Some of my best friends are Auburn fans

Last week the Never to Yield Foundation questioned the bias of the Mobile Press-Register, the Gulf Coast’s largest daily, and asked that in the interests of objectivity Auburn beatwriter Evan Woodbery, an Alabama graduate, be reassigned. To this point Press-Register sports editor Randy Kennedy has not formally acknowledged our request, but on Sunday Woodbery did respond via email.  

We may not agree with some of his positions. We also believe that the perception of bias will be impossible for the Press-Register and Woodbery to shake without action. We also believe it is incumbent on the Press-Register to address that perception of bias in a constructive manner. But as we asked the Press-Register for fairness we  feel it would only be fair to share Woodbery’s response as well as our reply with you .  

With Woodbery’s permission, his response is below.  Our reply to his letter follows. 

To whom it may concern:

After 10 years of covering college football, I’ve learned to have a thick skin and a good sense of humor about message-board insults. But since your article is so comprehensive and has already been sent to me about a dozen times this morning, I wanted to correct or at least clarify some facts.

First, I write equally for the Press-Register, the Birmingham News and the Huntsville Times — the three AL.com newspapers owned by Advance Publications. I work out of the Auburn Bureau with Charles Goldberg, whose copy also appears in all three newspapers. We are colleagues, not competitors. This time of year, my primary job is covering basketball. On National Signing Day, my only job was to help out Charles where needed and monitor a handful of uncommitted prospects. Charles had already pre-loaded signing stories about Auburn commitments into our publishing system. My job was to create stories involving Auburn that weren’t in the database or edit stories to reflect prospects going to another team. Our AL.com coverage — which was outstanding, I believe — should be viewed comprehensively.

Why didn’t I cover Jordan Diamond signing or VanGorder’s hiring or anything else listed in your article? The same reason Charles isn’t driving to Starkville to cover basketball in a few hours. We share duties and work as a team to make AL.com coverage as comprehensive as possible.

I’m not going to go down the list entirely, but I just wanted to highlight your reference to Big Cat Weekend, because it shows a lack of understanding of what we do. You write of my “involvement” as if it were something sinister. Yes, I broke that story and, yes, I’m very proud of it. Every reporter at any newspaper on any beat in the country should love to get that story. That’s what reporters do — or should strive to do. Uncover and report news that would have never seen the light of day otherwise.

You should know that I’ve had at least two opportunities in the past to move to Tuscaloosa and cover Alabama for the Register/AL.com. I haven’t done it because I like my job, Auburn is a great place to live, and I’ve made a lot of great friends here. I’ve lived here longer than any other place in my life other than Ohio, where I grew up. I can’t predict the future, but when/if I leave this job, it won’t have anything to do with disliking Auburn or the people here.

Evan Woodbery

Sports Reporter, Auburn Bureau
Press-Register, Birmingham News, Huntsville Times
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Evan -

We greatly appreciate your response.  Since you were willing to clarify a few points, we’d like to take the opportunity to do the same.

You should know that after the daily reports of abuses endured at the hands of Alabama fans the most frequent request we’ve received over the last 18 months is “can you do something about Evan Woodbery?”

Until today we’ve stayed out of that discussion.  We’re not an attack group hunting for heads.  With the departure of Izzy Gould, however, there appeared to us to be a possibility of appeasing the fans who continually ask us to broach the topic without creating a negative situation for you or anyone else.

In the piece we posted Saturday, we allowed for the fact that your burden on National Signing Day may have been an editorial decision and out of your hands. Signing day coverage was, overall, sufficient.   Unfortunately as we all learned during the crusade against Cam Newton, perception often trumps reality.

As for your involvement in the Big Cat Weekend, we do find that odious.  We don’t believe it to be the place of the Auburn beatwriter to create a story for his or her own glory.  Compare your piece with what we routinely see in regard to Alabama.  Whatever the infraction, whatever the offense — including the recent sorry saga of Darius Philon — when there is even the hint of impropriety at the Capstone we are deluged with reports from Gould, Kausler, Solomon, Hicks, Kennedy, etc. explaining why there’s nothing to see, no problem at all and no reason to look any further.

Again it’s perception.

Did you call the NCAA to report what you thought you saw during Big Cat Weekend?  We don’t know.  But your background in a rivalry that exceeds all others leaves that door of suspicion open.

If you’ve read and followed our articles to this point we hope you understand that we’re not extremists and we’re asking for nothing more than equality.  There’s a deep-seated suspicion of the media in this state and there’s little question (at least in our minds) that a decided bias exists.   Our goal is to find ways to mitigate that.

If you are interested, we’d be happy to run this letter as a rebuttal to our piece.  Or if you’d prefer to write another piece for us to use, we will be glad to present it. We’d welcome the opportunity to let our fans hear from you on this topic.


Sincerely,Never to Yield Foundation
 

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