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Syracuse chancellor criticizes P-S, ESPN; media explain themselves

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Syracuse chancellor criticizes P-S, ESPN; media explain themselves
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The story is becoming the story as focus has shifted from allegations Syracuse University coach Bernie Fine sexually abused former team ball boys to the withholding of a tape related to the case by the Syracuse Post-Standard and ESPN. In a letter Thursday, Chancellor Nancy Cantor criticized the news outlets for not sharing the tape with authorities. But as our Kat De Maria tells us, neither the paper nor the sports station is backing away from their decision.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It's what cost Syracuse University associate head coach Bernie Fine his job and brought local and national reporters to his doorstep: A tape containing a conversation between wife Laurie Fine and Bobby Davis.

If the contents weren't enough, there was one more surprise: The tape has been around for years. There has been a debate about why it didn't surface sooner. Post-Standard executive editor Michael Connor is now explaining why his paper withheld the tape.

SU professor Barbara Fought, who teaches communications law, says the explanation isn't necessary, but is helpful.

"I think media really need to be transparent and it's important the public understand what we do," Fought said.

First, was the tape sufficient proof? Connor describes the contents as "sleazy and sickening" and "vague and ambiguous:" unpleasant, but not concrete. ESPN independently reached the same conclusion. Neither went with the story.

"I think both ESPN and the Post-Standard showed great restraint back in 2002 in not releasing a story and potentially damaging someone's reputation without having the facts," Fought said.

Second, why not turn the tape over to police? Connor says that's not what media do.

"It's a watchdog on government. So the media can't be seen as handing information over to police or a district attorney. Sources would then never give us information if they think we just run to the police with it," Fought said.

Fought says the Post-Standard and ESPN could have encouraged Davis to go to a counselor or police, which Davis did. The editor says the paper did all it could, and should, by investigating Davis' story as thoroughly as possible. Chancellor Nancy Cantor is the latest to disagree: Inking her own disapproval in a letter to USA Today, saying "those who held onto the tape for nearly 10 years owe everyone an explanation."

For the full Syracuse Post-Standard explanation:

For the full ESPN explanation: ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP