Rebels Gone Riled? Maybe Not

Published on 05-Oct-2013 by J Square Humboldt
Football - NCAA / NCAA Football Daily Update

Who's the bozo in this story?

Troubling word is starting to come out of the University of Mississippi campus ...

And it doesn't necessarily involve the confirmed actions of Rebel football players at a theater on Tue 1 Oct.

Then again, maybe it does.

The point is, it turns out we don't really know.

Last week, reports emanated from Oxford that members of the Ole Miss football team shouted homophobic slurs during a play about the hate-crime killing of Matthew Stafford, which became an infamous murder in Laramie, Wyoming back in 1998. The campus newspaper quoted parties in authority who made no bones about the fact that it wasn't a Rebel yell they were hearing.

Like clockwork, the story went viral. And in this day and age, that meant it went wildfire viral.

But today, ESPN.com has filed an item stating that it's possible those parties in authority at the theater jumped the gun. To date, university officials have found no evidence that it was indeed the Ole Miss football players who were the transgressors.

Here's the pertinent passage of the statement the university has released:

"The task of identifying specific individuals who were purported to have disrupted the performance is difficult because of the dark theatre, and initial reports vary in regard to the frequency, volume and source of the comments or disruption. Although initial reports indicate that student-athletes led the action, it is important to note that this has not been verified and they were not the only students present."

This is a few degrees lighter than when the Duke lacrosse team was thrust into the spotlight of international scorn, but the cause is becoming all too famililar:

  • People who should know better make assumptions,
  • A media outlet picks them up and runs with a story based on them, and so
  • Other media rely on the veracity of the original reporters and carry the story.

The rise of cyberspace has created an age of information to a level never before seen on this planet. One of the side effects is not all information providers have been trained -- or even had the common sense -- in handling data. Specifically, can it be confirmed by more than one source?

In this instance, perhaps the Daily Mississippian overlooked that cardinal rule of journalism. If so, it did a tremendous injustice to players who will still be subject to the stain of inaccurate reporting. It's hard for words to be retracted; those attempts usually don't go viral so easily.

And in so doing, the student newspaper will take a harder hit than any of the Rebel players ever will.

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