June 22, 2011 – Alabama based sports radio host Paul Finebaum missed a golden opportunity to for once be a voice of reason on Tuesday when he failed — and failed miserably — to counter the salacious, misleading and completely baseless information first posted by sports blogger Brooks Melchior on his Sports by Brooks website.
On Monday, Brooks stretched the bounds of credulity by attempting to make a connection between pay provided to student employees at Auburn and the voluntary duties some of those students perform as members of the Tigerettes and Tiger hosts. The implications made by Brooks and the inferences drawn are nothing more that crass, vulgar gutter journalism.
On Tuesday, Finebaum had the opportunity and the responsibility to expose that report for what he surely knew it was. He bailed.
Finebaum knows his audience. He understands his purpose. At one point during Tuesday’s show, Finebaum admitted that he’s no longer in the journalism business. Instead he’s in the entertainment business. Unfortunately truth, legitimacy, honesty and reality are not typically canvasses on which an entertainer paints.
Finebaum had the chance to restore some journalistic integrity to his show. He had the opportunity to be a journalist first and an entertainer second. Given the choice of being a responsible journalist or a carnival barker, Finebaum chose the big top. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! See the bearded lady! Feast your eyes on the two-headed dog!
By the time Tuesday’s show hit the airwaves at 2:00 CST, Finebaum had been aware of the rumor and innuendo posted by Brooks for more than 24 hours. He knew that Brooks had erroneously attempted to connect dots between payments to Auburn student employees and the unrelated service of some of those employees as Tigerettes and Tiger Hosts.
Finebaum had plenty of time to check the veracity of the report and provide a reasonable and rational response. He opted to do no follow up.
Rather than making the minimal effort to verify or debunk, the host of the self-proclaimed most powerful sports radio program in the country pretended to be puzzled by the report.
“What is he really trying to say?” Finebaum asked numerous times prior to allowing his callers to provide their own often shockingly inappropriate interpretation of the information contained in Brooks report.
Finebaum is an intelligent man. There’s little doubt he knew the truth. He knew that the report by Brooks had no substance. Numerous media outlets, including the Never to Yield Foundation, provided information that debunked the Sports by Brooks report.
Finebaum could have clearly and concisely articulated that the report had no substance and in doing so put an end to the absurd and disturbing rants that punctuated his show. He could have firmly and consistently repeated the obvious truth to callers who spiraled off on tangents. He could even have instructed his call screener that he was not going to take calls related to the non-topic that was the Brooks report. He did none of those things.
Instead, Finebaum allowed caller after caller to heap outlandish speculation on top of utter falsehood. He permitted callers to impugn the name and reputation of a number of 18-21 year old young men and women who are guilty of nothing more than working an on-campus job just as hundreds of their classmates do.
To his credit he challenged early callers to explain why the information posted by Brooks was an issue at all, but he never came out and said what he had to have known: There was nothing to see here, move on.
Eventually Finebaum seemed to tire. He gave in and allowed the monkeys to run the zoo. Callers to his show were given free rein and even when Finebaum knew they were completely off base, he made little effort to halt their wide-ranging and belligerent rants.
Finebaum had an opportunity to cut this topic off at the knees. He was well aware that the report by Brooks would be the prime topic of the day. Even the most minimal research would have shown that the details posted by Brooks did not mesh with his conclusions.
As a journalist, it should have been Finebaum’s responsibility to seek the truth and provide it to his listeners.
By his own admission, he’s no longer a journalist. Finebaum is an entertainer. The truth might have stopped his show cold. After all, what else did his enthusiasts have to talk about today? Better that they should have the sensational topic to chew on than be confronted with the reality that the topic had no merit.
In the interest of entertainment, Finebaum sacrificed that truth.
Were you entertained?