Who Needs Facts?

Yesterday morning, I believe journalism hit a new all-time low.  As I took a look at my Twitter timeline, HerLoyalSons brought a rather disturbing occurrence to my attention.  It seems that Mr. Pete Fiutak at College Football News put out a preview for the 2010 Notre Dame football season.  It was your basic, generic, try-to-sound-smart preview article that contained just a few mistakes:

  • [Fiutak] [p]icks the Navy game at Yankees Stadium as the most important game of the year for the Irish.
  • Calls Nate Montana “Nick Montana.”
  • Claims this “Nick Montana” transferred from Washington to Notre Dame.

    New recruit Matt James might not be an elite prospect, but he was on everyone’s list of the best tackles of this year’s recruiting class with the size and frame to sit at one tackle spot for 4 years. At 6-7 and 291 pounds, the Cincinnati native followed Brian Kelly to South Bend and will get a long look at playing time right away on the outside. Even though he’s tall, he’s physical for the ground game and does a good job of shoving people around.

And of course, that would be the same Matt James that tragically feel to his death over his Spring Break.  The story was not only big around Notre Dame circles, but also widely discussed in national media outlets as it hit the hot topics of under-aged and binge drinking.  This isn’t exactly the kind of story you have to work really hard to hear about in some capacity…especially if you pay your bills by writing about college football.

Personally, I was rather shocked that Fiutak made any of the above listed errors, but pumping up a dead player is beyond mind boggling.  Even more shocking was the fact that everyone at CFN left the gross errors up for half the day.  But hey, why stop there?  When CFN actually bothered apologizing, it was done in one of the most back-handed ways I’ve seen in quite a while.  Even though no one had heard a peep out of Fiutak, one of his colleagues, Matt Zemek, “apologized” for Fiutak on his Twitter page:

I apologize to all Notre Dame fans and CFN readers for the big gaffe committed by my colleague, Mr. Fiutak. I’ve walked in his shoes, though

It will be easy to think that CFN has it in for Notre Dame. Just know that when it comes to game analysis, the backroom feelings get shelved

Yes, Dick Ebersol – he of the Notre Dame Broadcasting (and Enabling) Company – is one of the worst executives in all of sports. BUT….

When kickoff time arrives & the pigskin gets pitched around the park, the Irish get their due, good or bad, from CFN. Yes, even from me. 🙂

Fiutak & his esteemed colleague, Rich Cirminiello, are 2 of the hardest-working men in the realm of online CFB coverage. They put me 2 shame

Fiutak will wipe the rotten tomatoes from his face & kick tail tomorrow. He’ll listen to the post-Ole Miss Tebow speech from 2008! #GODBLESS

As the main CFN presence on Twitter alongside SEC specialist (and a damn good one) @BarrettSallee , I apologize to the family of Matt James.

Let’s break this down shall we?

First, the initial apology is accompanied with “hey I’ve walked in his shoes” as he starts his first attempt (and as we will see later, one of many) to downplay the inexcusable error made by Fiutak.  And then the next tweets from him immediately bash Notre Dame, confirming (and honestly without anyone asking) that there are “backroom feelings” that need to be “put aside” when discussing the Irish.  Then Zernek takes a rather unneeded pot-shot at Dick Ebersol because, you know, why not throw out a personal agenda and opinion when you are apologizing on a serious matter.  And if that isn’t enough, he then makes light of the situation, with the whole Tebow comment.

Oh, and yeah, by the way, sorry to the James family for forgetting your son was dead. Our bad, yo.  And oh by the way, let me promo another one of my CFN colleagues because he is just awesome at writing about the SEC!

Zernek wasn’t done either as he apparently felt that shoving one foot in his mouth was simply not enough.  Zernek is so wise, he knows that Notre Dame fans probably won’t be too receptive to this “apology”.  So of course, it’s analogy time!

To Notre Dame fans who won’t accept this apology, I understand. Allow me 2 offer a Catholic parallel in American Catholicism’s era of crisis

Fiutak-who pays his dues in the trenches-is the aging pastor who’s the only full-time priest in a parish w/ 3,000 families & 5 Sunday Masses

I’ll leave it @ that. This was an inexcusable error, but I remember once writing that Bobby Ross was Army’s coach in an earlybird 07 preview

We will do better at CFN. #TEBOWTALK Again, apologies to our readers, to the Notre Dame community, and to family & friends of Matt James -MZ

Yes, Fiutak was compared to an over-worked priest, and as I pointed out to Zernek, one that apparently can’t remember which of his parishioners are alive or dead.  The analogy is bad enough as is, but to say that we can’t really blame Fiutak for forgetting that someone’s son is dead just because he is working hard is laughable at best.

Of course, there is no better way to follow up a stupid analogy with another one, so Zernek then plays the “hey, I’ve made mistakes too” card.  In doing so, he compares getting the name of the Army coach wrong to forgetting that James is no longer among the living.  Fantastic work there again chief!

And to close, we have another stupid “Tebow talk” joke, accompanied by another “heart-felt apology.”

To say this reaction angered me would be a gross understatement.  Not only did Zernek make awful analogies and jokes about the situation, but two important things were missing on top of everything else: actually removing said errors from the article and an actual apology from the guy that did it.

Have no fear though, Fiutak eventually took down the erroneous information and had this to say to everyone:

Yes, Notre Dame fans, I am a moron. I put up the old version of the Irish Preview instead of the edited version. Changed now …TOTAL GAFFE

Yep, that’s all the “apology” we received from Fiutak.  While the article was changed (and I refuse to link it and give that site any more page views), there was no mention in the article, or anywhere else on CFN that Fiutak had screwed up royally and was sorry for it.  The only admission to his mistake is the above tweet, and even then, he never apologized to anyone and just admitted it was a “total gaffe”. (Note: I even tried to give Fiutak the benefit of the doubt that he needed time to write a formal apology, and re-checked CFN. 24 hours later and there is still no apology on the article, nor anything further on his Twitter account. I did have one of my Twitter followers say Fiutak emailed him personally; however, it was basically a restatement of his above tweet.)

Not only that, he made it seem like it was no big deal.  It’s as if he wants us to believe “hey guys, I swear, I had a correct article without awful errors, but I just forgot to upload the right version.”  Who does he think he is kidding?  Does he seriously want me to believe that he wrote a season preview in March before a single down was played in any spring game?  Not only that, does he expect me to believe that he corrected said article before-hand, yet kept the old one around?

You have to be kidding me.

All Fiutak’s statement did was prove to me that he doesn’t give a damn about making errors in his work nor does he bother to proofread it with any care.  Personally, when I write here, I am damn near OCD about getting my facts correct.  The last thing I want to do is write something as fact and be told later I was full of it.  I might not get paid for a single thing I write on this website, but I have enough pride in my work to check what I am spouting off as facts.

Writing is Fiutak’s job and I cannot believe he and anyone else at CFN wants us to play this off as just a simple mistake.  Let’s use an analogy since that is CFN’s favorite game here.  Part of my job is to install and/or troubleshoot private phone systems for businesses.  This requires me to go to massive amounts of training, learning the ins and outs of various servers, and putting in tons of time (and a good chunk of it after-hours) into insuring the customer has a functioning system.

Now if I go into a job or tell a tech on-site something that is completely false that brings the entire system down, I am not allowed to say “oh damn, my bad, I put in the old configuration in and not the edited one that was correct.”  None of my colleagues are going to say “hey man, take it easy on him, he put in a lot of hours into this job” either.  The customer doesn’t give a damn.  I took their whole phone system down, they are pissed, they want it fixed, and they want a damned good reason for why I was so stupid in the first place.

I would be expected to not only go in and fix the problem, but do everything in my power to smooth things over with the customer.  I would be writing emails in apology, detailing where I went wrong, to any and everyone that I upset.  Then, at the end of the day when all is “back to normal”, I can’t forget the problem ever happened; instead, I get to hope that my managers don’t bring the hammer down on me and fire my ass for being so careless in the first place.

Everyone at CFN has seemed to forget their professional responsibilities, and it isn’t a problem that is just limited to them either.  Just a few hours later, Joe Schad form ESPN tweeted this without checking his facts:

Incoming Vandy freshman James Kittredge said he chose his school over ND and Duke among others. “Nobody is considering leaving,” he said.

Which is quite interesting because Kittredge never got a scholarship offer from ND.  That must’ve been a real hard choice for him if he wanted to actually play football.

It upsets me that this lack of professional pride exists in journalism and the media in general.  There are far too many outlets like blogs and Twitter that can call out the least little mistakes faster than you can blink.  Huge whoppers like those of CFN today end up spreading like wildfire.  With this in mind, why everyone stumbles over themselves to get content out at the expense of the truth is beyond me.  People attempting to justify it as no big deal or just a part of the job flat out infuriates me.

Mistakes happen; however, in this situation, taking just a few seconds to do a Google search would’ve saved Fiutak and CFN a load of embarrassment.  Having a little bit of class and actually attempting a proper apology would’ve made the CFN staff look like a professional outfit instead of a collection of jackasses.