I’ve been hesitant to weigh in on this with a full post, mainly because Stephanie Wei has knocked the entire thing out of the park. I’m assuming if you’re reading this that you know the background of this story, but here’s a summary if you don’t.
Shane Ryan released an excerpt of his book, “Slaying the Tiger: A Year Inside the Ropes on the New PGA Tour” that details Patrick Reed’s tumultuous college career, and alleges that Reed was accused by former teammates of stealing from the team locker room, as well as cheating in qualifying matches. Rich Lerner handed the mic to Todd Lewis, who handed it to Patrick Reed on national television, which Patrick used to claim that he had affidavits that support his denial of all accusations from Shane Ryan.
Here’s where my issue with the story begins. What work did the Golf Channel, a journalistic organization, do on this story before Todd Lewis interviewed Reed? I know that Lewis is considered more of an “interviewer” than a “reporter” at the Golf Channel, so I’m putting the onus on the management group at the Golf Channel. If you’re going to report on a story, wouldn’t you at least fact check what is being said by the subject you’re interviewing? What is unclear is if someone from the Golf Channel saw the affidavits. If they did not, shouldn’t they have disclosed that? If the Golf Channel is going to put their own graphic on the television screen, shouldn’t they validate that this is true?
Lewis adds this:
“Well when Patrick Reed read those excerpts, he was obviously upset, and he decided to defend himself by obtaining sworn statements from the coaches that he played for in college, Chris Haack at the University of Georgia, and Josh Gregory at Augusta State. In those statements, the coaches say that Patrick Reed did not cheat while playing in college, nor did he steal from his teammates.”
Notice that Lewis is not quoting Reed during any of this. These are Lewis’ own words, which (in my opinion) gives the viewer the impression that their organization has actually done the research and that this is an actual Golf Channel report. Again, I’m assuming that this information has been vetted by Golf Channel management, and is not necessarily reflective of Lewis’ reporting. However, Stephanie Wei had this to say about the sworn statements on Tuesday:
“Well, the ‘affidavit’ from Coach Haack has been obtained under the Georgia Open Records Act, which was made possible because Haack used university counsel. Note that when the document was sent, the Georgia legal affairs representative wrote, “Please note that this is not an affidavit.” (Emphasis mine.)”
Here is the “affidavit”, again courtesy of Wei:
So not only is it not an affidavit, it does not say what the Golf Channel reported that it says. It does not say that Reed did not cheat. It says “While Patrick Reed was at UGA, I was not aware of any allegations of cheating….”. This statement is so carefully crafted by lawyers and filled with negative assurance that it resembles nothing close to a statement that supports Reed’s outright denial.
Wei reported this on Tuesday, and it’s now Friday, and there does not appear to be a follow up report from the Golf Channel. This is the same organization that reported on a near hourly basis on the Robert Allenby saga in Hawaii for weeks after it happened. Rex Hoggard worked so many days in the Aloha State that he’s going to have to file taxes there this year. (For now, I’m going to ignore the fact that the Allenby story was butchered, and that Golf Channel deleted the post without a correction. Moving on.)
Golf Channel’s only follow-up to the initial interview with Reed is this discussion between Gary Williams and Todd Lewis on Morning Drive. Again, Lewis says that Reed has sworn statements from both coaches saying that Reed did not cheat, and he did not steal. Again, this is not Lewis quoting Reed. He is telling us that Reed has these statements. However, as Wei reported, Reed does not have these statements that say these things. In this segment, after the Reed cutaway, Lewis jumps at the opportunity to point out that “all options are on the table” for Reed if they don’t get a retraction from Ryan. Lewis then even feels the need to add in:
“I think he has the respect from players, and I think that players like him.”
At this point, I’m surprised he’s not wearing a Reed/Lewis ’16 campaign button on his lapel. It’s clear what angle the Golf Channel has decided to take on this issue, and it’s not surprising that they’re backing a player with such a high world ranking.
Was there ANY investigation into this story before this interview? Or since the interview?
From where I’m sitting, the answer is no, because Wei followed up on her own report on Thursday, releasing an even more thorough report. A former teammate of Reed’s came forward and issued a very detailed account of Reed’s alleged cheating transgressions at Augusta State. Now this is what a report looks like. Rex Hoggard’s post was updated for Ryan’s tweet defending his reporting (after fixing a typo that inadvertently said that Ryan WAS backing down from his reporting), but not for any of Wei’s reports? Why is she the only one currently reporting on this story (Update: Deadspin has weighed in)? The Golf Channel (again, an established journalistic enterprise) has all the firepower in the world to follow up on this. So why are they only reporting one side of the story? I think that this is more than a fair question to ask at this point.