May 21, 2012 – In one of our more controversial efforts, the Never to Yield Foundation suggested in early February that current Auburn beatwriter Evan Woodbery would be better suited for a then-open position covering the rival Crimson Tide.
The rationale was simple.
Woodbery graduated from Alabama and served as sports editor of the campus newspaper, The Crimson White. For that reason and that reason alone a perception of bias exists that is impossible to overcome.
There was and remains a consistent chorus of complaint from Auburn fans who feel Woodbery’s articles are typically slanted negatively toward the Tigers.
Beyond that is the unspoken and inherent fairness of the issue. Auburn fans are expected to accept an Alabama graduate covering the Tigers as a regular beatwriter when we all know that al.com and the newspapers that make up its core (The Mobile Press-Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times) would never consent to hiring the former editor of the Auburn Plainsman as beatwriter for the Tide. The backlash would be too great.
At the time we posted the first article, we listed some specific issues that aggrieved us.
To his credit, Woodbery responded. So too did some of his contemporaries. And yet the perception remains.
Woodbery’s Thursday dissection of Gene Chizik’s remarks during a series of spring booster’s club appearances brings the issue back to the forefront.
Woodbery essentially calls Chizik a liar after first admitting that what Chizik told the gatherings was true.
Chizik noted in his talks that “about 70 percent of the team will be made up of freshmen and sophomores.” Woodbery agrees at the outset, noting that 65.4 percent will be underclassmen. Rounding up is apparently not allowed in Woodbery’s world.
Then Woodbery goes on to do his best to debunk Chizik’s position by adding his own interpretation of who is green and not green, by making unsupportable statements about the number of upperclassmen he believes will likely start and by making guesstimated comparisons to other SEC teams.
The question that comes from this exercise is whether this is the sort of reporting Auburn fans want from our beatwriter?
Do we want a beatwriter determined to find excuses to nitpick and contradict?
It’s certainly not what the other side of the aisle gets from the half dozen writers assigned to blow smoke up houndstooth skirts.
That’s a major point of contention.
It’s not that Woodbery is a bad writer or even that he’s necessarily consciously demeaning Auburn but when you compare the consistent Debbie Downer tone of his pieces with the horn-blowing, sunshine tooting, sycophantic love fest that our rival gets from his employer the treatment simply isn’t equitable.
We want honest reporting. We want the good with the bad. We don’t want critical when there’s no cause to be.
In fairness to Woodbery let’s examine what else he’s been up to since April 1.
- Three pieces about Auburn’s new women’s basketball coach.
- Four stories about men’s basketball. One on players who were dismissed or suspended, one on recruits Auburn missed.
- Two articles on the SEC Champion women’s golf team
- Three pieces on the men’s golf team, now headed to the NCAA Championships
- Five stories during football spring training, one on the retirement of Jawara White
- Two stories on A-Day
- One story on two football commitments, noting that it was reported by another site
- Twenty five stories on Auburn baseball, most recaps of games or preview of upcoming series
- Two stories on Auburn softball
- Three short stories on Auburn gymnastics
- Six miscellaneous stories, including one about Jason Dufner, one about Auburn revenues and one odd story imploring Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun to tell the truth about steroids; and finally
- Fifteen stories on the three-day robbery trial of former Auburn player Antonio Goodwin. (Nancy Grace didn’t give Casey Anthony that much coverage.)
So what’s the tally?
Other than bland and routine game recaps, a couple of series previews, reports of what other sites are saying (often quoting AuburnUndercover.com), and an out of place editorial on Ryan Braun, what do we have to show for a month of work?
Fifteen articles about a three-day trial of a player who was dismissed from the team and an extensive piece that paints Gene Chizik as disingenuous at the very least.
So let’s break it down.
We can’t count the game recaps because those are just basic and routine. Anybody could write those.
The series previews are also relatively basic.
That leaves about 80%* of Woodbery’s articles to be read as either focusing on a negative or simply negative itself. (*Note: It’s actually 75.4%, but in the spirit of consistency, we rounded up.)
- Would that be tolerated by our rivals?
- Would it be tolerated by our rivals if the writer in question was an Auburn graduate and former sports editor of the campus newspaper?
- Should we accept such treatment without complaint?
For the record, Mobile Press-Register Sports Editor Randy Kennedy had no response our February post regarding Woodbery and the perception of bias that permeates the Press-Register. We expect no response to this piece either. It is the Press-Register, after all, that quietly began publishing Danny Sheridan’s daily betting lines shortly after the Finebaum vampire was disgraced for his fraudulent and self-serving bagman claims.