Phi Beta Cons

Taking Inside Higher Ed to the Mat

Inside Higher Education’s coverage of James Madison University’s decision to cut ten sports teams to comply with Title IX was hideously slanted.  The reporter, Elizabeth Redden,  let two advocates for Title IX quotas — Title IX “consultant” Lamar Daniel and Women’s Sports Foundation head Donna Lopiano — control the content of the entire story.  Advocates for endangered men’s sports got zippo.

Below is the blistering reply  to Ms. Redden sent from the College Sports Council’s media rep, Jim McCarthy.

Dear Ms. Redden,

    As a media rep for the College Sports Council, I would like to raise some concerns about the tenor and content of your piece yesterday on Title IX enforcement at James Madison.  The CSC is the primary advocacy group for reform of Title IX.  Our national coalition includes coaches, parents, athletes, and educators.  We have been the lead plaintiff in federal litigation over Department of Education enforcement methods and we have been speaking out about the issue for many years now.  
    I point all this out to beg the question: why do we continue to be omitted from Inside Higher Ed’s coverage of Title IX?  On Monday you spoke with my CSC colleagues Jessica Gavora and Leo Kocher.  They provided a factual and candid perspective on the situation at JMU and its broader implications.  They also pointed out that we are in correspondence with JMU officials and have called publicly for the school to seek alternatives such as instituting an interest survey for both men and women.  
    Why was all this disregarded?  Opinions run deep on this issue, to be sure, but it does a disservice to readers, the academic community and student-athletes in particular when news coverage is biased in this way.  Let me be specific:
– Lamar Daniel is presented to readers as an objective source when in fact he has long been a vocal advocate for compliance through proportionality.  There are many people in college athletics who regard him as more single-handedly responsible for cuts in athletic teams and caps on rosters than anyone involved in Title IX.  What’s worse, journalistically, is that Daniel has a direct financial stake not just in publicizing his dubious services but in creating legal anxiety at schools over enforcement.  
– Similarly, Donna Lopiano has built an entire fundraising operation around a specific ideological agenda and also works in concert with trial lawyers to threaten litigation against schools.  She is welcome to her view, of course, but again there are scores of credible, expert sources that differ with her on the fundamentals of Title IX enforcement and gender politics.  Readers deserve to know that and also to hear those differing perspectives.  It is simply disingenuous to present her as an independent, objective observer.  
– The characterizations of the actions of JMU administrators is also troubling.  The use of pejorative phrasing like “scapegoating Title IX” and “placing blame on Title IX” plainly infers some intentional malevolence in the decisions.  But by all accounts, the administrators were openly and genuinely pained by the decisions they made.  They studied their options, presumably consulted legal counsel and made a choice as a group which they announced publicly.  How is that in any way nefarious or deserving of innuendo?
– Finally, Brandon Eickel, the student body president you quoted deserved a fair hearing (and from where I sit, applause) for standing up and taking issue with what the federal government has brought down on his classmates.  Instead, you dismissed it as a “sort of reaction” and then allowed Donna Lopiano a condescending shot at him.  That’s disgraceful and I’d say he’s owed an apology.
    For our part, I would like to ask for an explanation of how these breaches in basic journalism standards could have occurred.  Is this what Inside Higher Ed means in its mission statement by “accurate, thorough and reliable” reporting?  How about the passage where the publication claims it will “spare no sacred cows” — does that apply to Title IX?  Or, to borrow a phrase, are some sacred cows more equal than others?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Sincerely, Jim McCarthy

Jessica Gavora is a writer in Washington, DC, with clients including former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich and the College Sports Council. Previously, she was the senior speechwriter to attorney ...

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