I don’t go about my business the way Selena Roberts does, so I won’t claim to know why she has abandoned just about every journalistic principle I’ve learned in 44 years in this business. I will say it is one of the stranger things I have witnessed in all those years of covering sports.
It doesn’t take speculation to know Ms. Roberts has a personal grudge against her alma mater or at least against its football program. I’ve seen lots of speculation as to why, which if I did things her way, would be enough for me to throw those things out there as fact.
But here are some real facts:
* Ms. Roberts used quotes she says she got from former players and former players say she twisted or just flat out made up.
* She went so far as to question a ticket given to Mike McNeil for turning right on red, pointing out that it’s allowed nationwide. She didn’t point out that there was a very big sign at the intersection that said very clearly “no right turn on red.” As inconsequential as a traffic ticket for running a red light would seem to be, she saw the need to put it in her story. Like the rest of the story, she didn’t bother to check it out.
* She actually questioned why the parents of a grown man weren’t called when the grown man was arrested. Last time I checked, that doesn’t happen.
* She accused all kinds of people of breaking all kinds of NCAA rules and the Auburn police department of targeting African-American athletes (what a joke) without even a hint of evidence, other than quotes that were discredited within 15 minutes of the time they were posted on her web site.
* She insulted Mike Dyer and the integrity of the university from which she has her degree with outrageous claims of academic fraud that were bogus on their face and were obliterated in Auburn’s review.
* Ms. Robert prefers to respond to questions via email. I’m not all that bright, but I’m bright enough to know that you do that so you don’t have to answer further questions about your responses.
* In her response to Auburn’s internal review blowing up her story point by point, she said it was “self-revealing,” whatever in the heck that means. Then she leveled her threat that more is to come. Well, actually she didn’t say anything. She emailed it to the Opelika-Auburn News.
The bottom line - and this applies to ESPN’s witch hunt, too – Ms. Roberts acted on what she was apparently told by people facing armed robbery charges and their families. She verified nothing, showed no evidence and in general made a joke of calling herself a journalist.
Just as I don’t know why Ms. Roberts has an agenda against the university that trained her, I don’t know why her jobs with The New York Times and Sports Illustrated didn’t end well. And I don’t know how many hits she gets on her web site, Roopstigo.com. It only takes a look at her web site, which has one ad on a good day, to know that she’s not getting enough hits to attract advertisers and that the web site is not likely to be around long if that doesn’t change.
One of the more interesting parts of the whole Selena Roberts/ESPN saga is that none of those stories ever mention the fact that Auburn football has not been sanctioned by the NCAA in 21-plus years. Somehow, it has become conventional wisdom that Auburn being investigated by the NCAA and coming out clean means Auburn really is guilty.
I met Selena Roberts just once, when she was an intern for The Huntsville Times and I was sports editor of The Montgomery Advertiser. She seemed like a nice person. She was an outstanding student at Auburn who got a job many would kill for at The New York Times.
It didn’t take long for her attacks on her alma mater’s athletics program to begin. But she didn’t stop there. She vehemently attacked the Duke lacrosse players who were accused of rape and shrugged her shoulders and went on her way when she was proved wrong. She wrote a book about Alex Rodriguez based on anonymous sources, something I had not previously heard of.
She won’t subject herself to a give-and-take interview, instead insisting on responding by email even to the student newspaper where she once worked. When the gaping holes in her story, already obvious, are exposed, she says she is working on another story about Auburn. She says the central theme of her story was due process, which is completely nonsensical.
I’d say all those things truly are “self-revealing.”