The Daily Trojan doesn’t know journalism

August 31, 2007

annenberg_school_for_communication-usc.jpgI already posted a comment about this topic over at Bruins Nation, but feel strongly enough about it to re-post it here and expand on it.

For those of you who don’t know, the Daily Trojan wrote an editorial (not a column, an editorial by the main editors at the paper) blasting Bruins Nation for reporting that USC assistant coach Todd McNair was arrested and charged for dogfighting-related charges.

This editorial was wrong on so many levels. Most obviously, they said “Tom McNair” instead of “Todd Mcnair”. Good journalists never ever mess up people’s names. The editorial also got many of the facts wrong about how Bruins Nation first uncovered the story, I summed up how it was really done in a previous post on this blog. The Daily Trojan also singled out Bruins Nation, even they weren’t the only journalists to point out the McNair-dogfighting connection. The LA Times and Deadspin, among others, wrote about this. So it wasn’t just Bruins Nation who thought this newsworthy.

As for the rest of my arguments, I’ll just copy and paste what I wrote on Bruins Nation:

***

It’s one thing for average Trojan fans to try and blow this off — but the Daily Trojan is supposed to be run by journalists. This was an editorial, written by the editors who run the paper — not just a column written by a crazy columnist. And they have a journalism school too, which just shows how useless those are.

Real journalists hold the people they report on accountable, and there’s two major issues here they could be investigating and asking:

  1. Should someone who was involved in dogfighting be in charge of mentoring young adults?
  2. The fans who pay a lot of money to go see their team play deserve to know who they’re paying to see — it’s up to them to decide if they want to support a dogfighter or not.

The Daily Trojan doesn’t seem to care about either issue, while here at Bruins Nation, most of us were outraged when we heard about the Eric Scott case. Many of us wanted either Scott gone or Dorrell for hiring him in the first place. Almost all of us at the very least wanted more information about it and demanded transparency. If it came out that any of our coaches were involved with dogfighting, I’d for sure want to know all about it and I’d probably want him fired — I’m guessing most people here at BN would too. In this editorial, The Daily Trojan fails to understand what journalism is. This was the first paragraph:

The purpose of news is to inform its readership of new, relevant events. Good journalists report with progress in mind, but more often than necessary, news organizations beat stories to the ground, serving no good to the public.

That paragraph is so wrong in this situation on so many levels. News doesn’t have to be new (professional newspapers investigate things that happened years ago all the time), it just has to be either relevant or important. Which this was. There is a huge nationwide discussion going on right now about dogfighting, and before Meriones uncovered it, a connection had never been made between Todd McNair’s involvement in dogfighting and the fact that he’s currently a coach at USC.

Good journalists do report with progress in mind, and good journalists would have reported this story because it’s becoming clear that we as a nation despise dogfighting now more than ever and deserve to know who’s been involved, how they were punished, and what’s being done to make sure dogfighting doesn’t happen again.

News organizations beat things to the ground … how did that happen here? It hadn’t been reported that a current USC coach was involved with dogfighting until BN uncovered it — how is breaking a story beating it into the ground?

As has been pointed out already by Tydides and others, the Daily Trojan got a lot of their facts wrong in reporting how the story was broken here. So they don’t do their homework and they don’t even know what journalism is — why are they running a newspaper?

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