Saturday, November 18, 2006

Secrets, secrets are no fun

You see an athlete, whom you know to be married, walking arm-in-arm with another woman into the team hotel after a road game.

Is it a story?

These conferences often have several interesting things going on simultaneously and sometimes you never know if you attended the right session. Jackie MacMullan’s presentation on choosing to reveal or not to reveal the secrets of professional athletes presented no such dilemma.

She spoke on Deion Branch, and how in doing background research for a feature story, MacMullan found out that one of Branch’s twin sons was severely brain damaged and in a facility in Kentucky. MacMullan knew that he was uncomfortable talking about it, and Branch asked her not to write the story, saying that he and the children's mother agreed to keep it a private matter. She eventually wrote the story in her emotional and compelling style.

We spent a lot of time talking about Reggie Lewis. MacMullan covered Reggie at Northeastern and as a beat writer with the Celtics. When she found out that the rumors that Reggie apparently was abusing cocaine, and pursued the story.

For MacMullan, choosing to write about these stories is a personal decision, each with its own unique moral and ethical dilemmas. Confronted with issues, -- like Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi’s reluctance to publish anything about his alcohol problems – MacMullan says that giving sources a day to think about it usually works out any apprehensiveness.

I posed a question to MacMullan about college athletes and whether or not they should be less scrutinized than professional athletes. Yes, folks, I passed on a story about athletes at my former school that used Pell grants to go on lavish shopping sprees. It still gnaws at me to this day.

MacMullan posed a question my way.

“Would you pass on that story now?”

Nope. I’d be all over it.

Posted by Darren Sands at 5:07 PM | link

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