Jul 17 2005
Posted by David as Michael Gee
By David Scott
Boston Sports Media
• Some ‘step back from the moment’ observations re: last week’s Michael Gee story. I’m trying to serve as my own Ombudsblogger here, so feel free to tell me how the experiment goes:
• The Gee story dominated the email subject lines at shots Mac Mail Inbox. Dominated like no other single topic in some 18 months of consistent, weekly blogging (we began twice-weekly, went to once-weekly and have had a few EvBlogs in the mix).
The only thing close to this response was an appearance on The O’Reilly Factor discussing steroids in the Spring. Bill O’ gets eyeballs, no matter what you think of his show or FNC.
It’s not surprising that people gravitated to the story, seeing as a large majority of this space’s readers either know Gee or know of Gee. He was on the national scene for quite a while and by default, he has gotten around.
None of the Shots’ 30-odd emailers sided with Gee, per se, but many faulted Shots for “ratting Gee out” to BU. If it appears that way, it’s a false vision. I started reporting the story and from that, BU was able to act quickly and decisively. Here’s the facts as I know them, from my recollections of the week.
On Tuesday the 12th at about 1 p.m. EST, I emailed Ann Deveney, a PR person at BU, who’s contact info I had culled from a release at the BU Website. I asked about the specific course, the instructor and BU policy for web publishing.
After two follow-up calls to Deveney, BU’s director of media relations, Colin Riley left a voice mail and I eventually got in touch with him on Thursday morning. We spoke for five minutes or so and his quotes were included in the story.
After getting Riley’s side, I contacted Gee via email and explained what I was working on. The ensuing exchange between Gee and Shots will remain our private communications. For the record, he would not comment.
The story was posted just after midnight on July 15, last Friday. At that time I also emailed Gee to let him know the story was published and viewable and offering any amount of space for a response at BSMW via Scott’s Shots.
Friday, after a crushing Sox defeat in Schilling’s return, some talk of the Gee matter surfaced on Bruce’s board in the a.m. and then across the country on various sites, at some other message forums and on other media blogs.
It was a one-day story, but for a website like Bruce’s, it was a significant one. And one that was worth telling.
Sportsjournalists.com got eight pages of discussion about it within 24 hours, but if you’ve ever tracked these things, the relevant talk usually comes within the first three pages, or not at all. After that it’s personal attacks, inside jokes and teenage sniping by angry white males with ink-stained hands – or so it seems.
• Michael Gee (still using his own name, we notice) posted this at sj.com on Friday at 2:47:30: “This is my only public comment. Otherwise, I will suffer the wages of folly in silence. An earlier poster touched me where it hurt. That post was pathetic, juvenile, and boorish. It’s not me. It’s not remorely (sic) me, yet I said it and I’m deeply ashamed I did. Never say anything anywhere when in the grip of profound negative emotions.”
(For what it’s worth, Gee was back posting again on Friday night after the Sox game. It was strictly baseball talk.)
• Some colleagues (and even friends) have asked why I didn’t call (or email) Gee first to get his initial comments, before contacting BU? To be honest, I thought he’d already done his talking on the posting. I wanted to know (as a media critic) what BU (and its Communications school, remember) would do about such thing. I wanted their comments and then I would give Gee the ‘final’ say (which I clearly did, even offering up unlimited space).
I was examining an issue – a part of trend, really – where writers who are empowered by their abilities are also brought down (at varying degrees) by them. (SJ.com posters recalled an Indiana newspaper person who lost his job over posts at the site, and more and more, stories of bloggers losing their day jobs, are surfacing.)
•If anyone thinks this is going to keep Gee from writing professionally, they clearly haven’t been reading the nation’s papers, magazines and web sites. Content is still king and name recognition of almost any sort is always helpful in pursuit of gigs. Gee is embarrassed and crestfallen, but he’s not done as a writer. His emails alone show a level of talent worthy of someone’s paper or web pages.
• As My Boss Bruce Bruce pointed out in a message board post at BSMW on Friday, I do not get paid for my Scott’s Shots work. It’s an old-fashioned, barter deal: I get space, Bruce gets whatever readers I attract. He handles all tech stuff and asks that I use sound judgment (journalistically and tastefully) in all that I do. I like to think I oblige and I also like to think the site has grown with me on board. We’ve helped each other and I love seeing his site become appreciated by a larger audience.
Do I want a full-time job that allows me to continue the column and readership I have created here? Yes, I certainly do – freelancing has many advantages, but full-time employ is always best. For now, though, this is the best of many worlds.
• As for suggestions that this space (or even the site) was “slimy” or “ratted out” Gee to “create” a story is laughable. Michael Gee “ratted” himself out by using his real name and by posting the comments. We all make our own beds, correct?
I simply REPORTED on a story in my FIELD of (semi)expertise (as supported by 15-plus years of national media immersion). The same way a Sox beat writer would report on questionable content if Schilling had done something like this at, say, SOSH. Journalists are my athletes, that’s the ‘game’ I cover.
I didn’t just, all of the sudden start fishing for salacious stories involving out-of-sight-out-of-mind-ex-columnists-at-major-dailies. That’s not something that interests me a great deal, to be honest. But someone posting comments of questionable nature regarding a college student at a local university in a journalism course (!!!) – for Heaven’s sake!
What writer, editor or consumer wouldn’t need to do a little bit of digging on that type of situation? If there are any that would stay away from it, I’d like to suggest that perhaps a weekly free shopper in your area is looking for a good layout person.
This was JOURN 201, basic values of what is news. THIS was news.
Sometime after my initial contact with Ms. Deveney, BU discovered the posts and acted quickly. Gee was gone before I could get the ‘true’ reaction from BU. Did I agitate the waters and start the wheels of dismissal in motion? Probably. Could I have avoided that? Not in my view. Should I have tried to avoid that? Again, not in my view. I was asking for comment on something a BU employee had put forth in a public forum about a student.
I admit to perhaps not reporting the story with the aplomb of a seasoned investigative reporter, but I also wasn’t trying to bury the guy. I just wanted to point out how insane the situation was and how small our media world can actually become.
• Lastly, here was an interesting post from an sj.com poster named JackS made at 3:00:32 p.m. on Friday. (A few clicks through JackS posting will allow you to know who he is, should you desire.): “I warned Michael earlier this week. I suggested he go back and edit out the school and course, and he responded by saying I (and Lugnuts [another regular poster]) needed Prozac and Ex-lax. I want to make it clear I’m not the “fink,” however. In fact, I didn’t even know “Michael Gee” wasn’t an alias. I still think the bigger blunder was posting the school and course, not using his real name. I’ve always used my real name here and never gotten myself into trouble. No sense rubbing it in further though. I just wanted to make the point that Michael was warned and chose to ignore the advice.”
• We’ll let this close the chapter on the Gee story, but we will say it has been an intriguing look into what happens when new media butts head with old media and the perspectives that each group’s participants have on news and coverage thereof.
David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull, Mass. and can be reached at shots@bostonsportsmediadotcom