FREDERICKTOWN — Was the news media out of line when it began reporting suspected improprieties on the part of Ohio State University football players? Was it irresponsible when it brought to light alleged misconduct, through inaction, on the part of former coach Jim Tressel?
Those questions and more were raised recently in the First Baptist Church when the Main Street Free Press Museum and the Central Ohio Pro Chapter of Professional Journalists sponsored a panel discussion concerning the role of the press and the woes of the Ohio State University football program. Panelists included Ray Stein, Columbus Dispatch sports editor; Tim May, Dispatch OSU football writer; and Jill Riepenhoff, Dispatch projects reporter. The discussion was moderated by John Long, retired journalist and director of the museum.
The Dispatch staffers talked briefly about how they became involved in the “Tattoo-gate” story and gave their reactions to it.
Stein, who was on vacation in December when he first became aware of the story, said the Dispatch has received “heat” for its coverage of the story.
“Both sides of this were angry,” he said. “Anybody who thought that Jim Tressel was innocent and being singled out by the university president, or whomever, thought we were being far too rough on Coach Tressel. And then there was certainly a camp which thought we were trying to protect them and protect our interests with Ohio State football.”
Stein continued, “I think one of the most interesting things in all of this is how that played out. When this first happened, when this first came to light, the public blamed the players for all of this and supported the coach. The more that came out about the way this went down, the balance shifted. The players are still to blame, but it’s interesting to me how the public has come to realize that the problem here is [Tressel and university officials] trying to hide the misdeeds.”