What do journalists and Tressel have in common?

It’s finally safe to say it’s summer. Which inevitably means off-season talks, scandels and re-evaluations of past offenses. Specifically, offenses that has placed OSU football players in the limelight, and coach Jim Tressel in the spotlight.

Now I’ll admit, I’m a huge football fan. And with the NFL lockout bringing about the biggest buzzkill for fans since a month or so after the Packers superbowl victory, my attention has shifted the only other football conference that I care about: The Big Ten. So when this OSU scandal broke the surface of “extensive” media coverage, I was ecstatic. Yes, because I hate Ohio State, but also because I hate how good they are at everything. A blow to the power-source of their football success was just what I needed to enjoy the rest of off-season.

I feel like I’ve read everything on just about every angle of this issue. But I was surprised to see that the article that seemed to both irk me and please me came from a “20-something” former OSU journalism student.

Basically it’s your typical post by a journalism student standing up amidst this scandal and turning the empathy for Tressel on themselves and their student paper, The Lantern. But it doesn’t start that way.

No, the post starts by defending Tressel, saying

“For one of my journalism classes at OSU, he granted a fellow student—who wasn’t even on staff at OSU’s student-run newspaper, The Lantern—an interview for a class project in which we had to write a profile on someone.”

She goes on to say

“Did you know Tressel taught a course at OSU? Did you know that he encouraged his team to be compassionate off the field, resulting in players making regular visits to Nationwide Children’s Hospital?”

That’s when I had to stop and chuckle a bit. Of COURSE Tressel is a good guy and has a couple of career “genuines” that make him the person he is today. Everyone does. That’s like me saying “Ok, I understand that Arnold Schwarzenegger did a horrible thing, but you know in 2004 he donated his $250,000/yr salary to charity,” or “Anthony Weiner is a great guy with a genuine personality.” Those are of course, both pretty true statements. But that shouldn’t cover up the fact that what they, or Tressel did, was wrong.

In this case it was what Tressel didn’t do that ruined his career. Failing to report NCAA violations to keep players on the field is pretty inexcusable and reflects poorly on the institution. What’s worse is that Gordon Gee, the OSU president reassured fans that he wouldn’t be fired for it, knowing that the investigation could very well put Tressel on the bench.

The NCAA report even went so far to say that Tressel “failed to comport himself … (with) honesty and integrity.”

It makes me a little sad to see that the early ethical values of a journalist, like Nicole Frie, are being compromised by her own biases. As a journalist, “honesty and integrity” are the reasons why you’re being paid to do your job. They’re the reasons why people pick up a copy of The Latern, The Daily, or the New York Times and trust it enough to take everything at face value and accept it as truth. You’re sad that people are shooting the messenger? That’s our job as journalists, and it’s what’s going to happen during every scandal, every allegation, and every off-season altercation. I don’t doubt for a second that Jim was a great guy, but as a journalist, you need to hold people accountable. That’s what true leaders do, hold people accountable.

Tressel didn’t do that, Gee didn’t do that, and I’ll be damned if I see one more story where the journalist doesn’t either.


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