Tim Timmons | Crawfordsville, IN

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June 13, 2021

9/5/2013 4:44:00 PM
Journalism ain't what it used to be
Tim Timmons

There's no doubt the world of information has changed. Some was inevitable. The fact that people now share electronic news flashes to detail what they had for breakfast is evidence of that. But when did basic journalistic rules get tossed out the window?

I'm a fan of Mike & Mike. For those who don't know, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic make up a terrific duo that talk sports, life and a bit of everything in between on ESPN TV and radio in the mornings. Golic was a Notre Dame football player and Greenberg came from the second-greatest sports city in the world, Chicago. So it was easy for a guy like me who likes both places to be a fan.

That said, the boys have absolutely shocked me the last few days with their coverage of what has been going on with New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez. According to media reports, Hernandez could be arrested and charged in connection to a man who died. The key and defining word there is "could."

Mike & Mike made this a very big topic on their show in spite of the fact that Hernandez had not been arrested, let alone convicted. Another ESPN show, the Sports Reporters discussed the subject Sunday and I was proud of Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom for essentially reminding his fellow panelists that Hernandez was innocent until proven guilty.

Has social media changed the rules of journalism that much?

Oh sure, gossip has always been around. There's not much dispute in that. But journalists used to live by a code that gossip wasn't what appeared on our pages or in our broadcasts. There's an old saying for reporters. If you're mother tells you she loves you, get a second source. The deal was that it wasn't enough to have one person tell you something. You had to get it verified independently. You couldn't report on rumors.

Where did that go?

To be sure, Mike & Mike aren't there to report on straight news. The biggest part of their show is opinion. It's one of the reasons I like them so much. But there are lines between sharing harmless opinions (especially about sports) and doing someone damage. Serious damage. They didn't just cross that line, they trampled all over it. What if Hernandez turns out to have done nothing wrong? His reputation will be forever tainted by this kind of coverage. What if he's guilty as sin? Then at the very least, the coverage jumped the gun.

Like I said, I like Mike and Mike. They both went to great colleges. Greenberg went to (just my opinion) the best school in the country for journalism, Northwestern University. I'm guessing that neither Notre Dame or Northwestern taught what's been on the air recently.

* * *

ALONG THE same lines, tennis star Serena Williams got blasted for something she said by the journalism world. According to a story from ABC about a story in Rolling Stone, Williams commented on a criminal case in Steubenville, Ohio. Two high school football players were convicted in March for raping a 16-year-old girl. The victim in the case was drunk, which by no means whatsoever makes any part of the crime OK. And Williams didn't say that. What she said, according to ABC, was this:

"I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you: don't take drinks from other people." She added: ". . . she shouldn't have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that's different."

The reaction, from the journalists as well as social media, was swift and harsh. Williams ended up apologizing for making insensitive remarks.

The thing is, I can hear my grandparents and my parents saying the same type of thing. "Nothing good ever happens after 1 o'clock in the morning," my mother used to say as we argued about my curfew. She was right. Williams was right. A 16-year-old shouldn't be drunk to start with. Yet a fair amount of journalists called Williams out for being insensitive.

How can it be both ways? How can some members of the media basically try and convict Aaron Hernandez before he's even arrested and yet turn around and rip Williams?

The journalism world has gone wrong and it's not going to go back unless more people demand it.

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