A sign of life from the Lady
In an article best described as "not timely," the New York Times admits that the wild party reported on by Thayer Evans in his "piece of journalism" about the Jamarkus McFarland recruitment was completely fabricated, weeks after McFarland admitted so himself. Why so late, fellas? Oh, and welcome to the program ($).
Included is an interesting tidbit about Evans and McFarland disagreeing about whether or not McFarland went over the paper with Evans, as the author claims. McFarland was the one who lied in his newspaper, hurting his credibility, but it is Evans who has the most to lose at this point in terms of potential to look bad. Either way, it looks bad for both of them and the whole "staying close with them for months" thing.
In another real news flash, Kashemeyia Adams was pleased with the article and supports it. Of course she supports it. The article is mostly her opinion, often masquerading as fact. In fact, the whole angle for the article came directly from her mouth and stood completely unchallenged or investigated by Evans, the "journalist." For instance, Evans parrots Adams' claim of "numerous other inducements" from the Texas program or boosters, yet never specifies what they were.
The sensational claim from Adams in her response to the public outcry from Texas fans levels allegations of racism against some Texas supporters. In the wake of Buck Burnette's comments, there's no denying that racism still exists in Texas, and, on one occasion at least, exists in the program itself. Anyone making racists comments or threats directed at Adams and McFarland is beyond ignorant and absolutely reprehensible and, I hope, not indicative of the fanbase as a whole. Ignorance and hatred are no way to represent an institution charged precisely with relieving the aforementioned ignorance and located in a city known for progressive thinking and tolerance. I don't doubt that some Texas fans would stoop to that level, though Adams has about as much credibility with me right now as Evans, which is to say almost none.
Stupid, redux, aka "The Thayer Evans Story"
Evans admits that he should have corroborated the story about the party, but didn't think Adams and McFarland would mislead him. Because the first aspect of being a great investigative reporter is believing everything people tell you. Right. So here are the options for what happened during the education of Thayer Evans as a journalist: 1) Evans fell asleep during his classes, skipped them, just didn't pay attention, or was too stupid to comprehend, 2) Evans willfully disregards what he did learn/should have learned, or 3) his professors in Oklahoma were completely incompetent and he received a terrible journalism education, which raises questions about why the Times publishes his writing.
The Times claims that Evans could have done more to corroborate McFarland's story. That's a bit misleading, sort of the like the original article and implies that Evans actually did anything to corroborate the party, which only involved asking McFarland where it occurred, which he was even unable to answer. Apparently that didn't set off any alarm bells for ol' Thayer, or he chose to ignore them. Notice the pattern here of Evans looking bad?
Evans also claims that Texas couldn't have commented on the situation because of recruiting rules. He is only partly right in that claim, which is more correct than most of the garbage in his article. Sure, Texas can't comment directly on McFarland, but they can comment on their recruiting policies. As way of example, let's embark on a fun little journey called "Doing Thayer Evans' Job For Him." First, I'll list a question that Evans could ask that Texas couldn't answer, then that same question re-phrased so it could be answered.
Was the party McFarland attended affiliated with the Texas program?
Does the Texas program condone or host wild parties for recruits?
Did Adams really not have your cell number, Mack?
Is it common practice to provide the parents of recruits with your personal cell phone number? or
Would it be strange or unusual not to provide access to you from the family of recruits in which the university has invested serious time and effort into recruiting?
Did you communicate regularly with John Outlaw in regards to the recruitment of Jamarkus McFarland?
How much importance does the Texas program place on communicating with the high school coach of a recruited player?
Get the idea? Not too hard, really. I didn't strain myself doing that and, hey, I managed it after receiving an education at an institution that's not even worthy of J-Mac. Amazing.
Evans ends his response portion of the article with a real gem, saying that he felt that he did the best he could under the circumstances. What a clown. His comment directly preceding that also deserves consideration:
And, he said, he did not want to give either Texas or Oklahoma information they could use to try to influence McFarland's decision.
Beyond the obvious hilarity provided by Evans suggesting he's playing the role of impartial observer and conveyor of anything closely resembling nebulous concepts like truth and reality, his logic is telling. Evans didn't do his job because he didn't want to give the Texas coaching staff a chance to publicly repudiate not only facts of his story, but also so they couldn't try to correct the wrong impressions held and espoused by Kashemeyia Adams, which, if corrected, would have lead McFarland to give his commitment to the Longhorns.
Continuing in that line of Evans' logic lead to other editorial decisions, all of which conspired against the Longhorns. Coincidence? Ha. First of all, Evans never contacted McFarland's uncle to get another opinion from the family on the situation, which Orangebloods did, finding that Jamarkus really did want to go to Texas and felt pressured to go to Oklahoma by his mother and that Adams had Mack Brown's number. But, of course, that doesn't make Texas look bad, so it clearly has no place in the article. Secondly, Evans never contacted John Outlaw, the Lufkin football place, to let him defend a ridiculous claim by Adams that he was trying to influence her son to go to Texas, which he strongly denied when asked about it.
Gray Lady failure, redux
For clarification purposes, Hoyt doesn't mention the lack of corroboration for all the other instances of inaccuracies beyond the fiction about the party. In fact, lack of corroboration or perspective are endemic in that article and any failure to mention that by Hoyt further decreases the credibility of the Times, given the available evidence to support convincing argumentation of that failure. Had Hoyt done any cursory internet research to evaluate the article as a whole, he would have found that it failed to withstand cursory examination and verification the same way the party didn't. How many strikes is this now against the Time? Maybe I should have been keeping track...
In addition, Hoyt tries to have his cake and eat it too, making the contradictory claims that Evans believed Adams and McFarland because of his long association, then basically trying to make the excuse for a lack of vigilance on the part of the authors by noting the timing of the article on Christmas Day. So which one was it? If the association was so long, how could Evans have possibly done his best "under the circumstances"? Evans clearly had most of the article written before McFarland told the OU coaches he was going there, so the editors should have looked at it beforehand, if they knew they would have to rush it to publication when McFarland did make the announcement, which they surely did.
Frankly, the response to the story is completely unsatisfactory -- too little, too late. Why did the newspaper take so long to publicly back away from their product, considering the truth came to light only several days later, but more than three weeks before the Times responded? In particular, why did Evans and the editors remain above public rebuke when both parties demonstrated gross incompetence at their jobs? Why did Evans continue to write for the paper after completely destroying his own credibility? After failing at achieving the two tenets Hoyd trumpets: vigilance and skepticism? To suggest that Evans even approached those ideals is laughable and disingenuous.
Thayer Evans and "credibility" -- loose association only
By the way, Evans' credibility isn't at a high level right now and if you don't believe that, just go here. It's a page that allows registered users to rate Evans' credibility, or lack thereof. Currently, Evans ranks as "rarely credible" and his credibility rank falls at 11.83. And yes, that's on a scale of 1 to 100, with 169 credits against 1260 discredits. If you happen to find Evans to be discreditable, I strongly urge you to make your voice heard, which can be done for individual articles. If you choose to ignore the mountain of evidence piled against him, it is certainly within your rights to express yourself as well. That's about as popular as being a fan of Jay Marriotti, however.
As a second corollary to the point about Evans losing his credibility, why did Evans continue to write on the Times' OU beat, continuing his practice of writing sickening, fawning articles about the OU football team? Scroll down the credibility page and look at the topics of the articles he's written since Christmas. Yup, more Sooner love. I had the misfortune of reading this one in it's entirety and it left me with vomit rising in my throat. Read it at your own peril.
The needle and the damage done
The worst part of the whole situation is that this late response occurred so long after the fact that few media outlets will pick up the response and report on it, meaning that the initial impressions from the article still linger. The common response to the article in the first place was of condemnation of the Texas football program and fans who reacted angrily because they smelled the stench emanating from Evans' work. That perception will linger, as will the perception that Texas gets away with recruiting improprieties and the NCAA looks the other way.
Yet, the approach the Times takes to the article focuses on their lost credibility and the embarrassment caused them. What about Texas' reputation and the negative recruiting that every competing program will perpetuate against them in the coming years, trying to use that article against the Longhorns? Just like the credibility of the Times, that perception isn't easily reversed. I don't think any Texas fans are proud of the perception that exists that Longhorn fan are not only arrogant and entitled, but also whiny.
How to refute that now, after the damage is done? Newspapers are supposed to be objective and do the critical thinking for the masses of ignorant people who can't or won't do it themselves. It's a great responsibility, but that comes with the power of being able to disseminate information. The dearth of critical commentary on the story in the several days following its publication indicates that the inability to evaluate the article critically was complete and systematic. Really, the Longhorn blogosphere was the only place where that vigilance and skepticism happened, particularly the *gasp* actual reporting that Orangebloods did to discredit Evans and his story. And yes, that's a shameless plug for this website, as well. Tell your friends about it.
Another real loser
Besides Texas football, Thayer Evans, and the New York Times, it's McFarland himself who suffers more than any one else from the whole escapade. Since the incident, McFarland has responded to media outlets with only text messages, except in two cases, both at the US Army All-American game. It was in the interviews during the week leading up to the game that McFarland admitted publicly and verbally that his English paper contained inaccuracies. The other interview occurred during the game and ranks among the most awkward and forced sideline interview I've ever seen, and believe me, there are some strong competitors. McFarland flat-out looked unhappy and I feel badly for him because of that. There's been a significant public backlash against him on message boards and on his Facebook page.
Point being, when Adams says she doesn't want Jamarkus talking to reporters any more, it isn't because he could be burned again by some hack like Evans, but rather that she doesn't want him being repeatedly grilled about the story's veracity. McFarland has basically gone into hiding, not even interacting with his teammates during practice leading up to the Army game, arriving late, dressing after his teammates, and leaving the facilities directly after finishing practice. His mother's need for silence from her son on the topic indicates how deeply isolating her influence and hatred against Texas proved to be for Jamarkus. At the Army game he was a sort of social pariah, unable to enjoy the process or interact with his teammates for the week because he was so scared to have someone come up and talk to him about the situation. As a final insult, he has to go live in Oklahoma, basically against his will, held hostage by his mother's desires.
The final word
And so, no, Thayer, going back to your claim about doing your best, you did not do the best you could. Unless the pile of garbage you produced was only as good as you could do, which wouldn't be surprising considering your volume of work. You don't have the credibility for me to buy that line of argumentation and I don't appreciate the disrespect you show me and my ability to think by ever believing I would buy your further line of crap. Go away now. Far away.
By the way, as an ending note, I'll go ahead and co-opt the argument that this issue has already been beaten to death, to which I say, "Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man.