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'Get it right' is still good advice

I’m old and can see my own finish line from here, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out what’s going on in this business that I have called my own for all these years.

Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs furnished ample factual information to ESPN that cast serious doubt on its story on synthetic marijuana use at Auburn. Blew it to pieces, really. Yet, ESPN went with the story anyway.

Selena Roberts called Auburn seeking comment, she said, on a story she was doing on the four players charged two years ago with armed robbery. She neglected to mention that her story really was a bunch of poorly sourced accusations.

That’s the new way of many in the so-called national media. Call for comment at the very last minute. That way, no one has time to dispute your story and actually make you do more work.

What’s going on?

What’s happened to Auburn isn’t the worst of it, of course. There are dozens, hundreds, of other examples, many of them worse and more damaging than what Auburn has endured.

I don’t get it.

Have page views become more important than the truth? Has being sensational become so important that you don’t check for more facts out of fear you will find something that contradicts your story?

Have we really entered the era of Jerry Springer journalism?

Did virtually every ESPN show really believe it was OK to spend all day Thursday pretending that Roberts’ story was filled with facts? Did they really not wonder how it could be that Auburn was doing all these terrible things when NCAA investigators were virtually living at the athletics complex investigating bogus accusations against Cam Newton?


Do web site hosts, bloggers and even more highly respected folks who never come to Auburn, don’t talk to anyone at Auburn, don’t know anything about Auburn really believe that it is good and cool for them to rant on and on about the supposed evils perpetrated by people they don't know at all at a school they know little to nothing about?

Is that OK in the so-called information age?

Has reporting really come to be about having an opinion and searching out some source or sources to validate your opinion instead of searching for the truth, wherever that leads?

Do we call that journalism now?

Anyone who has been in this business for long has been wrong. No reporter can deny that, at some point, he or she wrote a story that turned out to be either dead wrong or close to it. It happens to us all somewhere along the way, and more than once. We take our lumps and go on our way.

But for those who care, who really care, there is little worse than realizing you were wrong. And there is little more important than doing what you can to right that wrong, regardless of the personal consequences. That's especially true if your mistake has hurt someone.

“Get it right,” my father once told me. “If you don’t get it right, nothing else matters.”

That advice is as good and sound today as it ever was.

If you really care.

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