Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rah, Rah For The N&O's Leah Friedman

The nerve of a newspaper reporter who wants me to name my sources! Especially in an email inquiry and request. Especially from a reporter from The News & Observer, the local king of not revealing sources for fear of not getting more information from those who kiss and tell.

It was last Friday at 3:27 p.m. when the email hit my “Inbox” of Outlook. It was from Leah Friedman, who also goes by the pen-name, The Triangle Troubleshooter, though her columns are signed, and many times she clarifies situations, while many times she actually helps a person in need of resolution. But, she’s also a reporter, assigned to various topics, sometimes news, sometimes, well, fluff.

The email was about the…well…here it is: My name is Leah Friedman, and I'm a reporter with the News & Observer. I am writing a story about the recent cheerleading court decision out of Connecticut, and I've been told you blogged about it. I'm wondering if you know anyone involved with NCSU athletics who agrees with this decision.

I started to answer in writing, to tell her, yes I do know of some directly and indirectly connected with the NC State University Department of Athletics who are on the side of United States District Judge Stephan Underhill who ruled for purposes of reporting under Title IX that Cheerleading is not a sport. But instead of writing, I decided to call her, to talk handset to handset. The conversation was short and pleasant and resulted in just what I thought.

“What? Are you going to rehash the story (which ran in The News & Observer, Wednesday, July 22)?” I asked.

“Oh, we never rehash stories,” she said which made me laugh. She said she was assigned to write a story from the local angle, and when she submitted her article, it had no quotes from anyone who favored the Judge. Initially, her editor rejected the story and wanted more. She said, in so many words that it would be nice to have someone at NC State, someone in the Athletics Department, who agrees with the decision. “So, I’m asking around. I was told you blogged about it and may know someone there who would talk with me,” she said.

My laugh grew louder, though only inside, not outwardly so she could hear. Here was a reporter asking someone to name a source. I failed to ask her if she would ever do the same for me in return, but I knew the answer would be negative. Newspapers and their reporters think they have the only right to sources. They think they are entitled to know more than everyone else, to get to sources and never tell who those informants are. Hell, reporters will rot in jail before telling the courts, even if it means by revealing a name or two a case could be won and a criminal would be brought to justice. So I knew that if I did her a favor and let her create a little more controversy about NC State, there’s little reason to think that if I needed a name later in life she would agree to return the favor.

So, she had no one for her rehash of the subject, at least from inside the NCSU Athletics Department, who agreed with the Judge, but she found plenty of people, obvious people, who disagreed with the Judge who wrote: “Competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX. Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students.”

Yes, I blogged about it a few days ago, the day after the ruling, the same day the story ran in The N&O which would have been the opportune time for The N&O to write a sidebar with a local flavor. In my blog, I noted that in this case, the Judge was upset at Quinnipiac College for substituting the “competitive cheer” squad of 24 girls for a nine-member girls’ volleyball team all in the name of meeting Title IX requirements. It was one of the many ways Quinnipiac was cooking the books, lying to the feds to make sure it was in compliance with equal opportunity for all. It was using, and still wants to use, the cheerleaders to make quota, and for that the cheerleaders should be insulted.

So, Ms. Friedman took off locally, asking the question: Is cheerleading a sport. As written in her rehash of the subject in The N&O, she got answers from:
—Harold Trammel, the Wolfpack’s cheerleading coach: “If you look at what we do, it's hard not to categorize us as a sport. It takes a lot of athletic ability to do what we do.” No doubt.
—Kaylee Allen, a current member of the State squad who said, in pointing out how hard they work on their “game” but whose reasoning is not very deep in thought: “We compete to win a title, and all other sports compete for a title as well.” Duh!
—Whitney Rigsbee, a former Appalachian State cheerleader who was equally deep: "We are very organized. We have coaches and trainers.” Double duh!

In reality, many university and college athletics departments and high schools treat cheerleading as a sport, a team sponsored by the department with coaches and trainers. And, in reality for liability reasons, it’s good to give the Pep Squad some organization, leadership and medical attention. I recall when I was in college we had well-balanced cheerleading squad of some but not all good looking woman and most out of shape men who tossed back a beer or two prior to the football and basketball games. They all did their flips and built funny off-balanced pyramids. But at one basketball game, during halftime, the squad decided to put on a show that should have been reserved for the professionals: The Wolfpack gymnastics team. In the midst of the tosses and tumbles, one of the men got a little aggressive with his approach and when he leaped over a small human mass, he overshot the padding laid out on the Reynolds Coliseum floor and landed on his mouth, chipping a tooth or two. Direction for him was quick. I believe it was off the squad.

I agree today’s cheerleaders work hard, are in shape, are organized, compete for trophies, and are much different than the cheerleaders of years gone by. But cheerleading as a sport still doesn’t fit with me. It’s an ancillary part of college athletics, not a primary sport for competition sake or for Title IX reporting. And, I do know people in several college athletics departments, not just NC State, who agree with me and with Judge Underhill.

But there’s no way whatsoever that I’ll share those names, those sources with Lead Friedman who did a fair job of rehashing a story that was at least 10 days old. I hated to rehash it here today, but at least I came up with a different angle, thanks to that email request for my sources who agree with me. Write me again.


  1. JP: I vote that smart-aleck blogging should be AN OLYMPIC SPORT. I think you and I going down to Rio all decked out in red, white, blue would be cool. No?

    Cheerleaders are fine athletes. They are an integral part of a college gameday experience. I luv'em !! I think cheerleaders deserve university tenure.

    I think the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders should be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

    Heck, I even like the designated hitter rule.

  2. Re: BobLee

    Mr. Lee’s comment is either the most bizarre or most brilliant statement I have just about ever read. How he meshes those topics into eight short sentences is astonishing.

    It’s funny but I cannot decide whether it is a clever compliment which adds to the conversation, or just lousy sarcasm.

    The question then is: Does the way readers interpret a writer’s ‘intent’ determine whether or not it is interesting writing?


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