So Mitch Albom just made up significant portions of a column on Michigan State’s Final Four game, and now there’s a debate about whether he should be fired.
Personally, although I don’t want to, I can’t help but think sports journalists have to meet lower standards of reporting than someone who is reporting “hard news.” After all, sports reporting has had a long history of colorful characters and colorful writing that didn’t always come close to the facts.
However, if sports reporters want to be taken seriously, then Albom’s lapse needs to be taken seriously. In the end, he lied, in print, and for a newspaper that has to be a Very Bad Thing.
Should he be fired? I wouldn’t think so. He should have known better, which makes the offense worse, but after enough years of honest reporting you get the feeling he won’t do it again. (Assuming the paper finds he’s been doing honest reporting.) Should he be disciplined? Yep, probably more seriously than he has been. After all, the newspaper needs to give its readers some sense that they take it seriously.
I find it strange, though, that I hear very little mention of the editors involved. Do they just allow Albom to publish anything he writes, without reading it? That seems unlikely, and given the fact the print run of the paper began on the morning before the game, you’d think the lack of a future tense would set off a few alarm bells. It did at the Duluth News Tribune, when a new copy editor/sportwriter noticed the problem before their Saturday edition and corrected every verb tense.
Maybe this will encourage Mr. Albom to keep the fictional moments for his books.