Hermann controversy receiving undue media attention


Column | Stumper’s Sports


Surprise, surprise — the Rutgers Athletic Department is in the news once again … and it’s not for something positive.

By now, most on campus have heard the story of athletic director Julie Hermann visiting a media ethics class to discuss the Athletic Department, dealing with the media and college athletics in general. Unfortunately for Hermann, a student in the class decided it would be a good idea to take to his own website and include a few quotes that he deemed newsworthy, creating a daylong firestorm with a local newspaper, The Star Ledger.

As to not give this student the attention he obviously craves, he and his website shall remain nameless. As someone who was also in the class listening to the presentation, I can assure you that the disputed quote regarding Hermann’s dislike of the Ledger was said with no malicious intent, at least from my perspective. Maybe it sounded different in the front of the room, but that’s unlikely.

While I could go all day about how this non-story quickly became another dark cloud over an athletic department that has its fair share of problems recently, the problem that stems from this situation is greater than the public relations fiasco Rutgers has to endure. Julie Hermann is a big girl. She’s handled much worse than this, and she’ll get through it.

The problem for me is this: As Rutgers students, specifically journalism majors, we are given an unbelievable opportunity to have guest speakers come to our classes and share their knowledge of the media industry.

This semester alone, I have been lucky enough to have multiple real-world media employees with Rutgers ties come to my classes and tell us their stories. Since January, I’ve been lectured by Sam Hellman of scout.com, Steve Miller of MLB.com, Erica Herskowitz of MLB.com, Bobby Brownlie, former a Rutgers baseball standout and current assistant to Scott Boras, and Hermann twice.

Rutgers does an amazing job of utilizing their connections and bringing them back to help current students. Every time a guest lecturer comes into a class, they are taking time out of their own busy schedule to help further the students’ education.

So, first of all, isn’t it a little bit rude at the surface to take this opportunity and turn it into something that could potentially harm someone’s reputation? That’s neither here nor there. The real problem is the fact that the person who decided to call out Hermann on something that, in my opinion, wasn’t even newsworthy at all but cements the fact that she will never come in to a class as a guest speaker again.

It saddens me as a Rutgers student that one of my classmates would take this learning opportunity and use it to fulfill his own agenda — and for what? To tell the world something everyone already knew? If you were surprised by the fact that Hermann isn’t a fan of The Star Ledger, come sit down … I have to tell you something about Santa Claus.

If you’re not a fan of Hermann and the Athletic Department, fine. Get an interview with her on your own time, and take that as an opportunity to write whatever you please. The issue is that now you’ve potentially damaged the classroom-speaker relationship, and I for one would be extremely surprised if Hermann even entertained the thought of coming into speak to a class again. Future Rutgers students may not get the same opportunity that we were given to hear what she had to say. To me, it’s just sad.

Believe me, if something earth-shatteringly important was said in that class presentation, I wouldn’t put blame on anyone for trying to break the news. The fact remains though that nothing Hermann said that day in late February was newsworthy, and the public is no better off for knowing she would be happy to see The Star Ledger go out of business.

All that’s come of the situation is another nasty headline written about our school and potentially robbing future Scarlet Knights of the best education possible.

There’s one thing for sure that I learned from Hermann’s presentation:

“Nobody,” Hermann said, “is safe from the media and its headline news.”

Ain’t that the truth, Julie.

James Stumper Jr. is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and history. His column, “Stumper’s Sports,” runs on alternate Thursdays.

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