Taking on a Sacred Cow: Montgomery Advertiser Targeted by Fans after It Publishes a Controversial Story on the Auburn University Football Program
Bentley, Emily, Editor & Publisher
Taking on a sacred cow
After the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser had broken the story of a former Auburn University football player's allegations that he had received money from school coaches and alumni, the paper found itself riding a two-headed tiger.
Subscriptions were canceled, personnel harassed, and threats made against the paper and its reporter in the wake of the Sept. 27 story. Auburn Tiger fans became irate over the paper's coverage of Eric Ramsey's allegations, which are based on audiotapes he said he had secretly made while a scholarship player for Auburn.
Advertiser publisher Richard H. Amberg Jr. said the newspaper had drawn fire from fans enraged by what amounts to sacrilege in Alabama.
"Sports is the religion of Alabama. This confirms the unfortunate fact of life that many Alabamians are more concerned about football than about the education system in general or other pressing issues," Amberg said.
The newspaper endured the wrath of Auburn fans, but a second, more complicated part of the story involves access to Ramsey's tapes, which his attorney now is withholding.
"We've all [the media] been captives of Mr. [Donald] Watkins. It's like riding on the back of a tiger," said Advertiser executive editor William B. Brown. "We have felt we had no choice but to report on the tapes as he has released them."
Earlier this year, Advertiser news reporter Blair Robertson wrote an article about a sociology paper in which Ramsey said the university's football program was condescending toward black athletes.
By keeping in touch with Ramsey, Robertson broke the story of the taped conversations Ramsey said he had conducted with Auburn …
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Publication information: Article title: Taking on a Sacred Cow: Montgomery Advertiser Targeted by Fans after It Publishes a Controversial Story on the Auburn University Football Program. Contributors: Bentley, Emily - Author. Magazine title: Editor & Publisher. Volume: 124. Issue: 51 Publication date: December 21, 1991. Page number: 7+. © 2002 Editor & Publisher. COPYRIGHT 1991 Gale Group.
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