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Questioning Selena Roberts' A-Rod Reporting

As more and more of Selena Roberts' forthcoming Alex Rodriguez tome gets leaked out and discussed, two distinct schools of thought are emerging about the work: Analysts seem to either A) Give Roberts a huge benefit of the doubt or B) Doubt every claim she makes in the book.

Interestingly, the more material gets released, the more some of Roberts' long time and esteemed colleagues seem to raise doubts about her reporting. Of all the reporters and columnists opening fire on Roberts, none have been tougher than the Kansas City Star's Jason Whitlock.

Not only does Whitlock raise very real concerns about Roberts' reporting, he also cast aspersions on her methods and objectivity, calling back to the crusading columns she produced during the Duke lacrosse rape case. In that reporting, she seemed to be stuck in attack mode even after Durham County district attorney Mike Nifong's case was unraveling all around him.

Now Whitlock is questioning whether she's in too deep in the Rodriguez steroid case to differentiate between credible sources and those she wants to be credible. It's a serious allegation, and one that Whitlock delivers in blows with this passage in particular:

In its news story about her book, The New York Times failed to allude to her position on the Duke lacrosse case. I'll give the Times credit for including one sentence of clarification in its news story:

"Some of the accusations in the book are based on anonymous sources, and others are simply presented as knowledge the author has without an explanation of how the information was obtained."

Translation: the majority of the stuff written in her book is information the National Enquirer might reject.

The national media anti-snitching campaign is twice as pervasive and effective as anything put together by the Bloods, Crips and LAPD. For the most part, we refuse to squeal on each other.

Roberts' book is a long-winded blog. Why it's being treated as an unimpeachable piece of journalism can only be explained by the cushy position she's been handed by The New York Times, ESPN and Sports Illustrated and the unchallenged institutional bias found within the elite sports media institutions.

It's an interesting argument. Essentially, Roberts has always represented the most highly esteemed institutions (with the possible exclusion of the one you're reading this post on, of course). She parachuted from The New York Times to Sports Illustrated, where she's augmented her in depth writing with occasional appearances on ESPN, where she's charged with providing a voice of moral clarity.

Does that mean that her reporting is unimpeachable? Hardly. If anything, it means that we should be holding it up to a higher standard than everything else. Maybe Roberts' book reaches those heights. I don't know; I haven't read it. Yet one thing is certain: If the only proof that she has of Rodriguez's high school steroid use is the speculative evidence that's already been released, we should be asking questions about her, just as we are about Rodriguez himself.

By Cameron Smith  |  May 4, 2009; 11:57 AM ET
Categories:  Yankees  
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Next: Talking Behind Their Back: Blue Jays

Comments

psst- it's Nifong, not Difong ;-)

Posted by: surlychick | May 4, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

A-Rod and steroids sell books; together, they make a dream team. Ms Roberts may have it right; the ? is, if A-Rod used steroids to get to the "Big Show," so what. He'll pay the price in the long run; in the meantime, we can enjoy him as an accomplished entertainer, not a truth-teller, or we can hate him as a wildly rich athlete and successful boy-toy, or, even more so, as a New York Yankee. Ms Roberts graduated from ESPN to SI, neither of which can claim immunity to hyping the product it feeds on. Give us more stories a la Standard & Poors.

Posted by: richjmurphy | May 4, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

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