Dec 05, 2011 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
It’s safe to say the editors at The Daily Orange, Syracuse University’s independent student newspaper, have been preoccupied.
“It’s really hard to think about anything else going on but Bernie Fine,” said News Editor Meghin Delaney.
She and the rest of the staff have been covering the developing Fine news since Nov. 17, when ESPN broke the news that two former ball boys were accusing Fine, the assistant basketball coach, of sexual abuse.
Since then, it’s been all hands on deck for the staff of 19 editors and numerous writers as they cover each unfolding piece of the Bernie Fine puzzle.
“Everyone was just shocked,” said Editor in Chief Dara McBride. “A lot of people couldn’t believe it was happening, and they couldn’t believe it was happening to Bernie Fine at Syracuse.”
Managing Editor Amrita Mainthia headed to Marshall Street to get student reactions to the initial news story.
“We were all just looking for ways to help [when the news broke],” said Mainthia. The students she interviewed would have no idea of the twists and turns the story was about to take.
“It was a lot of mixed reactions,” she said. “But it was important to get that initial reaction because when something like that breaks, the reaction will be more candid.”
The story was catching ground quick in the national media scene in the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, a situation the editors at SU had been watching closely.
“We were stalking the Penn State student newspaper,” Mainthia said. “The small journalist part of us wishes we were there, but be careful what you wish for.”
Over the Thanksgiving break, news had broke nearly daily — search warrants were executed on Fine’s DeWitt home, ESPN aired a tape between Fine’s wife, Laurie, and an accuser and SU had terminated Fine in his capacity as assistant coach.
The staff returned from fall break to put out a special edition of the paper, without advertisements. The eight-page spread was printed just hours after the university terminated Fine. The bold, large print headline “Fine Fired,” showed the severity of the situation on campus.
“The paper kind of became a way for students to catch up on what they had missed,” McBride said. “The paper became even more timely for the students.”
Jim Romenesko, a world-renowned journalism blogger and expert, wrote about the special edition of The Daily Orange on his web page.
The paper’s continuing coverage of the case has strengthened relationships between sports and news, two sections that often remain separate.
A lot of people couldn’t believe it was happening, and they couldn’t believe it was happening to Bernie Fine at Syracuse.
— Dara McBride, editor in chief
“It’s become more of a collaboration,” Delaney said. “At first, it was like, ‘Whose jurisdiction does this fall under?’ But it’s different, because it’s news that deals with sports.”
The ensuing weeks have been a lesson in journalism, and finding a balance between school work and reporting.
“Right now, we’re competing with ESPN, CNN and the Post-Standard,” Delaney said. “It’s difficult to compete with them because they have all day, and we’re still students. It’s daunting and it’s nerve-wracking because when something happens in 20 minutes, we’re still going to cover it, but we’re students going to class, and finals week is coming. I have that feeling of unpreparedness [for finals week], but it’s diminished by knowing it’s a national story and people reading the DO now aren’t just people in the SU community.”
“But I think we’re putting up a good fight,” Mainthia added.
When print isn’t the fastest method, or feasible, the editors have been using the web site to keep the community up-to-date. Their web site traffic has exploded and their social media presence has increased significantly since the news broke. DailyOrange.com had one of the highest number of hits in the 24 hours following ESPN’s story — 17,203.
“I think all of us go home and dream about the possibility of what else can happen,” Mainthia said. “Whenever I hear sirens, I feel like it’s connected to Bernie Fine. I have nightmares at 6 a.m. that Jim Boeheim is going to get fired.”
With the impending winter break, the staff worries about what could happen while the editors are away.
“The biggest worry is we only have four more papers, but if something happened over winter break, that would just suck,” Mainthia said. “I’m crossing my fingers that if anything happens, it waits until Jan. 17 [when students return.]”
Everyone wants to know the truth. And that’s what we want to know, too.
— Amrita Mainthia, managing editor
The biggest struggle for the staff remains as they handle the fine line between supporters of a university they have come to love and purveyors of the truthful news, regardless of what that news may do to the school’s reputation.
“What’s looming over all of us is if our head coach will be terminated,” Mainthia said. “As a basketball fan, you don’t want that to happen. You don’t want anything bad to happen, but isn’t it the bad things that make the news?”
The staff will continue to watch the story unfold as police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office complete their investigation into the Fine accusations, which has now brought about a total of four accusers.
“Everyone wants to know the truth,” Mainthia said. “And that’s what we want to know, too.”