Last week, Fox 9 News ran its “investigative series,” on underage men’s hockey players drinking at Blarney Pub and Grill in Dinkytown.
Wednesday, coach Don Lucia addressed the media about the reports and said there would be no immediate suspensions. That same day, the University announced it was investigating the charges.
And that should have been it. Fox 9 made its splash with a sensationalistic, nonstory ratings grab, the team commented, and that should have been the end of it.
This weekend, a previously underachieving Gophers team swept Alaska-Anchorage in a two-game series, winning 9-0 Friday night and coming back to score three third-period goals for a 4-3 win Saturday.
After Saturday’s game, maybe this team had turned the corner on the season. That was the story. The story to everyone except Fox 9.
Fox 9 investigative reporter Trish Van Pilsum was there to interview Lucia after the game.
She began her interview professionally enough, asking questions about the game. But then, as the session was winding down, she got to the questions she was there to ask.
“Is there ” and I ask this with all due respect ” if they’re really focused on the game, and they’re not drinking as much?” Van Pilsum asked. “Could you attribute their actions? “
That’s as far as she got into her question before Lucia’s response came ” a response in which he articulated why Fox 9 News’ story was nothing more than a sensationalistic ratings grab.
“No,” Lucia responded. “I can attribute that if anybody wants to go undercover and follow college kids around, you can find anything you want. You could do it tomorrow, you could do it in two months, you could do it in two years.
“They’re college kids, and to be honest with you, I think they were violated for what happened in that report.”
Van Pilsum had one more question before she was content to stop her attempt at putting her station back in the spotlight.
“So you don’t expect their play to change as their behavior off the ice changes?” she asked.
Once again, Lucia let her know exactly where the Fox 9 report was misleading.
“I don’t think we had a problem with our behavior off the ice,” he said. “What they did was wrong in that situation, but hey, they’re college kids. You’re sadly mistaken if you think they’re hanging out in bars seven days a week.”
There was no reason Van Pilsum was there other than to make Fox 9 the story. The barely legitimate story had played out to its completion, but the station wanted to be the news one day longer.
And in doing so, she exposed Fox 9’s explanation of the reason it covered the event as fraudulent.
Fox 9 investigative reporter Jeff Baillon, in an e-mail sent Wednesday, explained that the point of the story was not to single out men’s hockey players as lawbreaking thugs.
“Perhaps the most revealing aspect of this investigation has been missed by your (organization) and others,” he said.?”We reported Tuesday that the University had been alerted last summer about “alleged misconduct’ by athletes at Blarney Pub and Grill. The owner of the establishment told us he was contacted by the Office of Athletic Compliance about allegations he was providing free drinks and preferential treatment to athletes.”
But that wasn’t the truth. The reports barely touched on the angle of a University noninvestigation. The main focus of the report was clear: men’s hockey players drinking on camera!
And Van Pilsum’s questions weren’t about an investigation. They were to see if the players had “stopped drinking.”
In effect, all Van Pilsum did with her performance Saturday was say, “Our story was so big, it must have had an effect on your play on the ice.”
Instead, the story Saturday was that Minnesota got past a couple of weekends of play to put together an impressive sweep of Alaska-Anchorage.
” Matt Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]