Syracuse Sex Abuse Charges Raise Issues Of When Media Should Report


When Bobby Davis first told the Syracuse Post-Standard and ESPN that Syracuse University coach Bernie Fine had sexually abused him, neither news organization did a story about it. Now, after more allegations that led to Fine’s firing, the Post-Standard and ESPN are letting its audience know why, says The news organizations' decisions raise important questions about how journalists handle sex abuse allegations and the factors they should consider when deciding whether to publish stories about them.

Some have criticized both news organizations for “failing to respond” and for not helping a victim get justice. The Post-Standard and ESPN say they didn't think they had sufficient evidence to move forward. Post-Standard's Executive Editor Mike Connor wrote that an investigative reporter and sports reporter spent nearly six months looking into Davis' allegations and interviewed him several times. The paper decided early on that it wouldn't confront Fine unless it had enough to publish. “To have enough to publish, we needed substantial corroboration of Davis's account or another accuser,” Connor wrote. “Unlike the case in Penn State, there was no grand jury hearing evidence, no law enforcement investigation of any kind going on that we could determine, no criminal charges about to be leveled. We were on our own. Whatever we published would be outside the realm of officialdom. We had to get it right in every way.”

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