Saturday, November 12, 2005

At A Time When Newspapers Are Being Attacked From All Corners, the Register Showed No Guts In the Headline Flap With Ferentz

Back to that Kirk Ferentz headline mess with the Des Moines Register for a minute.

Remember, at one of his Tuesday press conferences, the Iowa football coach took issue with the newspaper for a headline that said "Northwestern defense has Iowa salivating."

Ferentz thought the sports page headline provided Northwestern with bulletin board material heading into last Saturday's game against Iowa. It was a game the Wildcats wound up winning, 28-27.

Some newspapers--one being the Iowa City Press-Citizen --and TV stations reported Ferentz's disapproval of the headline. Shockingly, the Register didn't report the story.

[Click on "the way i see it....." at the right to read the rest of this column]

I saw nothing in the Register the day after Ferentz [pictured at the upper right] complained, and I haven't seen anything in the paper since. No news story, no column. Nothing.

Bryce Miller is the paper's sports editor and Andrew Logue was the reporter assigned to the press conference.

My take on this situation is that the Register dropped the ball miserably.

The paper was gutless.

It was a big-time choke job.

Whenever someone takes issue with the paper, the paper owes it to its readers to report it.

I would never want to be in a position where another media outlet -- another newspaper, a TV station or [these days] an Internet site -- reports something that I should be reporting.

Believe me, I've been in some similar situations.

When I was involved, I wrote the stories.

I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Some examples.....

There was the incident following Iowa's final football game of the 1970 season, when then-Hawkeye coach Ray Nagel verbally came after me.

Following his press conference, with a handful of reporters that included me, Nagel turned to me and said, "Is there anything you want to ask me, Maly?"

I immediately said, "Do you plan to resign?"

Nagel quickly said he didn't intend to quit.

That episode had its start on Tuesday of the week. Nagel's weekly press conference was held at the University of Iowa Athletic Club in Iowa City. Because rumors had been rampant that Nagel was on his way out, I asked him if I could talk with him for a minute in a private room.

I was trying to make it easy on him and, yes, I was attempting to keep the story as a Register exclusive.

I told Nagel about the rumors that he would be announcing his resignation.

Nagel then went into the press conference and said to the other reporters, "Do you know what this guy just asked me? He wanted to know if I was quitting."

That was Nagel's way of seeking defense [sympathy perhaps?] from Gus Schrader of the Cedar Rapids Gazette and others who then were covering Iowa, and who tended to write more favorably about Iowa.

I recall writing a story for the next day's Register that quoted Nagel about not quitting.

However, two days after the final game of a 3-6-1 season, he was history. He announced his resignation Monday night at the Iowa football banquet in Davenport.

So I guess all those rumors were correct.

In another season, then-Iowa State football coach Jim Walden [pictured at the upper left] began a Tuesday press conference in Ames by saying, "This conference is open to everyone but Ron Maly....."

Oh, man, I was loving that.

Walden then went into a tirade about me putting his game plan for the next opponent in the paper that morning. He had announced the game plan to fans attending the Cyclone Club lunch in Des Moines the day before.

I certainly wrote about what Walden said both Monday and Tuesday in the next days' papers.

Another time, Walden tore into Marc Hansen [pictured between Walden and Hayden Fry, wearing sunglasses], then the Register's sports columnist, about something he had written. Hansen wasn't at the press conference, but I was. After hearing what Walden said about him, I called Hansen at his home, told him about Walden's comments and asked if had anything to say about them.

I recall writing about what both Walden and Hansen said about the situation.

Come to think of it, Hansen and I seemed to spend a lot of time on the phone in those days, talking about what some coach had said about each of us.

Another time, then-Hawkeye coach Hayden Fry was critical of Jim Ecker -- a standout sports reporter for the Cedar Rapids Gazette -- at one of his press conferences. It seemed that Ecker had been trying to find out what Iowa's new football uniforms looked like, and was doing his best to get a scoop.

Fry, however, went public at the press conference with his displeasure of how Ecker attempted to get the story. It turned into a real sideshow, with Ecker disputing what Fry was saying while taking notes at the press conference.

I know I wrote about that situation, and I'm sure Ecker did, too. The reporting bulldog that Ecker was, there was no way he was going to get shut out of that story.

My point on this is that I always wanted to be the guy who wrote the story when someone attacked me or my employer. No way would I want it any differently.

Evidently, times have changed at the Register. I think it's horrible that the Ferentz issue with the Register headline went unreported in the newspaper.

It was a definite lack of courage at a time when newspapers are being attacked from all corners, and it displays an unbelievable absence of leadership at a once-proud place.



Here's something else that's hard to believe.

I hear that editors at the Register told business columnist Dave Elbert that he had to get a comment from Bob Ray before they'd publish Elbert's review of Walt Shotwell's new book.

Some of the book is about Ray, a former Iowa governor and former everything-else in this state.

It turned out that Ray said he hadn't yet read Shotwell's book.

But it's ridiculous to tell a columnist who is doing a review that he has to get a comment from someone mentioned in the book.

That, too, is gutless, and it's a definite show of disrespect to Elbert, who has worked at the paper forever.



I got some laughs while listening to a couple of kids [I guess they were high school students] broadcasting the Valley-Dowling Class 4-A state semifinal football game last night on the radio.

The kid doing the play-by-play didn't do a bad job, but in the first half, he said Valley coach Gary Swenson "is probably pee-ohed" that the officials didn't put more time on the clock after a penalty.

Another time, that same kid said he hoped a penalty "doesn't come up and bite Valley in the butt."

I wonder why Gary Dolphin and John Walters don't say that kind of stuff when they're broadcasting games?



It's mystifying to me why a columnist wasn't assigned to write about the Valley-Dowling game for today's Register.

It was the biggest game in the state, and it deserved a column by either Nancy Clark or Sean Keeler.

It shouldn't have been left to reporter Dan McCool to write everything about a game that didn't start until 7:30 p.m.



Another thing I wanted to see, but didn't, was an attendance figure in the paper on the Valley-Dowling game.

There's no excuse for that.