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Gee slams ‘Sports Illustrated,’ ‘Sporting News’ as ‘bad journalism’

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

“‘Sporting News,’ ‘Sports Illustrated,’ a lot of them I don’t read. It’s bad journalism. And, so, why buy them?”

The “bad journalism” in question was President E. Gordon Gee’s assessment of “Sporting News”‘ April 9 article titled “From champs to chomped: How Urban Meyer broke Florida football,” which reported on an “out-of-control” culture left behind by Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer when he departed the University of Florida’s program in January 2011. The article also reported wide-spread drug use among his former players.

Gee also voiced concern about “Sports Illustrated,” which published an investigative report on OSU football and former Buckeye coach Jim Tressel in May. Tressel was forced to resign from his post May 30.

In discussing the “Sporting News” story, Gee defended Meyer.

“One doesn’t hire a coach without talking with all the right people,” he said. “One doesn’t hire a coach without understanding exactly what his values are.”

Gee said someone in Meyer’s position is always going to be subject to criticism, but that much of it is not concerning to him.

“You know, (OSU) is such a high-profile job, everyone’s going to nip at him,” Gee said. “Not having fully read the story, but having read portions of it, it is what it is. I would hope that at our institution we teach a higher quality of journalism.”

“Sporting News” president and publisher Jeff Price stood behind the “From champs to chomped” story, which was written by Matt Hayes.

Price told The Lantern, “There were no corrections, clarifications nor retractions with regard to” Hayes’ story on Meyer.

“The ‘Sporting News’ has been practicing quality journalism for more than 125 years and during that span, has held itself to the highest standards each and every day,” Price said in an email to The Lantern. “The basic tenets of our craft – sports journalism – are executed thoroughly on a daily basis in our newsroom, especially regarding the importance of source and fact checking.

“We stand firmly behind (Hayes’) story we published. In addition, with a highly regarded school of communication under his purview, perhaps President Gee should sit in on a journalism class with members of The Lantern to better understand the definition of ‘bad journalism’ before he flippantly used the term again,” the email said.

Of Hayes’ report, Meyer said he has and will continue to maintain transparency in his job as coach at OSU.

“We’re transparent. If you read that article, I mean, once again, I’m not sure what’s in there. It’s a three-month investigation of us,” Meyer said during an April 11 interview with The Lantern. “Articles like that – in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been getting battle-tested for the last 10 years. It happens. Everybody’s got jobs to do. Mine is to coach this team and work with the student body.”

Gee went on to scrutinize the “Sports Illustrated” investigative report of OSU, which was published as the cover story in the June 6 edition of the magazine. That report “revealed an eight-year pattern of violations under” Tressel.

“(‘Sports Illustrated’) came out with this big story about Ohio State, all of which was ultimately proven to be false,” Gee said. “I mean, the guy must have been looking at another school.”

Despite Gee saying the story, written by “Sports Illustrated” senior writers, George Dohrmann with David Epstein, included falsities, OSU spokesman Jim Lynch could not confirm that the university ever made a formal request for a correction or a retraction for either the “Sports Illustrated” or “Sporting News” reports.

“It’s difficult to address stories that rely almost exclusively on anonymous sources,” Lynch said in a Tuesday email to The Lantern.

“Sports Illustrated” did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Dohrmann confirmed to The Lantern that no corrections, clarifications or retractions were issued for his story.

Dohrmann, who said that he and “Sports Illustrated” both stand behind his reporting, added that he thinks Gee needs to go back and re-read the story.

“(Gee) knows more about bow ties than he does about journalism,” Dohrmann said.

OSU students weighed in on Gee’s assessment of the “Sporting News” and “Sports Illustrated’s” articles and seemed to stand by the publications and their work.

In discussing “Sports Illustrated,” Kejuan Johnson, a first-year in business, said he didn’t think it likely that the publication was capable of producing bad work.

“‘Sports Illustrated’ is ‘Sports Illustrated,'” Johnson said. “I couldn’t see it being bad journalism.”

Amy Esswein, a second-year in biology, cautioned that everything Gee said needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

“‘Sports Illustrated’ is not The New York Times, but it is not a tabloid,” Esswein said. “Gee shouldn’t be saying things like that, not that he doesn’t have a right to an opinion, but should be more sensitive to the issue.”

Mary Posani contributed to this story. 

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