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Were the media fair to Neuheisel?
By Richard Linde, Updated March 18, 2005

As author of the 11,000-word tome, "The Neuheisel Chronicles", I have done tons of research on the former University of Washington football coach, Rick Neuheisel. As a result, I am positioned to comment on whether the media treated Neuheisel fairly after the gambling story broke on June 4, 2003.

Everyone knows the mainstream media is slanted. Just ask anybody. “I can’t tell you why the media is biased; I just know slant or bias when I see it,” some will say.

One of my readers e-mailed me the following, "I've gotten into arguments with (Art) Thiel and a couple of others from time to time. Most of them (the Seattle columnists) do not even appear to think in terms of balance at all. They think that something 'is right' or 'is wrong' but cannot buttress their position by looking at all the evidence.  The problem is that the public does not demand any kind of rigor in reporting about sports, that it is mostly emotional anyway."

Finding instances of double standards, fact twisting, omission, and  sensationalism are ways of proving media bias to oneself. Sometimes the slant is of the in-your-face variety, such as always giving a certain political party the last word during a newscast. “Heck, we presented both sides of the issue," the media source will say, defending itself.

What I mean to say is that if a viewer hasn't thrown an old shoe at a TV screen in response to a pontificator's dogma, the viewer is either puerile, living in a jejune world or is sharing electrons with an alternate universe where unfairness does not exist. Most of us are skeptical of what we read or hear, lest we be sold acres of swamp land in Florida. 

Omitting a fact that would otherwise weaken an argument buttressed by a journalist or columnist is the easiest slant to detect because it is a one-time occurrence. Many times that omission follows the columnist from column to column on a particular subject.

I’m not trained in journalism, just common sense. And my common sense tells me that if a columnist makes short shrift of important facts in a story  – or, worse yet, twists those facts – then his reasoning is likely flawed.

The slant I'm discussing begins when Neuheisel was interviewed by NCAA investigators and ends at the start of Neueheisel’s lawsuit trial against the UW and NCAA – a period that encompasses almost 20 months, beginning June 4, 2003.  

Here are some facts that columnists in the Seattle media neglected to mention over that 20-month period. Others in the bulleted list below, some outside the period, concern double standards and a misstatement of facts.

  • Other than Fox NW, none of the media said that the NCAA's gambling bylaw is vague about sports pools. They wrote about  how the gambling Bylaw was not updated on the NCAA website and what it meant. However, the media never addressed fact that the updated Bylaw is ambiguous about sports pools.

    Most of the media said that the NCAA forbids gambling of any kind, which it claims it does. But where in the NCAA's bylaws manual is that written? NCAA Bylaw 10.3 (the one on gambling) is vague about bets wagered in sports pools, such as a March Madness basketball pool. And Neuheisel wasn’t betting in a pool, he was bidding in an auction to complicate matters. Various legal scholars have offered varying opinions about the updated Bylaw’s vagueness and clarity. Hence, by virtue of those differing weighted opinions, the updated gambling Bylaw is ambiguous about sports pools, a priori. It certainly doesn't say "sports pools disallowed;" instead, it appears to be aimed at organized gambling. Germaine to all of this, former UW compliance director Dana Richardson, who is an attorney, thought the Bylaw permitted the participation in sports pools as long as it was done outside of the intercollegiate athletic department.

  • None in the media said that Neuheisel was blindsided by the NCAA in violation of its own bylaws. The salient bylaw lay just one Google away from an investigative journalist.

    Our website, over the 20 month period, clearly pointed to that fact -- and the updated bylaw (the correct one) -- in our discussions of the gambling flap.

  • No one in the media mentioned that the Seattle Post Intelligencer reporter eavesdropping on Neuheisel’s cell phone call to his parents at the San Francisco airport, as an alternative, could have told Neuheisel that he’d overheard him talking about the 49ers job, then and there. In so doing they would have critiqued themselves and their investigative methods. The reporter's presence at the airport, just six feet away from Neuheisel on his cell phone, a million to one shot, still confounds me.

    The reporter could have said, “Hey, come clean, coach, I just overheard you talking about the 49ers job on your cell phone; I’ve got you dead to rights. I’ve still got a story, so fess up.”
  • In fairness to the reporter, he gave Neuheisel two days to come clean.

  • The media doggedly pursued Neuheisel during the coaching searches at UCLA and the San Francisco 49ers, even though they knew he was chained to Washington by an addendum to his contract that would have cost a would-be hirer $2.1 million to lure him away.

    The mega-reasons in his contract addendum are why UCLA wasn’t interested in Neuheisel, even though a Seattle Times editorial, “Coach Rick Hamlet,” had alerted us fans to Neuheisel’s schmoozing ways and the possibility of his interest in the UCLA job. Five days after the editorial was written, UCLA hired Karl Dorrell for a paltry $600 thousand per annum. Rick could have made as much as $1.8 million at the UW annually, providing each and every incentive in his contract was met. That editorial, an example of a double standard as well as artful omission, gave permission to then-WSU coach Mike Price to seek other coaching opportunities.

  • In its editorial format, the P-I failed to balance the dogmatic opinions given by former UW quarterback Hugh Millen in its series of articles; the P-I failed to present the other side of Rick Neuheisel’s case against the UW and NCAA as an opposing opinion. It is no wonder that one of Neuheisel's sisters gave Millen the bird after the trial was over. Maybe the P-I should consider the mid-digit display as one directed at itself.  The only formal rebuttals to Millen I know of --  "An Open Letter to Hugh Millen" and "Hugh Millen was both right and wrong" -- were published on this website.

  • Some of the media’s criticisms of former athletic director Barbara Hedges concern her hiring of Rick Neuheisel and his attendant baggage; in the main, that includes his secondary recruiting violations at Washington and Colorado. Their stories fail to mention that Neuheisel’s assistant coaches committed most of these violations and that the violations were unbeknownst to Hedges when she hired Neuheisel.

In summary, I could care less about mainstream media bias, unfairness, slant or whatever you want to call it, as long as an alternative source of information is made available to the public. I believe the Internet and its search services adequately provide this source of  information, while providing a forum for opposing viewpoints.

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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