“Buckeyes Behaving Badly,” a panel discussion at Poynter Kent State Media Ethics Workshop 2011

“Buckeyes behaving Badly” was one of six discussion topics presented at the “Foul Play,” Poynter Kent State Media Ethics Workshop 2011 on Thursday where sports media professionals and enthusiasts gathered to talk about sports scandals, gender issues, and social media.

This discussion, moderated by Stephen Buckley, focused on sports journalism and the related scandals. The panel was comprised of journalists who have found themselves writing about big sport personalities: Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer, Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal at Ohio State University, Mike Wagner of the Columbus Dispatch, and Paul Haridakus of Kent State.

Jim Tressel, the former head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, was a major topic of conversation. Tressel ran the team for 10 years until he resigned in May during a NCAA investigation into rules violations during the 2010 season. He was hired as a consultant  for the Indianapolis Colts early this month.

Something fishy went on with Tressel and the Buckeyes, and suspicious behavior was an ongoing theme of the discussion. Wagner said that he suspected foul play early on and suggested that the team be investigated. For this reason and more, Wagner became known as “the man who brought down Jim Tressel.”

Pluto also spoke of a moment when he recognized Tressel’s downward spiral at Ohio State and braced to write about it in his column. He decided against revealing his strong opinion and instead “tip-toed all around it,” as Pluto put it.

“I wimped out on my opinion,” Pluto said.

This propelled the panel into a discussion about when and when not to publish.

Wagner spoke about the value versus the weight of information. He talked about how he moves to publish when he feels that he is bringing “new light” to a subject. He said that he receives anonymous phone calls and his kids are harassed at school because of his articles on Tressel.

Buckley turned to the audience for questions. Many were eager to ask Wagner more about Tressel.

Wagner responded with a story about how Tressel was “touching” with his empathy when Wagner lost his sister to cancer. He continued on to say that while he felt that Tressel was genuine, his job is still to report on things gone wrong, particularly with the Buckeyes.

“My job as a news reporter is to work the story. It isn’t to coddle personalities,” Wagner said.

Seeing as how the sports entertainment industry is so intertwined with the media, this seems like a point to take home.

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