This whole Bernie Fine mess and the seemingly misguided way its being handled by ESPN make for one group of happier-than-Billy Madison-on-nudie-magazine-day Newhouse professors. Granted, "happy" is hardly the word I'd use but its the easiest one to use in this instance.
Let me explain. And PLEASE keep in mind that the following is not meant to be a comparison.
During my freshman year at SU I was working with the seniors in the broadcast dept when Columbine happened. It was tragic, it was horrific, it was terrible. But for the students, it was a learning experience. How do you cover breaking, heart-wrenching news as it happens? Seriously, I believe there were some professors more excited than they should have been at the prospect of real-life making its way into the classroom. On some level, though, I understood what they were feeling. It was a sense of, "See, this is how it is when you're working. Stuff happens and you have to think on your feet." During my senior year 9/11 happened and though I wasn't in a broadcast class on that horrible day, I know plenty who were, and the same type of thing happened. Professors used it as a teaching tool.
PLEASE UNDERSTAND I AM NOT COMPARING THE CURRENT STORY WITH WHAT HAPPENED YEARS AGO. What I am saying is any journalism student currently enrolled at SU is definitely getting what he or she is paying for in terms of education for the duration of ESPN's coverage of the Fine story. The two big events during my time at SU were seriously tragic breaking news. They taught students how to think quickly and cover a story efficiently as it unfolds.
This Bernie Fine story is also going to be used as a teaching tool, I imagine. It is hardly a "happening now" story as most of the allegations and such were investigated years ago. It is indeed an ongoing story until someone finds a "smoking gun" that either proves guilt or innocence. But the way the story has been handled thus far probably has many professors cringing, especially the media ethics ones who at this point have likely rewritten the last couple weeks of their syllabi.
Meanwhile, the news professors have a perfect example of how NOT to report a scathing story right in their own backyard. Students will learn from it, and when a select few of the current crop of students make their way to the wordlwide leader a few years from now, we'll all be better off since they'll be able to ask the hard questions and make the hard decisions about whether to run a story with minimal facts to back it up. Realworld events make the learning experience better.
I just wish this real world experience was happening somewhere else...or not at all.