Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications hosted a media “symposium” Feb. 23 to discuss how the media is reporting on “accusations of child sex abuse against sport coaches,” the Post-Standard reported.
We wrote in December about criticism of and questions about how ESPN and the Post-Standard handled accusations against Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, who was fired last year. In 2003, the two news outlets had a tape purporting to be Bernie Fine’s wife and a former ball-boy, Bobby Davis, talking about Davis’s claims of molestation against Fine, but kept the tape unpublished. The two outlets reported they couldn’t verify the tape or collect enough proof to publish a report. In 2011, a second and third person accused Fine of molestation, so ESPN, the Post-Standard and others followed through with reports.
Also in late 2011, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged in a grand jury investigation over charges of child sex abuse. Both incidens prompted media ethics issues of invasion of privacy, the use of language in reporting, identifying the victim, and whether journalists should take evidence to police.
The symposium included ESPN, the Post-Standard, the Patriot-News, and the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s Tom Rosenstiel. “Executives from ESPN and The Post-Standard” noted during the conference that “they could have done more to help the needs of alleged victims,” according to the Post-Standard.
One participant, the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes’ Katherine Redmon, highlighted the way the media uses language in its reporting on accusations of abuse, according to the Post-Standard. She is quoted as saying:
“The media needs to question the wording that they’re using. I don’t think rape is an issue you need to clean up for people.”
The National Coalition against Violent Athletes states that its mission is to “eliminate off the field violence by athletes through the implementation of prevention methods and that recognize and promote the positive leadership potential of athletes within their communities.”
See video from the event here.