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Friday, January 20, 2006

M Zone Rick Neuheisal Professional Integrity Award

Remember how good ol' Coach Neuheisal used to get around those pesky NCAA rules forbidding coaches from visiting recruits in their homes before a certain date? He'd sit across the street from their homes in his car, call them on his cellphone and tell the kid to look out the window so they could see him. Sure, technically Neuheisal didn't violate the letter of the law but he broke the spirit of the rule.

Well, it is to honor that sort of ethical compass that we here at the M Zone are pleased to hand out our first ever Rick Neuheisal Professional Integrity Award.

The envelope, please.

And the award goes to...

Richard Manship, President of WBRZ-TV and The Advocate newspaper.

As the President of the ABC TV affiliate and leading newspaper in Baton Rouge, home to LSU, his "news" organizations covered the Onepeat.com billboard story mentioned so often here. The story was an obvious one for his "news" outlets as LSU was the "offended" party at the core of the Onepeat campaign. But it was the "professional" way Mr. Manship's media companies covered the story that drew our attention and led us to bestow this award upon him.

As you know if you're a regular M Zone reader, we here disagree with the Onepeat premise. Furthermore, we questioned - and still do - the motives behind the folks doing this. Rumors swirled that the site's founder, the mysterious Dallas-based "Steve," was actually a UCLA Bruin. If true, that would certainly cast a different light on the reason for the billboard, making it not an attempt to "clear the air" and "right" some perceived slight to LSU by the media regarding the 2003 season but, more likely, "little brother syndrome" from living in USC's long football shadow the last couple of years. Such a disclosure might (rightfully) affect many people's desire to give money to the "cause."

In addition, asking for $10K anonymously on the Internet should be something legitimate news organizations, if they're inclined to cover the story, should want to know much more about in terms of who's behind it and why. Seems to us, a lowly blog (with a humorous bent at that), to be basic journalism.

So, naturally, when we found out Mr. Manship's TV station, WBRZ, did an interview with "Steve," we watched with baited breath to get more facts about this story. But, alas, it was if they were protecting the identity of a government informant. They had him on over the phone, didn't bother to get a last name and provided not one iota of anything to back up "Steve's" stated intentions or background. My three year old nephew gets more information from strangers when he answers the phone at my sister's house (If you haven't seen the "story" above, it really is worth watching for the humor of it all).

Next, Mr. Manship's newspaper, The Advocate, had BUSINESS WRITER Ted Griggs do a story on Onepeat.com revealing...nothing more. Griggs says the site's creator ("Steve") is remaining anonymous although he doesn't say why. He mentions that "Onepeat.com has been fodder for a number of sports blogs, many of them critical" but doesn't give anybody else's point of view as to their reasons for that. Then, finally, at the end of his story Griggs mentions, oh by the way, that Advocate President Richard Manship is donating a $1,000 to this anonymous website to help with the cause. Yeah, better not ask any important questions.

Does that raise any ethical questions? I think so. Then again, Mr. Manship is no stranger to such ethical issues at WBRZ and The Advocate. Last year, a weatherman at his WBRZ TV station had filled out a Neilsen ratings book causing the rating firm to have to reissue ratings due to the obvious bias against local competitor WAFB. When Mr. Manship was asked if there would be any disciplinary action taken against the weatherman in question, Manship said it was an internal matter and added, "I have bigger fish to fry."

Maybe those fish included billboards.

Actually, when you get right down to it, I guess my beef about this isn't even really about the billboard. In the end, who really cares? My profound disappointment is with the media and news outlets covering this "story." Because if they can't ask the tough questions - or get more information out to the public than any one of us can get from an anonymously run website - about the Onepeat.com stories of the world, how can we trust them to inform us and get to the bottom of the big stories?

Anyhoo, it is for these reasons we present Richard Manship with this award he so richly deserves.

Congratulations, Dick!

Note: "Steve" now claims he's an LSU alum in recent articles, something unmentioned in the first stories. A Seatlle-Post Intelligencer story says his allegiance is "unclear."

1 comment:

Benny Friedman said...

Fellow Michigan alum Mike Wallace has nothing on the M Zone. Great work!