Friday, April 8, 2005

A columnist ahead of his time

In Sunday's Detroit Free Press, Mitch Albom wrote a column about Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson, two former players at Michigan State University who went out of their way to go to Indianapolis to support their alma mater at MSU's Final Four game on Saturday night. In part, he wrote:

They sat in the stands, in their MSU clothing, and rooted on their alma mater. They were teammates in the magical 2000 season, when the Spartans won it all. Both now play in the NBA, Richardson for Golden State, Cleaves for Seattle.

And both made it a point to fly in from wherever they were in their professional schedule just to sit together Saturday. Richardson, who earns millions, flew by private plane. Cleaves, who's on his fourth team in five years, bought a ticket and flew commercial.
Problem is, neither player was actually in St. Louis for the game. In fact, they were both in Oakland for the game between Golden State and Seattle Sunday afternoon.

Obviously, there are a lot of problems with the column and these paragraphs in particular. They weren't in the stands, weren't in their MSU clothing, didn't take any planes, and most likely weren't sitting together (although they may have been, since Saturday was on off day for both players and they were playing each other the next night).

Albom's deadline for his Sunday column was Friday night, so he wrote the column a full 24 hours before the game was to take place, and added items he expected to be true based on coversations he'd had with the two players earlier in the week, but couldn't verify until after the deadline.

Now Mitch--who is one of the most highly honored and awarded columnists in the country--has apologized (although he tries to take his editors down with him), the publisher has ordered an investigation, and the story is becoming a big deal in journalism circles.
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