Friday, September 21, 2012

Has The N&O gone overboard with UNC-CH?

Some people (that's a broad stroke) say the news media, especially The News & Observer, has (I prefer to think "media" as a singular group not a plural one just as Wolfpack is singular in the same respect) gone overboard on the scurrilous athletics / academic / administration scandal that's taken place for the last two years, at the very least, though records probably show the mischief goes back to the beginning of time or, at the very least (again) to its founding day more than 200 years ago, at the Chapel Hill campus / branch of the University of North Carolina, henceforth known as UNC-CH.

As a long-time and sometimes suffering supporter of THE North Carolina State University (BA Political Science '77), also fondly and appropriately known as Cow College / Moo U with its rich ancestry of academic and research emphasis on agriculture to help the citizens of North Carolina prosper in growing crops and producing food derived thereof, I get a sick kind of joy from the daily revelations produced by the awarding winning rag of Raleigh, henceforth to be known as the N&O. It's by far the best newspaper in Raleigh.

As an aside, my alma mater will henceforth be known as State, a tradition like none other except, of course, The Masters, the annual golf tune-a-ment (misspelled for emphasis) held at the Augusta National Golf Club which, after eons of being the last bastion of male golf membership, now has two female members, probably not the two some protesters of male golfdome bastion wanted but nonetheless two, which is okay with me, for what it's worth. Now back to our story.

Unfortunately, what the multitude of articles printed in the N&O has proven is that, above the many acts of wrong-doing at UNC-CH, the writers at the N&O know how to cut and past from one article to the next. My guess is that only about 10% of all the words printed on the subjects of this series (of agents giving stuff to athletes, coaches breaking NCAA rules for various reasons, the Chancellor firing coaches for just looking stupid but not doing stupid, professors and department heads creating and teaching classes that never were intended to have students actually attend class, a chief fundraiser padding trip expenses so special trips could be taken with another fundraiser who got the job because of dating the chief fundraiser, the Chancellor calling it quits in the best interest of UNC-CH because he agreed to hire the lower level fundraiser and he was getting too much heat from big-time UNC-CH financial contributors who actually saw no problem with the chief fundraiser finding a job for the fundraiser he was dating, and the faculty and trustees wanting the Chancellor to stay in his job in the best interest of UNC-CH) were original thought or facts dug up after seeing a post on a twitter account or listening to a message from an anonymous telephone call followed by a law suit to gain information otherwise not forthcoming.

In other words, the N&O could have saved a lot of paper and reduced expenses if it had only printed new stuff in each story instead of repeating the background of what had transpired before the new revelation. But then there would not have been lengthy stories, making it look badder (emphasis again) than the bad that is was and is. In one or two papers, there were at least two or three stories that repeated the same stuff which is sort of okay with me because it made the subject look extraordinary really bad, my sick kind of joy in it all. In reality, if UNC-CH wants credit for lifting the entire system to higher levels, which it really has over the last 200+ years, it must also take and receive credit for the bad name it is now bestowing on the other UNC system members, in the last two years. What took more than 200 years to shine has been dulled in less than 1% of the same time. Be gone ye bad apples and little fishes, please!

Anyway (stay with me), I sent an email to the N&O executive editor, the words of which are herewith. I was actually being a little philosophical in my writing:

It seems to me that you and the staff are all consumed by the downfall of UNC-Chapel Hill. As a Wolfpacker who has suffered from a similar siege, I can appreciate the legions of Tar Heels—University mascot not the State of NC nickname—who are disgusted with the onslaught of coverage by the N&O. But, then, as a NC State alumnus and Wolfpack loyalist, I can also appreciate the efforts by the newspaper. It is not the N&O that brings down structures such as NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill. It is the structures that crumble from their own doing.

Wow! I actually wrote that last line. Imagine that! Slap me silly. However, I did not stop there. The email to the editor was sent the day the N&O published a story about State basketball student-athlete Rodney Purvis who was cleared by the NCAA to play this season/academic year after he did what was asked of him to graduate high school and be eligible to participate in NCAA sanctioned athletics. There was doubt in the creative minds of the NCAA, the same organization that bestowed sanctions on UNC-CH athletics because of all the stuff "discovered" by the N&O and others, that the high school did the right thing for Purvis. Anway, the N&O article was headlined: NCAA frees Purvis to play for Pack. My note to the aforementioned and terrifically-good-at-his-job editor went on to say:

When I saw the headline, I thought about the "gaff" by Vice President Joe Biden: "(Romney) is going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street," Biden said at a campaign event in Danville, Virginia. "He is going to put y'all back in chains." Maybe the N&O headline writer intended us to believe that Purvis, a black, was under lock and key, a slave to the NCAA, in those Biden chains. Racist headline? Probably not, but it could be read that way. Inappropriate? Well, a better choice of words would have been “approves” or, as Joe Giglio wrote in the second paragraph, “clears” Purvis.
The editor's response was, "I'll talk to the headline writer about it." No word yet about that conversation.

At least there was no cut and past in his email response. He could have reviewed all those UNC-CH-treacherous-the-sky-is-falling-the-University-is-being-controlled-by-athletics actions so well known to readers of the N&O. Thank goodness he didn't. My in-box couldn't have handled it all. But, looking back, I ask aloud this deep and perplexing question: Has the N&O gone overboard with its effort to unearth the last decent person in Chapel Hill and string 'em up? Well, it really depends who you ask.
What do you think? Has the N&O gone overboard with UNC-CH?

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