You might recall a story that recently popped up on the New York Times’ college sports blog, The Quad, about the recruitment of Jamarkus McFarland of Lufkin, Tex., who gave a verbal commitment to the University of Oklahoma.
That story rather sensationalized certain parts of McFarland’s recruiting process, particularly at the University of Texas – but keep in mind that was based on the kid’s own description of what he claimed to have experienced. Needless to say, Mack Brown was less than pleased over what was published. Matters became somewhat more strained when McFarland acknowledged to rivals.com that some of the details he relayed to The Quad were “spiced up”.
The Times being the Times, eventually this sort of “he said, he said” stuff catches the eye of the paper’s ombudsman and we get treated to a rather tortuous nitpicking of the reportorial process.
… The Times asked McFarland to clarify his conflicting remarks, and after two days, he sent a text message that cleared up nothing. It said he had respect for Evans, that his school paper was written “to capture and inform my audiences,” and “I stand by this story and I have moved on.”
Adams said that since The Times article was published, her son has been the target of racial slurs from angry Texas supporters, and she said she would not let him talk to reporters in the future. But she defended Evans’s story. “An article was written, and I was very well pleased with it, and that’s that,” she said.
What really happened? I asked Evans how much he pressed for independent verification of the party. He said he asked for the name of the hotel, and McFarland could not remember it. The reporter did not ask who invited the young man to the party, who accompanied him or who else might have witnessed the lurid events.
Evans said that in retrospect, he could have done more to get independent corroboration of the party. But he said that McFarland and his mother had never misled him during their long association…
It seems to me that this is the sort of problem to expect when mainstream media decides to dip its toe into the new media waters of the Blogosphere. Evans winds up in a sort of virtual no-man’s land with a story that had it appeared in a typical college football blogger’s post would have gotten some attention without being questioned too much – after all, the fact that McFarland did say those things about Brown’s program isn’t in dispute – that instead opens up questions about his journalistic integrity due to the story being published under the Times’ auspices.
And, no, I’m not saying I know what the right answer is here. The Times has a reputation to protect that’s far different from a blogger like me publishing anonymously, that’s for sure.
But the irony of this hasn’t escaped me, either.