Leaked Missouri to the SEC story raises serious ethical questions

Disintermediation has created a media environment where journalists often work for the organizations they cover

W hat did these journalists know and when did they know it?

That is the question that should be on the mind of fans thanks to the errant publication of a press release and series of stories from the SEC and its SEC Digital Network about Missouri’s acceptance into the Southeastern Conference.

The documents released even included a Q&A with Tony Barnhart.

Maybe our questions should be, what did Mr. College Football know and when did he know it?

Since Tony Barnhart was quoted in some of the errant documents posted by the SEC’s website, it makes one wonder about his role as a journalist.

Is Barnhart an employee of the SEC or a journalist? What is his role on CBS?

Since the postings were dated October 22, Mr. College Football must have known for some time.

According to the Columbia Daily Tribune’s website, Barnhart had this to say about Missouri’s joining the SEC in a Q&A feature: “I think people have to remember that, as recently as 2007, Missouri was ranked No. 1 and in a position to play for the national championship,” Barnhart responds. “If they beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game, they were in a position to play for it all. Gary Pinkel has been as consistent of a coach as they’ve ever had. Missouri knows what good football looks like.
“The thing that people keep asking: ‘Is Missouri a cultural fit?’ I don’t think there’s any question that they are. People forget that there were questions about South Carolina and Arkansas. South Carolina had always been in the ACC or an independent, and Arkansas had been a founding member of the Southwest Conference, as far west as they were. People wondered if they would be a cultural fit. Once you bring somebody into the SEC family, after 3-4 years from now, that question will never be raised. They become a part of that family by being invited.”

Can we trust Barnhart to be an unbiased source? Or, is Mr. College Football a pro-SEC talking head?

You can thank the new media order for this. A generation ago, there was a clear line between reporters and the organizations they covered.

Today, these barriers aren’t so clear.

In some respects, the NFL and major college conferences like the SEC and schools like Alabama have succeeded in disintermediation; there are fewer barriers between consumers of information and the sports owners.

Today, Alabama can tweet its press release or the NFL commissioner can post a letter that reaches the masses without the filter of the New York Times or ABC/ESPN.

With new conference networks and digital properties, conferences can earn dollars from covering themselves. In some ways, this is good. Fans have more access to information about the NFL than ever before with the emergence of the NFL Network and the NFL’s excellent website.

Of course, the coverage could be shaped by the person who writes the checks, but fans know this when they visit the site.

But what about fans who watch these journalists on CBS or listen to their calls on sports radio shows like Paul Finebaum?

No doubt, this new media order causes headaches for journalists who now answer to many different employers.

This isn’t a perfect world, and the latest SEC and Missouri news shows just how confusing it can be.

UPDATE: Today Mr. College Football tweeted about his answers in the Q&A. According to Barnhart’s tweet, “Fair question. I was asked by XOS to respond to a hypothetical of Mizzou joining SEC. Had no inside knowledge or would have reported it.” (Source)

Fair enough. However, it doesn’t really eliminate the questions about reporters who work for conferences directly or indirectly on these conference channels and conference-owned websites.

8 Responses to “Leaked Missouri to the SEC story raises serious ethical questions” Subscribe

  1. CRIMSON HAMMAH October 27, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    no serious ethical questions there

  2. Tiger Smart October 28, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    Unfortunately, the same filter that fans must employ with the coverage of their favorite teams from their sports information director’s releases must also apply to our daily world news sources. Is a story about new Disney operations in China really news from ABC? Does Bloomberg and MSNBC report the market, or influence it for profit? What viewing markets do CNN and FOX really seek? Do they give their customers what they want to hear and what they fear to hear?
    Objecivity and truth are the driving force behind free minds and free people. Without reason we cannot be objective. Without a free press we cannot employ that reason to discern the truth. The peril, I am afraid, is far greater than just to our sports.
    This matter will become a touchstone of ineptitude for the SEC and the sports world. I hope it doesn’t spoil the dreams of innocent Mizzou fans who worked hard for a new day in a great conference.

  3. Crimsonite October 28, 2011 at 2:31 am #

    I think the whole bunch of you are Chicken Little’s hollering “the sky is falling”. Much to do about nothing.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. News | MrSEC.com - November 3, 2011

    […] links to the town of Barnhart, Missouri), I found the following at the tip top of the page:1.  Leaked Missouri to the SEC story raises serious ethical questionsThat’s from the Capstone Report, an Alabama-centric site that posted its story six days […]

  2. As Alabama celebrates SEC Championship, CBS’ Tim Brando and Tony Barnhart sulk | Capstone Report - December 3, 2012

    […] when a Q&A on the addition of Missouri to the SEC was posted online at the SEC website before the actual admission of Missouri to the SEC. Of course, Mr. Journalistic Integrity, err Mr. College Football said he was only answering a […]

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