The Internet is Eroding Journalistic Credibility

Clearly, even in the hallowed world of sports:

As well as Roethlisberger has
played—and there’s no disputing he’s one of the league’s elite
quarterbacks—his off-the-field reputation has spiraled downward since a
horrific motorcycle accident in June 2006, five months after he became
the youngest QB to lead a team to the title. Roethlisberger was riding
his black 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle, helmetless and without a
permit, in downtown Pittsburgh when he collided with a Chrysler New
Yorker. Roethlisberger hit the windshield, rolled over the roof of the
car and struck the ground headfirst. He suffered a broken jaw and nose
and underwent seven hours of surgery. “If I ever ride again,” he said
afterward, “it certainly will be with a helmet.”

A few
months after the accident, a reporter and a cameraman for KDKA-TV, the
CBS affiliate that broadcasts Steelers games, were driving on I-376 in
Pittsburgh when they saw two men on motorcycles and recognized one as
Roethlisberger, who was not wearing a helmet. They began shooting
footage, which showed Roethlisberger giving them the finger as he sped
away, but the video never aired. The station’s news director at the
time, John Verrilli, and its current assistant news director, Anne
Linaberger, deny that any such tape existed, but several people who saw
the video gave SI similar accounts of the tape; sources believe the
story was killed out of fear that it would damage KDKA’s relationship
with the Steelers. “If we had been the other affiliate [which doesn’t
broadcast the games],” says one of the people who saw the tape, “it
would have been A-1 news.”

Maybe there’s an ethics conference that can address this.


14 thoughts on “The Internet is Eroding Journalistic Credibility

  1. For what it’s worth, affiliate concerns like that are legitimate. The accident was in June 2006 and a month later the Brownscanceled a broadcast contract over coverage of the owner’s family. I’m sure KDKA was aware of that when they got the footage of Roethlisberger.
    This is not to excuse the station; they decided who they were going to serve and it wasn’t the public. Just thought the added context might be interesting.

  2. Not showing a stupid guy being stupid isn’t serving the public? The station isn’t Roethlisberger’s nanny. This really wasn’t a big ethical question. How much revenue is generated by covering the games? And how much of that goes to actual community services? There’s the question. If they’re selling out, what are they doing to balance it?
    And say – anybody read about the accident and subsequent troubles and think traumatic brain injury? I did.

  3. I live in a small town (county population 15,000). Newspaper has passed through several owning editors.
    I’ve seen so many instances where the local newspaper and TV station don’t report the full details that very obviously are news – apparently because they are afraid of offending this family or that family. Very often the details will come out via the community grapevine.
    It certainly doesn’t help their reputation that I occasionally see classified ads for other newspapers in other small towns that seem to imply that if you buy out that town’s newspaper, you have a guaranteed income and get to tell the town what to think – kind of your own little fiefdom.

  4. It’s a trivial story, k, but sports are trivial, period. So are movies and TV, yet news programs cover them. If you’re going to cover trivia you should do so with the same standards used for more important subjects, no?

  5. The station’s news director at the time, John Verrilli, and its current assistant news director, Anne Linaberger, deny that any such tape existed
    How unusual to have a pack of lying self-interested douchebags running a news program! I am shocked.

  6. Why is everybody assuming that the two people quoted on the record are lying, and that the anonymous sources aren’t?

  7. nobody said football players were geniuses. they should remake north dallas forty, but hollywood would fuck it up.

  8. Yeah, I’m with k — how come no one talks about Roethlisberger’s TBI and how it must affect his behavior? Once someone has had a brain injury, he or she is never the same.

  9. I guess the question is, how much time are you going to devote to trivia? And does professional football fall under trivia? To me, the tape/ no tape story stands at the grey junction of morality and paying the bills. Maybe releasing it to a caring relative would have been the moral thing to do.

  10. how does any of that have anything to do with the internet or are you just being too ironic?

  11. Even beforeq a team accept public monies for private stadiums, their players are of public interest.
    His lifestyle is every bit as newsworthy as Sarah Palins. Though no more interesting.

  12. Professional athletes are almost always people for their entire lives have been idolized and put on a pedestal. Remember, if you aren’t one of the absolute stars of your high school team, you stand just about zero chance of ever being a pro. And, if you aren’t also an outstanding, all-American, record setting college athlete you stand just a little better than zero chance of ever being a pro. So, until you become a pro your whole community makes allowances for your boorish behavior, and chants “boys will be boys”, no matter what you do. This leads to Roethlisbergers in the pro ranks. I can’t help feeling sorry for them, but because some don’t act that way it is proven that you can be a pro and still be a decent person, so my empathy is very limited.
    As far as news goes: why is a horrible fire, a murder, a robbery, a car accident, etc. news, but the doings of a star pro athlete not news? If we were all in the upper cultural layers of society “news” would be all about ideas, laws, accomplishments, etc. But, of course there isn’t room in the upper levels for all of us.

  13. The sad part is, KDKA had nothing to lose. The NFL makes deals with networks, not local affiliates. Under the current agreement, CBS covers the intraconference games of AFC teams (of which Pittsburgh is one) and AFC teams’ road games against NFC opponents, period. The Steelers couldn’t keep KDKA from covering their intraconference and road interconference games if they wanted to.

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