Chicago Sun-Times Calls Out UK And Anthony Davis (Then Backs Away)

Posted by nvr1983 on August 4th, 2010

It seems like we have an Anthony Davis post almost every other day, but it also seems like the power forward from Chicago has managed to keep himself in the news for the past two weeks. Just one day after Davis announced that he had made his college decision, but was not going to announce it to the world just yet (something that we viewed with a weary eye at the time), the Chicago Sun-Times published a story about the quasi-announcement, but also threw in a rumor about the Davis commitment reportedly being up for sale. While some may consider the current form — which, at the time of this post, includes a few sentences about the possibility that a cash payment may have been involved in the recruitment of Davis — to be both meritless and tactless the major issue comes from the originally posted story (posted as a picture after the jump), which included the following passage:

The rumors/sources that have Davis choosing Kentucky are also alleging that the commitment cost over $200,000. Davis Sr. has flat out denied everything.

On one hand, the paper and the author technically (and likely legally, although Kentucky apparently does not agree) did nothing wrong as he only stated what an anonymous source had said, and the journalistic “code of ethics” compels him not to reveal his sources. He also allowed the Davis family to refute the rumor. That same journalistic “code of ethics,” however, also calls on O’Brien to verify wildly inflammatory statements or at least vet the source and accusation. After the LeBron-Markazi incident that lit the blogosphere on fire over the past few weeks, we can’t say for certain what the reason was for the re-edit although it is curious that the Sun-Times did so without even mentioning it (like Kentucky fans will ever let them forget it). Given that the Sun-Times pulled out the previously stated passage and left the rest of the piece intact, it seems reasonable to believe that its editors felt uncomfortable with O’Brien’s defense of that particular part of the accusation. As Michael DeCourcy noted, if the accusation had any merit it would be the headline of a national story, not something that was buried in a local story — even if the local paper is widely read.

Credit: TheBigLead.com

The first question is why O’Brien decided to include such an incendiary statement and if he realized what implications it would have. As we are not that familiar with O’Brien or his work, we tried reaching him, but he has not replied to our request for a comment on the situation. That said, we would be shocked if O’Brien did not realize that accusing a program with the nation’s most rabid fan base of committing a flagrant violation of NCAA regulations would lead to a tsunami of outrage even if it were true, much less if it were what appears to be a baseless accusation. Assuming that O’Brien realized the gravity of the allegations that he was making public, it would seem to the neutral observer that he intended to interject himself into the story of the recruitment of Anthony Davis. He wouldn’t be the first journalist to do so, but most journalists try to do it by breaking an announcement of a player’s decision before the official announcement, not throwing out unsubstantiated accusations against the player.

The next question is why the Sun-Times felt it was OK to keep the rest of the story about Davis being on the take in the story. While it is certainly an extremely bold statement to accuse a large state university of paying recruits, it would not be the first time that an accusation like this has appeared in print (and it would not be the first time that Kentucky has been charged with such an infraction). We can also see college basketball fans at 345 of the nation’s 346 Division I programs ready to read off the long list of infractions alleged against John Calipari-led teams, which range from the official cases like the 2008 Memphis team that never was to on-going investigations like the one involving former Wildcat Eric Bledsoe. If the Sun-Times felt like it had another Reggie Bush story on its hands, it should have done a more thorough investigation of the accusations and the facts before going to the press with any story. Kentucky fans are understandably up in arms at having another major media outlet levy an accusation against Calipari and the Kentucky program based on unsubstantiated rumors (to be fair, some of the other Calipari rumors appear to have had at least a bit of truth to them). But we have a bigger issue with the Sun-Times calling out a high school player without even the smallest shred of substantiated evidence. Instead of actually doing research, O’Brien and the Sun-Times elected to fall back on the old “rumor” crutch and end up looking like pandering fools, who, at best, can be viewed as attempting to increase page views by any means possible, and at worst, predators looking to cash in on a local high schooler’s brief moment of national attention.

Regardless of O’Brien’s cluelessness and the Sun-Times‘ curious decision-making over the impending firestorm, his decision to run the story and besmirch both Kentucky and Davis wreaks of shoddy journalism by the mainstream media on a day where the old guard should have been able to hold its head high following a decision by the editor of what has long been considered the premier (or at least most popular) Internet sport blog to run what I consider one of the most tawdry, salacious, unsubstantiated pieces of “journalism” I can remember [Ed. Note: It is so ridiculous that we are not even going to link to it.]. Instead, O’Brien and the Sun-Times have shown us that shoddy journalism is not just the realm of the unsupervised masses online. Substandard journalism can be practiced by anybody at any level. As Seth Davis noted earlier today, “Journalism isn’t dying, it’s committing suicide.”

nvr1983 (1295 Posts)


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