Is It So Hard to Fact Check?

Slanted coverage of Title IX celebrations and academic symposia is unfortunately expected and widely tolerated, but that doesn’t mean we can’t publicly hold journalists accountable.

The latest example is a May 18th Twin Cities Daily Planet story, “Looking at girls in sports as Title IX marks 40 years in Minnesota and the United States.” It’s painfully clear that reporter Charlie Hallman fell under activists’ spells when recapping the “Title IX at 40” SHARP Center event. Again, no surprise there. The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) is one of SHARP’s co-sponsors and advocates for proportionality policies, erroneously blames basketball and football for men’s cuts and repeatedly dispenses talking points completely ignorant of reality.

Granted, Mr. Hallman only covered the specific conference, but he could have least carried out some simple fact checking to validate statements or point out inaccuracies before publishing. Or even better, he could have added some outside sources to counterbalance the 12 — yes, 12 — sources he cited or quoted who all held the same, biased views.

Here’s a telling excerpt:

Mainstream media too often reports on the popular belief about Title IX that men’s sports have been cut because of it, says Drexel University Sport Management Professor Ellen Staurowsky. Such headlines as ‘Title IX harms men’ and ‘Title IX has gone too far’ are misleading and create “rancor,” she explains.

“Title IX has nothing to do with that. Reporters should take a critical view, or at least explore the validity of a certain statement when certain claims are made,” the professor continued. Staurowsky added that in such cases when a certain sport program is indeed eliminated, “almost 99 percent of these cases, there is a larger issue at stake beyond what’s going on [with Title IX]. … Beyond the issue of accuracy of informing the public, I think the other issue we need to be addressing is by repeating this message over and over again, we create a framework in the minds of the next generation of leaders is that this is what to expect from Title IX.”

First things first: we wish Professor Staurowsky was correct that the media commonly exposes men’s cuts caused by Title IX. Conversely, those “terrible” headlines that cause “rancor” are few and far between. The bitter truth is that Title IX enforcement encourages schools to cut and cap men’s teams, so imagine the pain and disappointment those boys feel when they have to face this reality. If activists feel uncomfortable with that, too bad. Maybe they should try working on their empathy and rethink their most favorite Title IX policies due to all the harms they cause.

Also, did anyone bother to ask her where she found the 99 percent statistic or whether she even examined press releases schools put out when announcing team cuts? Title IX most certainly affects — if not outright governs — schools’ decisions. If schools were using Title IX as a facade for budget reasons, they would reinstate cut teams after they fundraised enough money themselves.

Ironically, Staurowsky is right to ask for reporters to conduct basic accuracy assessments of people making claims about Title IX. She just doesn’t realize that she and the rest of the crew cited in the article always get a free ride when it comes to making baseless statements in the media.

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