Media Failed Victims In Bernie Fine Case
Sunday, December 04, 2011
With the national media still shining the spotlight on the alleged child sexual abuse cases of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and former Syracuse basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine, there is one controversial aspect of these stories that has yet to be fully investigated - the media.
Yes, Sandusky and Fine have been and will continue to be fully investigated by both the authorities and the media. So, too, will Penn State and Syracuse University, their respective athletic and school administrations, along with Joe Paterno and Jim Boeheim.
But the one area which may require more investigation, particularly in the case of the ongoing investigation of Bernie Fine and Syracuse, is the media itself.
We have learned that Fine’s first accuser, Bobby Davis, first approached authorities with his allegations towards Fine back in 2002. At that same time, he also contacted ESPN and the Syracuse Post Standard newspaper.
In the past few weeks, we have been told that all three parties, along with Syracuse University, carried out separate investigations into those allegations but that none of them could corroborate any of Davis’ allegations at the time which is why the story ended there.
But we have also learned in recent weeks of an audio tape that Davis handed over to both ESPN and the Syracuse Post Standard at the time which contained a phone conversation between himself and Fine’s wife - Laurie.
In that phone conversation, she admits to Davis that she knows what her husband has done to him and, among other things, advises him to try to stay away from him.
ESPN released that tape to the public more than a week ago which is clearly the smoking gun in the Fine case. So much, in fact, that Syracuse University fired Fine immediately upon hearing the tape.
This brings up a couple of obvious questions. First, why didn’t Davis give this tape to the local authorities or to Syracuse University officials back in 2002? If he really wanted to have Fine arrested for his child molestation, wouldn’t that seem to make sense?
Secondly, why didn’t ESPN or the Syracuse Post Standard think that this tape was clear evidence of Fine’s guilt back in 2002 but now believe that it is?
ESPN officials have released what can only be described as an extremely lame excuse for not thoroughly investigating the contents of that tape recording back in 2002. Here it is verbatim: "When we had the audio in the past we had never been able to confirm that it was Laurie Fine," ESPN Senior Vice President & Director of News Vince Doria explains. "Part of it was we had no independent video of her and her voice – something we could look at and say, 'Yes, that’s her and yes, that appears to be her voice.' This time around when we re-engaged on the story we did in fact have a video we found online of her serving a meal to Bernie and a number of young men who may or may not have been Syracuse players. In this video you could clearly hear her. This allowed us to submit the audio to a voice recognition expert, which we did last week."
Hey Vince! Maybe your reporters should have been working a little harder than they were 8 years ago because it would not have been very difficult to get a recording of Laurie Fine’s voice to compare to the tape given to you by Davis. Nice try, but that's a lame excuse!
Officials at the Syracuse Post Standard have also put forth an unacceptable excuse claiming, “we didn’t have enough to publish a story at that time.” Really? That tape was more than enough for SU to tell Bernie to hit the bricks.
Why ESPN or the Post Standard failed to advance this story back in 2002 and 2003 should be considered a crime unto itself and fully investigated by authorities.
It has been suggested recently that the reason for ESPN coming forward and breaking the Fine story a few weeks back was nothing more than an effort at a ratings grab and a reputation builder by the network.
First off, ESPN got beaten badly in the breaking of the Jerry Sandusky story so there are reports that they no longer wanted to sit on the Fine allegations and instead be the first to break them. There is also a theory that suggests that because the Sandusky case has captivated the entire country, that they wanted to capitalize on that by breaking the Fine story while the proverbial iron was still hot.
I would like to believe these two allegations to not be true, but have a hard time in doing so.
Officials at both ESPN and the Syracuse Post Standard should be both ashamed and embarrassed that they did not do everything in their powers to advance this story back in 2002. And quite frankly, the people who were in possession of this crucial evidence along with the decision makers at both media outlets who decided to half-heartedly pursue the contents of that recorded phone conversation should be subject to a criminal investigation and, at the very least, dismissal from those companies.
There are laws in this country which protect the media from handing over certain information given to them to the authorities. Regardless, they should have investigated the evidence much more thoroughly than they did. And they should have had the brains to bring it to the authorities to help put an end to the alleged child abuse.
Here is a small portion of the Syracuse Post Standard’s reasoning behind not bringing this tape to the local authorities. “To us, though, our role has always been clear: to investigate with a goal to publish. To us, handing over to police materials we didn’t feel confident enough to publish was unimaginable.”
Right. Because I am sure that newspaper reporters can complete as thorough an investigation as local authorities can. (roll your eyes here) The last time I checked, newspapers can’t arrest people, they can’t get court orders or warrants to search a suspect’s home or office. Nice try, Post Standard!
The local fish wrap also printed in defense of itself, “it’s hard to find a precedent in modern journalism for this role of newspaper as police tipster.” That’s your defense for not informing the authorities of Fine’s alleged child abuse? I guess it’s more important for the Syracuse Post Standard to maintain some type of reputation as “police watchdog” more than it is to protect innocent young children who are being abused. To think that I once spent my hard earned money to purchase that newspaper. What a waste!
In my mind, both ESPN and the Syracuse Post Standard are no better than Penn State University and its officials who did nothing but cover up Jerry Sandusky’s evil actions. Institutionally, all three parties failed the morality test miserably allowing more victims to be abused.
Their decision many years ago to do nothing with that tape of Laurie Fine was criminal at worst and morally reprehensible at best.
You’d like to think that this would weigh heavily on their respective consciences, but as we have learned, they have none.
What a shame!