tWWL's Shelley Smith has been essentially working as the Trojan's in house press secretary in ESPN
While we are all reveling in how the Norm Chow story worked out, I think we need to revisit the role ESPN's Shelley Smith played in unnecessarily spiking up the tension around this drama through her irresponsible rumor mongering with a definitive pro Trojan spin. It was her who "broke" the story on Tuesday night by breathlessly reporting that "a deal was being finalized" that would send Chow back to Southern Cal.
Smith's rumor mongering set of immediate panic attacks at number of corners in greater UCLA online communities (not as much here) and breathless groveling and dreaming about Chow (apparently) in the Trojan empire. At that moment it injected immediate momentum in Trojan recruiting efforts (as evidenced in comments on players such as Xavier Grimble) while creating just a little stalemate in the momentum the Bruins had built up the point.
She is a key player in the traditional media landscape of Los Angeles as one of the key ESPN "correspondents" based in Los Angeles. In reality the way she has conducted herself in recent days (while covering Carroll, Kiffin and Chow stories), it almost appears she is serving as nothing more than an in house press secretary for the Trojan spin machine within the ESPN offices. I don't think we can just forget about what Smith did at this point.
Just in case people forgot here was the text posted on ESPN's site on Tuesday night (I am sure someone can easily pull up the clip of Smith saying exactly this on air when the story broke as well):
In another part of the blockbuster staff changes, a deal is being finalized for longtime offensive coordinator Norm Chow to return to the Trojans in the same capacity, sources close to the school told ESPN's Shelley Smith.
The text has since been edited but thankfully we fanposted it right away. The anger from the UCLA side has been bubbling and it's not limited in the online communities such as BN and BRO. Last night in his teleconference call Rick Neuheisel blasted Shelley Smith as irresponsible for floating rumors of Norm Chow being gone to Southern Cal. CRN specifically singled out Smith's atrocious rumor mongering:
"The first I heard of it was on the media, I think it was Shelley Smith. I was disappointed, but I think at some level there was some irresponsible reporting going on as well. When I got a chance to talk to Norm, he said that they had not talked."
Today Kevin Prince added to that growing criticism of Shelley's shameless Trojan pimping by pointing out the negative effect of her rumor mongering from Tuesday night. Prince in response to what he thought of the Chow "news" when it first broke, also singled out ESPN:
"I didn't really believe it. He's kind of always told us that he's going to be at UCLA for a while. Kinda been confident in the fact he'd be with us and see it through. I didn't really believe it at first but ESPN has a tendency to make things sound very official. They made it sound that way at least. You can't always trust everything you hear."
It looks pretty clear now that Smith just basically ran with the Trojan spin without bothering to do any kind of professional due diligence by checking in with the UCLA Athletic Department (who promptly provided us with the accurate account on Chow as soon as we requested it) or with Coach Chow's representatives. It probably would have taken her 10 minutes to send an email to UCLA's SID and get the information that story about deal being finalized was totally inaccurate. The effects of Smith's irresponsible reporting was very clear as it immediately injected a little uncertainty among some Bruin faithful, even though we were working very hard to keep everything in perspective and put together all the pieces as much as we could based on the information we have.
Instead of showing a shred of professional integrity Smith has been doing her thing pimping away Lane Kiffin at the expense of the passionate fans from Tennessee. She is now busy working the Trojan angle of making Tennessee fans look like bunch of out of control English soccer hooligans.She has no shame.
I think Morgan Center deserves a lot of credit for being on top of this story during last 48 hrs; they were superb as soon they realized they would have to deal with rumor mongering like the one blasted out by Smith. They got the information our responsibly and in a professional manner in the face of a concerted media campaign from the other side, which based on Smith's rumor mongering, wasn't terribly concerned with facts.
Still, IMHO at this point UCLA can't let this rest and just move on. IMHO UCLA should express their strong reservations to Smith's bosses at ESPN's corporate headquarters about her hatchet jobs from last 48 hours and also contemplate what other action they can take to make sure she is blackballed as a reporter covering any athletic program that finds itself on the other side of Southern Cal Trojans. It should be clear to everyone else by now that at least when it comes to Shelley Smith's coverage on ESPN, you can't trust anything coming out of her mouth.