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Media feeding frenzies are nothing new. They started not long after the first American newspaper came off the press.

Senior Editor Phillip Marshall

But in this age of instantaneous news coverage, the Internet, Facebook and Twitter those feeding frenzies have gone to unprecedented levels. Even the very definition of news coverage has changed.

For an old newspaperman, the most disturbing trend is the blurring of the line between news and opinion. We see it on television, hear it on the radio and read it online and in newspapers.

There is fear for Casey Anthony’s life as she prepares to leave jail. She’s not the first person to be acquitted by an unpopular jury verdict, but for three years before her trial, she was vilified by Nancy Grace and other CNN commentators. The entire trial was covered from the perspective that she was not only guilty, but evil. And that coverage goes on today.

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College football doesn’t compare to a murder trial, but there are similar issues with the way it is covered.

Since the Cam Newton controversy boiled up last November, consider the schools that have gotten the most attention from those who have suddenly declared themselves to be protectors of the NCAA rulebook: Ohio State, Oregon, North Carolina, Tennessee, Auburn.

Ohio State is one of the nation’s more prominent programs and had one of the nation’s more prominent coaches in Jim Tressel. Oregon played in the BCS Championship Game. North Carolina has a prominent coach in Butch Davis. Tennessee had a lightning rod football coach in Lane Kiffin and one of the nation’s top basketball coaches in Bruce Pearl. Auburn won the national championship and Newton, the player at the center of the controversy, won the Heisman Trophy.

Georgia Tech, on the other hand, was sanctioned before most people knew it had been accused of anything. Even then, it was never a story that generated a lot of heat. Why? There’s no real interest in Georgia Tech.

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For the first time in the history of sports journalism, the most prominent writers, reporters and columnists in the country don’t work for newspapers. They work for web sites. Even those who do work for newspapers have more of a presence online than in print.

Newton was tried, convicted and vilified within a matter of days after it was revealed that his father had been accused of talking to Mississippi State about money. ESPN turned its awards show and the Heisman Trophy ceremony into Newton grilling sessions.

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Ironically, of all the schools mentioned, only Auburn has not been accused of wrongdoing by the NCAA. It has not received even a preliminary letter of investigation. Who knows if it ever will?

But like Newton, Auburn was tried and convicted by those who have used the blurring of the line between news and opinion to their benefit. Virtually every Auburn story from a national outlet is accompanied by dozens of comments saying the program is dirty and worse.

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As frustrating as it is for those who care about Auburn and other schools under the gun, it’s the world in which we live.

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