Bernie Fine Allegations: ESPN, Journalism & Responsibility

NEW YORK - FILE: Assistant coach Bernie Fine of the Syracuse Orange looks on from the sidelines during their game against the Connecticut Huskies during the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 12, 2009 in New York City. According to reports on November 27, 2011, Syracuse University has fired assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine over allegations of child molestation. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

When it comes to the Bernie Fine allegations, finding justice for the alleged victims is the eye of this swirling hurricane. However, there are tons of secondary issues that need to be discussed moving forward.

One of which is...how ESPN has handled this entire process from a journalistic standpoint.

You know how I felt when it all went down. And I'm sure you've read Jason Whitlock's screeds as well. And that was before ESPN released snippets of a phone conversation that Bobby Davis secretly recorded between he and Laurie Fine. ESPN admitted that they had been holding on to the recording since 2003 and only now decided to release it.

At no point did they notify authorities of its existence.

Dan Patrick has concerns about this.

Mark Schwartz told CNN that since ESPN couldn't corroborate the voice, there was no point in reporting it. And since Davis had already been rebuffed by authorities, there it stayed.

I'm not sure why they then didn't turn it over to authorities themselves. Surely the weight of this information coming from ESPN would give it credence enough to be checked out. Right?

Schwarz told CNN that it's not ESPN's (and by a larger set, reporter's) job to turn over evidence collected to authorities.

So basically, if a person sees evidence of child molestation, they have a moral obligation to report it to authorities. But if ESPN sees it, they do not. Got it. Thanks for clearing that up, Mark.

We're right back in Penn State "just do what's legally-required and walk away" territory.

ESPN Senior Vice President & Director of News Vince Doria did an interview as well, explaining how it was important to make sure this was actually Laurie Fine.

When we had the audio in the past we had never been able to confirm that it was Laurie Fine. Part of it was we had no independent video of her and her voice – something we could look at and say, "Yes, that’s her and yes, that appears to be her voice." This time around when we re-engaged on the story we did in fact have a video we found on-line of her serving a meal to Bernie and a number of young men who may or may not have been Syracuse players. In this video you could clearly see her and hear her. This allowed us to submit the audio to a voice recognition expert, which we did last week.

So here's where it gets weird (or at least, weirder). I know the video he's talking about. I saw it on YouTube last week. I tweeted it out as well. The video was a steady shot of the dinner table in Bernie & Laurie Fine's house. Fab Melo, Baye Moussa Keita, Matt Tomaszewski and about two other Syracuse basketball players are sitting at the table. Bernie is bringing food in from the kitchen and Laurie is holding the camera, narrating the scene and talking to the players.

I went back to YouTube to watch the video again. It's gone. Removed. In fact, I'm pretty sure the entire account is gone. Another video of Laurie interviewing Wes Johnson is still there but the one specifically mentioned by ESPN is no more.

If anyone wants to cross-reference the video that ESPN used to confirm that Laurie Fine is actually on the recording, you can't anymore. 

Did ESPN pull the video so no one can double-check their work? Am I just looking for a conspiracy? I have no idea. But just like everything else in this ordeal, the answers only raise more questions. Whether on purpose or not, we can't get anything definitive.

Every time something is presented that's supposed to provide clarity, it only ends up making things more confusing and murkier.

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