Media Hoax Day 2: Apology released, but questions linger

When I started this blog/website, I didn’t intend on creating an Alabama version of Brill’s Content. But media incompetence, recklessness and spitefulness over the last 60-plus days has created fodder for commentary after commentary–all on media errors.  I am more convinced than ever of the need for a media watchdog in the sports world.

Just in the last few weeks we’ve seen the University mocked by ESPN, the University and Saban mocked by Miami media, Saban trashed by the Miami media for taking the UA job, Saban’s off-the-record remarks released to the public by a Miami reporter and yesterday an Internet hoax passed off as truth by a Gannett newspaper in Louisiana.

Is it any wonder people don’t trust the media? If they can’t get the small stuff like sports right, how can we trust anything it reports?

The sad answer is we can’t trust the media, particularly sports writers.

Fortunately, more attention is being paid to the reckless media. A column originally appearing in the Detroit Free Press was picked up by the Chicago Sun Times. This article draws attention to the dangerous actions of the media in the coonass controversy.

So far, the media reaction to the Internet hoax has been mild with only a small mention in the Mobile Register. If anyone else finds any  newspaper stories on this hoax, please email them to us and we’ll be sure to include links. You can email us at:

The Internet hoax is a travesty for journalism because it showcases how personal bias can influence news judgment. (For more information on the controversy click here.)

Opelousas Daily World sports editor Tom Dodge wrote a column on Monday detailing outrageous quotes from Saban including this gem: “According to a story in the Birminham News, Saban chatted with Paul Finebaum and joked that Mississippi State was “still funding scholarships by collecting pop bottles and aluminum cans along the highways.”

Unfortunately for Dodge, Saban and the University, the quote was taken from a hoax being passed around the Internet. A hoax that would have been exposed with a simple search of the Birmingham News archives, a visit to the News website or an email to Paul Finebaum. This website asked via email if any such comments by Saban were made on the Paul Finebaum Radio show (we knew there had not been, but we asked anyway); it didn’t take long for Finebaum to answer his email, so Dodge could have gotten an answer to a question with relative ease.

But why let facts get in the way of a good story? Dodge already had a preconceived notion that Saban was a prick, and the coonass comment was proof. So, when Dodge needed a couple of more incendiary items for his column, it is obvious the hoax material (you can read the hoax story that was the genesis of Dodge’s column by clicking here) was right at hand.

So far, the Daily World has not answered many questions regarding the hoax. The only actions of the newspaper were to pull the column from its website, and declaring the column inaccurate. Late Monday afternoon, the paper posted an apology on its website. This morning, the apology was difficult to find, (UPDATE: THE NEWSPAPER PUT THE APOLOGY BACK ON THE FRONT OF THE WEBSITE LATE THIS MORNING) and it remains unclear if the paper planned to punish the sports writer. In Dodge’s defense, he did send an email apology to Paul Finebaum Monday afternoon; Finebaum read the apology during his show’s closing minutes. However, the newspaper owes Saban, the University and the entire public an answer and a public record of its actions in the wake of the scandal (not some minor hidden thing on its website.)
But this latest attack continues the assault on Saban. From the beginning, Saban has made himself and the University a target. And biased members of the press have gone along with it. Sometimes it is outright bias like Colin Cowherd’s regular attacks on his ESPN radio program (attacks fueled by an Auburn grad producer). Sometimes the attacks are misjudgments fueled by dislike for Saban. The leaking of the coonass tape and the Internet hoax were both fueled by reporter’s dislike of the Saban.

It’s time for sports reporters to be held to the same standard the rest of journalists must face. Newspapers wouldn’t tolerate such obvious bias in the news section by a political reporter and should not tolerate this.



Eight In The Box examines how absurd the Saban attacks are. With a bit of humor, they link Saban to several other scandals the media hasn’t reported yet. It’s probably only a matter of time.