It’s a cliche to say “everything on the internet is forever,” but only because it’s true. There is no marginal cost to permanently preserving the words uttered and written yesterday, and so it is done.
Most people would think this is a good thing. For certain groups, however- politicians and newspaper columnists come to mind- the ability to instantly reproduce what someone said yesterday is a form of unwanted accountability. If you uttered a statement yesterday that we find out was false today, then you might be asked lots of questions along the lines of “were you stupid or were you lying?” And if your career relies almost exclusively on your personal credibility, neither stupid nor lying is good for you. The internet can be very dangerous to you.
Almost six months after the Free Press broke the “OMG Michigan Committed Major Violations” story, we now have some more definitive information on exactly what went on with M’s practices. And because everything on the internet is forever, we can retrospectively judge the work of Rosenberg and Snyder.
It is my contention that authors Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder lied to readers about the Michigan football practice regime. Lying is different than just being wrong. A lie requires the person to state a falsehood, and know that it is false at the time. So I must show that A) their article was significantly wrong or false, and B) they knew it was wrong.
Initially I started fisking the article bit by bit, but there is no need to be that tl;dr. Here is the crux of the article, right in the intro:
The University of Michigan football team consistently has violated NCAA rules governing off-season workouts, in-season demands on players and mandatory summer activities under coach Rich Rodriguez, numerous players told the Free Press.
This assertion is repeated in various forms and in various detail throughout the article. ‘Michigan consistently broke the rules by practicing too much.’ This is false. The press conference today just made that official. The practice schedule as told by Rosenberg massively overstated the hours, and after all is said and done we’re talking about how to count time allocated for stretching (seriously). Further, there was nothing consistent or willful about the schedule or staff activities.
And…that’s it, then. The Freep asserted that Michigan consistently violated NCAA rules, and that’s simply not true. Check Part A.
On to Part B: did they know this wasn’t true?
In the article, the players made no claim about “consistent NCAA violations,” ever. None of the players offered any on the record interpretation of NCAA-designated “voluntary” or “mandatory” hours, which by now we all know is extremely important. In short, no player ever said on the record “we’re breaking the rules.” Which given the effort put into this “investigation,” that’s kind of telling, isn’t it?
When considering Rosenberg’s and Snyder’s article, we should remember that making claims about practice schedules, time requirements, and perceptions of what was “required” is NOT the same as making claims about NCAA compliance. Again- no player made any comment about complying or not complying with NCAA guidelines, which is the entire point of the article.
Rosenberg and Snyder knew they didn’t have what they claimed to have. The players made no such assertions about NCAA compliance- otherwise, those quotes would have been included. Further, Rosenberg and Snyder knew the guidelines on “voluntary” workouts were important, because Brian asked them directly. But they withheld that information from their readers.
They effectively concealed the fact that they didn’t have any primary and/or corroborated quotes about NCAA violations (lying through commission), they withheld crucial information about how hours are categorized (lying through omission), and they knew they didn’t know how the hours were actually being categorized (just plain ignorance, but again lying through omission about their ignorance). It’s theoretically possible they didn’t know their statements were false, but they at least knew there was a chance. They omitted that chance from the article.
They certainly didn’t know their statements were true either. Is strongly asserting something you know could theoretically be true but might also be false a lie? If you don’t offer up any qualifications to your assertions (I didn’t see any), then I say yes, especially in the case of Rosenberg.
I suppose the best we could say about Snyder is he was totally ignorant of the subject on which he was writing and he didn’t know he was uttering falsehoods. So yay for being a dumbass, Mr. Snyder. But with Rosenberg, we know from his opinion column that he disapproves of the job Rodriguez is doing. For him to write falsehoods that also denigrate someone he disapproves of is just a bit too much of a coincidence for me to believe. Rosenberg knew what he was doing, IMO.
They lied. In the days and months to come regarding the story about “Michigan Players Practice A Lot,” let us not forget the fact that Rosenberg and Snyder lied to their readers.
(Side note: and let’s not forget Jim Carty’s oh-so-haughty “OMG This.Is.Huge!” response to this scandal, along with his ridiculous defense of his BFF Rosenberg’s work on this piece. Unfortunately, Mr. Carty has restricted his blog and so we can’t link him and hold him accountable for his asshattery. How convenient. Carty, if you’re out there and you’re not too busy
blowing your Torts prof for a passing grade “in law school,” then I’d appreciate you emailing me your thoughts on Rosenberg’s work.)