Upon ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” airing Bobby Davis’ molestation accusations against former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock insisted the network had “unfairly smeared” the alleged pedophile (“you don’t destroy a person’s reputation with two highly flimsy accusations”). Here’s a further excerpt from Whitlock’s Nov. 23 column, “A Fine Mess ESPN Has Created With Syracuse Story”.

It’s morally criminal what Mark Schwarz and ESPN did to Bernie Fine. Even if other, more credible accusers against Fine surface, it does not justify what Schwarz did to Fine. This can’t be the standard. The mainstream media can’t simply throw out crippling, salacious rumors and then let the proof of those rumors filter in. If that’s the standard, a lot of people — including members of the media — are going to get hurt.

More than a week later, Whitlock has a further gripe with media outlets other than his own. To wit, though he expressed outrage that ESPN had the temerity to publicly reveal accusations made 9 years ago, now he’s pissed neither they or the Syracuse Post-Standard went to police at the time, despite having called the charges against Fine “flimsy” and “reputation destroying”.

The Post-Standard (and ESPN) could’ve used the media spotlight to force the police to investigate Davis’ allegations. Had Post-Standard executive editor Michael J. Connor taken the tape of Davis and Laurie Fine to the police chief in 2003 and said, “You have a month to look into these allegations or we’re running the tape and exposing your unwillingness to investigate this matter,” it would’ve been far easier to find the truth and protect any other potential victims.

“Imagine how quickly we would lose the trust of sources we rely on and readers who turn to us if we turned from watchdog of government agencies to lap dog at their call,” Connor wrote.

Is Michael “No Snitching” Connor a Blood or a Crip? How is alerting the police to a potential child molester being a lap dog? How can Connor not see today that the media circus created by The Post-Standard and ESPN makes it exponentially more difficult for investigators to ferret the truth from a very complex story?

Had Davis brought The Post-Standard a tape recording that hinted Fine participated in terrorist activities, would the newspaper conceal the recording from police until after the Carrier Dome blew up?

While I’m inclined to wonder exactly how many sexual predators Big Sexy has busted recently (boycotting the Gold Club over a buffet dispute doesn’t count), I’m also a little confused over how Whitlock reconciles his stance over the past week. On one hand, he’d have us believe it was deeply irresponsible for ESPN to “smear” Fine with allegations initially made in 2002. On the other, he’s arguing that ESPN and the local paper were morally obliged to share that information with law enforcement 9 years ago. If you believe that line of reasoning, wouldn’t the Post-Standard — and every other news outlet —- have been negligent in their duties if they failed to report Fine was under investigation? Wouldn’t Fine’s sterling reputation have been every bit as tarnished in 2002?

“Since Watergate and the deification of Woodward and Bernstein, American journalism has valued the salacious, instant-gratification, ratings-driving scoop above all else,” pontificates Whitlock in his latest entry, failing to cite the degree to which personal grudges (like, for instance, his own) might also dictate editorial direction. If indeed, “the big scoop is our addiction”, why didn’t the newsgatherers in question go public with their Bernie Fine stories? If Whitlock really believes “newspapers and journalism used to be about protecting our democracy and local communities”, surely he feels deep shame over his own employer’s role in manipulating democracy and violating individual rights. Unless of course, he cannot see beyond an animus for ESPN that’s so pronounced, he can barely keep track of the ways they’ve mishandled a story…Fox News was brutally scooped on.