The press has this unique power to sway public opinion. What separates good journalism and bad journalism probably boils down to one thing: honesty. If you’re honest about what you’re writing, you are being true to your readers. Otherwise, it’s just an abuse of media power. Honest journalism also extends to honest content.
These days, the amount of spin put on words is absolutely ridiculous. Since we’re in the LeBron James “The Decision” era, let’s reference ESPNNewYork writer Andrew Marchand’s article on how Derek Jeter and Jay-Z were not recruiting James to New York.
Marchand clearly interviewed Jeter and got quotes from him; but, he took those quotes and framed them to make it look like Jeter didn’t want to recruit James. Fortunately for readers, the article was so loosely tied together without much substance that it was easy to see through Marchand’s transparency. Obviously, what Jeter probably meant to say was that it wasn’t relevant because they play two different sports.
Imagine if Marchand had been able to gather better quotes from a less media-savvy athlete. Or, better yet, imagine writing an article about Subject A and attributing quotes given about Subject Z to Subject A.
Pete Thamel’s Enes Kanter Story
Confused yet? I am – mostly because I’m sitting here wondering how a New York Times writer can possibly gather quotes from a Duquesne assistant and attribute the quotes given to him about a totally different player to Kanter’s advisor, Max Ergul, in the resulting Enes Kanter story.
It’s quite a messy affair. Pete Thamel wrote an article about how Kanter took over $100,000 in cash and benefits while playing for a Turkish professional team. The general manager of Fenerbahce Ulker, Nedim Karakas, said to Thamel, “I am sorry for telling this for Enes, but we cannot lie if someone asks the whole story, we cannot hide.”
Thamel’s article in itself was a good piece of journalism. He got the GM of Fenerbahce Ulker to speak up about the matter while also writing in the article, “Fenerbahce stands to benefit if Kanter is declared ineligible to play college basketball since the team would be due a transfer fee if he plays in Europe next season.” Clearly, Karakas is not a neutral party in the situation.
What has become the issue is that Thamel asked Kanter’s former high school coach at Mountain State, Rodney Crawford, now an assistant coach at Duquesne, about Ergul’s relationship with Kanter. Thamel was attempting to insinuate that Ergul acts like a basketball agent.
Thamel then writes some quotes that Crawford gave about Ergul:
“I don’t feel comfortable talking much about him,” Crawford said of Ergul. “I don’t want to be talking about it. He’s a real secretive guy. I don’t feel comfortable talking much about him.”
When asked about Ergul’s role in Kanter’s life, he said: “He’s his adviser. That would be a good way to put it.” He added: “You know, that’s another thing I can’t really speak on. I just took a coaching job at Duquesne; you know how the game is, I can’t afford to say anything.”
The problem is, as Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones reported, the quotes were taken out of context and one quote wasn’t even about Ergul:
“Max is a great guy and Enes is a great kid,” Crawford said. “Never in a million years would I say something negative about those guys. The thing I was saying was that I dont want to speak on Max or anyone else without talking to them first. There was nothing negative about it, I just was saying he was my friend and I didnt want to talk about him to the press.” Crawford added, “he then took it and made it look negative.”
As for the final quote that Crawford gave Thamel about being a Duquesne assistant, Crawford had this to say:
“He asked me about a totally different guy that I dont want to talk about and it was something that was about a completely different situation. That quote wasnt even about Max or Kanter and he [Pete Thamel] knows that.” Crawford said he was angry at the use of the quote about a different player and the out of context quotes before to somehow paint him as having negative feelings about Ergul or Kanter’s eligibility. “I know for a fact that Max is a friend to Kanter’s family and that nothing against the rules went on with them. But he didnt print any of that.”
I’m a little confused here. Did Thamel think that Crawford wouldn’t read his article? Did Thamel think that because he has the New York Times label next to his name, his word should never be questioned and he automatically deserves credibility?
What Thamel did was blasphemous; at minimum, he ought to get suspended. He knowingly took a quote about someone else and made it about Ergul instead. That would be like taking a Chad Ochocinco quote about the Patriots being a good team and writing instead that Ochocinco praised the Cleveland Browns.
Thamel not only shamed himself and his employer, he shamed the profession. Perhaps his transgressions aren’t a national sensation in the news because these kinds of things happen all too often (see: Dwyane Wade’s Fanhouse debacle). Does that mean we should accept the alarming trend?
Absolutely not. There are those of us who take our craft seriously, myself included. Just because information is more readily accessible and available in today’s digital media age does not mean that standards should be lowered for what is responsible and solid journalism.
People will probably forget about this travesty in a week. The New York Times may or may not issue an apology or retraction. Everyone will go on with their lives as if this never happened. Later on, someone will bring it up in reference to another current events incident.
But, it doesn’t have to be like that. Thamel and others will continue doing what they have been doing if there are no consequences. It’s about time that their employers hold them responsible for flat out lying. Sometimes, credibility isn’t the worst thing you can lose. Do you like your job, Pete?