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Bona Bits: Media Doing Bonnies No Favors Lately

BONA BACKER BITS: Walt Stubbs

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry and it has nothing to do with the St. Bonaventure Men’s Basketball team. Actually, it does, but indirectly. No, this has to do with today’s media and how it covers sports, politics, celebrities or just plain everyday news. As a freshman in 1983, one of the first classes I had was with the late Dr. Russell Jandoli, for which the school of Mass Communication is now named. The first thing he said to us aspiring (some) journalists, “was to report the news, not be the news.” Somewhere along the way that line of thinking and teaching has changed. And while we love to say change is good, in this sense it is not. People today want the news now. I get that, with all the outlets that are now available and endless social media platforms that allow news or non-news to be spread in literally seconds.

As a result, the media finds itself in a position that they want to be the first to report something, and damn if the facts are correct or not. It’s actually a sad state of affairs for a profession whose main job is to report the facts in an objective matter. Even columns, which are opinions, should be written with facts to back it up. Today, anything goes, and if there is an error you might get a retraction a day later, but by then it will have been to late anyway.

 

I write this based on the reporting that some media outlets have done in the last week pertaining to the St. Bonaventure Men’s Basketball team, namely the big four letter:ESPN, the Worldwide Leader. It all started after the heart breaking loss last Saturday night at the Reilly Center to VCU. Many media outlets erroneously reported that the Bonaventure students ran onto the court before the game was over. The Atlantic Ten Conference even issued a written statement shortly after the conclusion of the game, saying the referees did not error in its ruling. However, less than 24 hours later, after obtaining numerous video clips, the administration of St. Bonaventure had a conference call with the A10 Conference and the head of officiating, Brian Kersey. It was concluded that the referees had made a mistake, and that the students did not run onto the floor before the clock read 0:00. The Conference then issued another release, which was sent to all the media outlets regarding their final conclusion.

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done, not only with Bonaventure suffering a loss it shouldn’t have had, but also with the general public, and I guess, even some media.

That’s because five days later, some in the media were still reporting the wrong facts with regards to the outcome. On Thursday, February 9th alone, ESPN’s three shows; Outside The Lines, Highly Questionable, and Pardon The Interruption all inaccurately reported again that the students rushed the floor, costing St. Bonaventure the win. Outside The Lines, with Bob Ley, a respected journalist who has been at ESPN since its inception, inferred that the bus driver who was driving the St. Louis Billkens team back to the airport, was somehow associated with St. Bonaventure. Ley insinuated and made the comment that he hoped that bus driver wouldn’t be driving the Bonaventure team to it’s game in DC against George Washington on Saturday.

In speaking with the school, which obviously ESPN didn’t, I was advised that the driver who was arrested for DWI and was found 40 miles outside of campus, was never a Bonaventure driver. It was also explained that visiting teams make their own reservations concerning hotels and travel arrangements, including transportation. It’s a common practice in all Division I Athletics. While Ley never came out and said the driver was an employee, the way in which he and his producers presented it insinuated that she was.

And therein lies the problem.

Too much sensationalism without explaining the real facts. Instead of intertwining Saturday’s loss to VCU and what happened to the St. Louis team being stranded after there loss, they might have tried correlating VCU’s last two wins, winning two games in a controversial fashion with .04 seconds on the clock each time Highly Questionable tried that topic on Thursday as well. But, again, instead of saying the fans ran on the court after the clock went to zero, again left it up to the viewer to conclude the fans ran out on the floor before the game ended, costing the Bonnies the win. PTI, with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, also touched on the same topic. Wilbon said, after watching the video, “You don’t rush the floor when you beat VCU. You rush when you beat UCLA.” Kornheiser then added, “Well St. Bonaventure won’t likely ever have the chance to beat UCLA. They don’t have Bob Lanier.”

By the way, why hasn’t anybody mentioned Syracuse storming the floor after beating UVA Saturday? Didn’t Syracuse just make the Final Four a year ago? Just food for thought.

Lets hope that someday reporting the news will go back to the days when Jandoli taught it. Until then, be wary of anything you read or hear. It could be Highly Questionable.

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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.