coach subsequently apologized for the remark and was suspended one game. If not for the reporter's calling attention to the remark, I highly doubt there would've been a suspension (it was never made clear he was ejected for that comment or for general malfeasance). People were crucifying the coach around his town, I guess.

    I have some issues with this: I understand that it's a reporter's job to cover news, but is this news? Nowhere in the story did he make it clear that anyone was offended or even heard the remark. He never offered the coach a chance to comment on his remark. If you're going to report something like that, seems to me you at least give the coach a chance to comment, or to say "no comment." And you'd better be damn fucking sure you heard what you thought you heard and corroborate it with another person or two. I know I would.

    I'm not saying he lied, but around the area I started to hear comments that the coach didn't really "yell" those words, and I'm wondering if the reporter only heard it because he was on the sidelines. I've heard many off-color remarks from players and coaches over the years while walking the sidelines. Tons. Some racial epithets, too. I'm not saying it's OK (it always makes my ears bleed), but I also believe it's not my job to report something like that if I'm the only one who hears it. Any disciplinary action in that regard should be taken by the schools if they deem appropriate, and any good coach should nip that shit in the bud immediately if he/she hears it.

    I guess what I'm getting at with this long-winded post is I feel the reporter kind of "created" news here and got a coach suspended. Maybe he deserved to be, but the whole thing came across as an attention-seeking ploy on the reporter's part. Trust me, he hasn't stopped tweeting about it, especially since it got picked up as a blurb in larger papers and even got talked about on a couple larger radio stations in the area.

    You guys have probably all been in a predicament like this, where you heard a coach or player say something off-color on the sidelines in the heat of a game. I'm not saying what the reporter did here was wrong, but I've been discussing this a lot the last few days. Just wondering what you guys would've done. Kind of a tough spot.
  2. HandsomeHarley

    HandsomeHarley Well-Known Member

    In our state, anyone who is ejected receives a one-game suspension anyway, so it wouldn't matter.
  3. HandsomeHarley

    HandsomeHarley Well-Known Member

    Last basketball season, our home scorebook f***ed up and didn't give the home team a free throw it made. Because I sit on press row and help out the announcer and unofficial statisticians (and vice-versa), I pointed it out. At a timeout, they checked both books and decided the score in the scoreboard was OK. Mind you, the statisticians had their entire first quarter erased on the computer.

    At halftime, I again pointed it out, and told the statisticians that, if the end of the first quarter score was correct, then there was an error, because it happened in the second quarter. Their stats didn't add up, but we think the scorebook was too ashamed to admit they f***ed up to actually make it right for their own school.

    Long story short, game went into overtime and home team lost by a point.

    I mentioned to the coach after the game what happened and asked for comment. She later emailed me and said after watching game film, I was right and they lost a game they should have won.

    Was it my business to stick my nose in? No, but as a respected journalist, I'm usually one of those they call upon when there's discrepencies in the book.
  4. BrendaStarr

    BrendaStarr Member

    You say the coach apologized for the comment so at the very least, the coach isn't denying what he reportedly said. Perhaps the reporter should have asked a follow-up question after the game to allow the coach to explain/clarify why he said that, especially since you noted that this coach had been arguing all game punctuated by the controversial comment. That's what I would have done.

    But it's not a reporter's responsibility to protect a coach. If one of the refs heard this coach's comment, which you suggest he did in regards to it contributing to his ejection, then to me that's fair game because that's quite the racial accusation to throw at an official. It's not like it's something he's saying to his players on the bench, etc.
  5. stix

    stix Member

    I should clarify, yes, that is the situation here (automatic 1-game suspension due to ejection), too, so I guess my thread title was misguided. I realized that the second you brought that up, my mistake.

    But he did get the coach vilified pretty badly, which is more the point. I guess the part of the story I had a problem with was that the reporter wrote that he "tweeted out the quote immediately after the game, and it's already been retweeted 10 times." Why write that in your story?

    If it was me, I probably would've verified that what I heard was correct, and I would've called the coach the next day before I ran off tweeting it out and writing a bizarre half-gamer, half-column.

    Also, I should've clarified, the coach was ejected because it was his second personal foul. Which makes the racial stuff even more strange in my book. No quotes from anyone about the comment, just the reporter's opinion.
  6. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    There is no problem here at all.

    Everything said on the field/in public is on the record. The only problem would be if he got the quote wrong, which it appears he didn't.
    YankeeFan likes this.
  7. JRoyal

    JRoyal Well-Known Member

    You stated that this statement was what got the coach ejected, which leads to a one-game suspension. If the reporter heard what was yelled and didn't report it, he wouldn't be doing his job. Sure, he should've asked the coach after the game, but this wasn't something mumbled on the sidelines. It was yelled loud enough that a ref heard it and ejected the coach for it. Not reporting it would be bad journalism. It seems like your discomfort probably is because you've let yourself become too close to the coaches in your area and wouldn't want to see them vilified. Well, guess what? The second he yelled that, the coach vilified himself.

    I do agree that the half-column, half-gamer thing was a mistake. Simply say the coach was ejected from the game after yelling a racially charged statement, report the quote and move on. If the coach or opposing coach is willing to comment on it, include that. But the gamer isn't where you offer opinion on it.
  8. JRoyal

    JRoyal Well-Known Member

    OK, just read your second comment and I'm unclear on a couple of things. 1) Did the comment lead to his second foul? 2) Was it loud enough that the referees heard it? Was it mumbled or yelled?
  9. stix

    stix Member

    It has nothing to do with being too close to the coaches in my area, trust me. It's more to do with the fact that the story written in an entirely attention-seeking manner by the reporter, not in a "report the news" manner. THAT'S what created my discomfort.
  10. stix

    stix Member

    See, that's my point. I'm not clear about it, either. Because the reporter wasn't clear.

    He said it was yelled and that the official immediately ejected him, so he then speculated that he was ejected because of the comment. But it was the coach's second personal foul and he had been yelling all game. So did that comment really do it?

    Secondly, the reporter said "the entire sidelines and the medical personnel" heard the comment. But nobody was quoted or apparently asked about it afterwards, so how does he know "everyone" heard it? The injured player plays for the reporter's "area" school, so he knows the coach well and clearly should've addressed it.

    My problem is not that the coach got in trouble for a tasteless remark. My problem is how the reporter went about reporting it. It wasn't professional to me. You tweeted it out immediately, and then made a point of saying you did so in your story/column? Without ever talking with anyone about it? Strange.
  11. BrendaStarr

    BrendaStarr Member

    One of the big things to me is that the coach did not refute the accuracy of the comment. So that gives the reporter some credibility. Also, waiting to call the coach the next day about it, as you mentioned that you would've have done, is untimely given its context of something that happened in the game. It's something you have to ask about right after the game. Not 24 hours later.

    The reporter should have also tracked down the head official after the game to get clarification on his ejection and ask if any of the refs heard the coach's comment. That would have added important context.

    I do agree, though, that including "tweeted out the quote immediately after the game, and it's already been retweeted 10 times" is a weird thing to put in a story. To me it just sounds like this reporter isn't a good writer and doesn't understand basic reporting skills/tactics.
    Tweener likes this.
  12. JRoyal

    JRoyal Well-Known Member

    If he wasn't standing beside the coach and he heard it, then it should be reported. If the flag came after he yelled, it should be reported. Refs will rarely acknowledge the exact reason for those calls, esp. in high school, but if he says that and then gets flagged, it's worth reporting.

    I can see tweeting it, but mentioning the tweet in the story is poor form. Like I said, you mention the foul and the comment as part of what happened. Keep it to what you heard.

    And you seem to think the reporter may not have heard it right, but from his reporting and the coach not refuting it, it seems like he got it right. I'd be more apt to question his choice to turn the gamer into an awkwardly written column than to question what he heard.

    And I'm with Brenda. You don't wait to ask. Ask after the game. Tell the coach you heard him yell it, but you report it. There will always be people (esp. assisatants on the team who work witht he coach) who will say he heard it wrong. But it's also possible they heard it wrong and he got it right.
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