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Between the Lines: OSU fans wrongly lambast 'Lantern'

Buckeye Nation has crossed the line.

The resignation of iconic Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel earlier this week — amid allegations that various NCAA violations have taken place throughout his decade-long tenure — has seemingly turned Columbus into a disaster zone, and understandably so.

“The Vest” has been OSU’s white prince, guiding the Buckeyes to their first national title in 34 years and posting a dominating 9-1 record against the archrival from Ann Arbor.

But whoever said disaster brings out the best in people surely never wandered the blocks of student housing nested between Columbus’ Indianola Avenue and High Street.

Buckeye faithfuls throughout the region, whose only local sports fixes are the Columbus Blue Jackets and Scarlet and Grey football, have lashed out against media outlets and analysts who dare suggest Tressel’s ousting was justified.

At least two writers for OSU’s student newspaper The Lantern, editor in chief Zack Meisel and sports reporter James Oldham, have received hundreds of emails in response to the paper’s coverage of the scandal.    

The pair told ESPN yesterday that one particularly sweet message said they were likely to turn up dead in the Olentangy River.

Enough is enough.

For decades, we’ve been conditioned to believe that the media is the enemy. If and when something we don’t like makes the paper or hits the web, we must attack. Call out the outlet, decry their biases and shame the reporter because, if he or she had done any reporting, the story clearly would have turned out differently.    

Most reporters know this comes with the territory, especially sports reporters, who get tossed under the bus by hometown fans for any critical word they type.

College reporters are no exception. Here at The Post, reporters and editors are often railed by Bobcat fans who don’t appreciate our coverage of the athletic department’s historic budget woes, faculty members who argue that Division 1 Athletics should not be a priority and the latest legal woes of OU’s most recognizable “student athletes.”

But no matter how enraged you might be about a media outlet’s coverage of the latest sports scandal, it is never acceptable to threaten a reporter, analyst or anyone, for that matter.

Maybe it’s the intense, trash-talking nature of athletics that pushes fans to pen violent messages behind the cover of email accounts and anonymous web comments. Or maybe there’s something about people who craft their entire lives around the successes and failures of particular sports teams that makes them more inclined to resort to immature and inappropriate attacks on anyone who dares question their teams.

Either way, it’s out of line. Devotion to any sports team should never override the fundamental understanding that some things — death threats being one of many — are never acceptable.

The biggest irony in the case of the attacks on The Lantern is that they are coming from those same Buckeye fanatics who will defend the disgraced coach to the grave.

It is understandable that some students have grown tired of seeing Meisel and Oldham appear on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, often being presented as the student take on the investigation.

Clearly the reporters are just that and don’t represent OSU’s 60,000-student campus.

But even if that sole criticism has a hint of legitimacy, the reporters and paper have come under heavy fire over reporting that has been generally fair.

What the critics forget is not to shoot the messenger. The Lantern didn’t sell any memorabilia for drugs and tattoos, nor did the paper turn a blind eye to the transgressions and lie to NCAA investigators.

In fact, the paper’s interview with former wide receiver Ray Small helped shed light on just how rampant NCAA ethics violations run within one of the nation’s premiere football programs.   

To those proudly sporting “Tressel til I die” shirts: Maybe it’s time you stop defending the man who didn’t do his job and toss a little support to the student reporters who did theirs.

Wesley Lowery is a junior studying journalism and the 2011-12 editor in chief of The Post. Send him death threats at wl372808@ohiou.edu.

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