Earlier we looked at the NCAA’s flaming response to Joe Nocera’s opining/reporting. The Chronicle of Education highlights how this was not an anomaly. The NCAA has targeted critical media members with ad hominem attacks under managing digital director of communications Ronnie Ramos. The distinguished victim list includes Pete Thamel, Dan Wetzel, Bryan D. Fischer, Thayer Evans, Dan Wolken and Frank Deford.
We are fine with the NCAA maintaining an active online presence. We are fine with the NCAA proactively correcting mistakes. Denuding misinformation is always welcome. The trouble is the heavy-handed, ad hominem attacks which are cruel and counterproductive.
Ramos tweeted the following: “Notice how folks like @DanWetzel and @PeteThamelNYT post false statements and then never correct them. Accountability a two-way street.” [UPDATE: Ramos later apologized to Wetzel.] This tweet is baseless, open-ended and borders on character assassination. Ramos provides neither context nor a specific incident where either writer posted a false statement or refused to correct one. Are Wetzel and Thamel sloppy reporters? Are they untrustworthy sources who disseminate misinformation to support their conclusions? Did they do this once or routinely? Any and all of those things could be true, Ramos has you believe. Better not trust anything they say, to be safe.
NCAA figures are not correcting unfounded criticism with facts. They are discrediting the critic with unfounded questioning of motives. The deliberate twisting of information and gross insinuations deployed are worse than the alleged misconceptions about the NCAA in print. Poynter investigated Nocera’s NCAA reporting at length and found no relevant conflict of interest and no evidence the New York Times acted inappropriately. The NCAA’s response was to yell the accusations louder.
Ramos defended the NCAA’s methods to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
“To be completely cold and dispassionate in every single tweet—this is right, this is wrong—you lose your ability to have impact. Columnists are going to have their opinion, and we’re allowed to have our opinion, too, I believe.”
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but with columnists and PR folk there is a distinction. Columnists are held accountable to their colleagues and their readers. Their words are their own. They can’t write deliberate untruths. They must justify accusations, especially against individuals. Ramos and NCAA PR officials have no accountability except to their employer. Their job is to manipulate information in the NCAA’s favor. They can hurl crap at people with impunity, hoping it sticks and stinks.
Even if the NCAA is allowed to do this, what is the point? The purpose for corporate entities engaging in social media is to dispel stereotypes and present a more compelling human face. Having virtual thugs kneecap journalists with petty, vindictive personal attacks only confirms and enhances every negative perception of the NCAA.
[Photo via Getty]