"Because of the unfairly speculative and one-sided coverage of UNC's recent football issues," wrote one UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, "I will not read your paper or visit your website again."
Some N.C. State fans have a different view: The News & Observer has not been aggressive enough in reporting about the NCAA investigation into UNC football. "It seems (and I am an NC State alum) ... that the hard questions have stopped," one reader wrote.
Even Carolina fans are divided about the firing of Coach Butch Davis, so it's not surprising our readers would have different views of our coverage and our motives.
This is a big, ongoing story with national implications (among them that Davis is a former NFL coach and several players involved are NFL prospects). So the story has attracted reporters from across the country.
Competition is good. Democracy thrives on information. The more voices, the better.
We've been beaten on a few stories. We've also had our share of scoops, including this week's news about Chancellor Holden Thorp's displeasure on learning that Davis had offered a football scholarship to his son without consulting Thorp or the athletic director.
We have published deeply reported stories providing context on the tension between playing big-time football and attempting to maintain academic integrity.
This investigation shows how non-journalists can advance a story. Commenters on the Pack Pride website dissected a paper by a UNC football player after it became public and discovered several instances of plagiarism. We followed with several stories, including one that raised questions about UNC's honor system.
As with any high-stakes story, our motives have been questioned. Some UNC fans thought we were out to "get" Butch Davis. We weren't, just as we aren't out to "get" NCSU, as many State fans have believed over the years.
Two years ago, as we reported on the hiring of former N.C. first lady Mary Easley at NCSU, media consultant Gary Pearce addressed the issue.
"I'm a graduate of both NCSU and the N&O," Pearce wrote. "Read my lips: There is no Carolina Blue J-School conspiracy. Like I tell my clients: the media isn't out to get you. They're out to get everybody. Most of all, they're out to get a story."
We certainly are not out to get everybody. But we do report without fear or favor, and we want to get the story - to get to the bottom of things. That can be painstaking, tedious work.
We negotiated with UNC for several months about the release of what we believed were public records. UNC disagreed. We sued. So far we've won most of what we wanted. The release of records led to our story showing that fewer than 12 UNC players had been given 395 campus parking tickets over 3-1/2 years, with fines totaling $13,125.
I'm a UNC graduate, but I didn't think twice about suing my alma mater. This is business to us. I'd sue my mother (a State fan, by the way) if she were sitting on public records.
Don't do it, Mom.
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