Rutgers Football: Julie Hermann's War

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

J-j-j-julie and the News.

Julie Hermann is back in the news again.

This time the beleaguered Athletic Director said that it would be "great" if the Star Ledger died. While Hermann said this earlier this year, the timing of Rutgers' favorite Steve Politi's story breaking coincided with 167 news reporter layoffs last Thursday.  From the story:

"If they’re not writing headlines that are getting our attention, they’re not selling ads – and they die," Hermann told the Media Ethics and Law class. "And the Ledger almost died in June, right?"

"They might die again next month," a student said.

"That would be great," she replied. "I’m going to do all I can to not give them a headline to keep them alive."

While at first it may read like Hermann is just trying to explain why she'll stay out of the scandal spotlight, she clearly follows that up with a "great" when the students says the paper might die.  She is rooting for a newspaper to die.  She is rooting for hardworking people to be jobless.  That statement is bad enough to begin with, but it's compounded by what she's actually, apparently unknowingly done.

While her frustration with the paper may be palpable, she has to know how the press is going to handle this.  A public figure cannot be saying these things.  She has to know better.

Julie hasn't just declared war on the Star Ledger, she's declared war on sports reporters/reporters/newspapers in general.  When you say you want one to die, it's not a huge leap of logic to hope they all die.  Julie Hermann has essentially turned all reporters against her.

When you've even caught the baseball writer's eye, it's clear what's happened.  Rutgers will not get a favorable look from a reporter under Hermann's watch.  They're all on notice.  This is not good for Rutgers.

And it's a shame.  You don't declare war on the media, you work with them.  Julie had a great chance to do that, to work them favorable from day 1.  Instead, while Rutgers missed out on a ton of background check stuff that our former editor was able to dig up quickly, Julie was unable to get out in front of the press.  Put on a good show at the press conference and get them on your side.  Instead she challenged them about a video tape she thought didn't exist.

Rutgers, no--any institution--needs the press on their side.  And while punchdrunk-from-scandals Rutgers fans may want to defend their AD no matter what, this is a problem.  Many might feel the press is out to get Rutgers anyway, but that is not true.  Tim Pernetti would not have asked Politi for advice if there wasn't trust there.

However, the fans  (or at least a small percentage of them who are vocal on social media) have erupted, long viewing the Ledger's coverage of Rutgers as negatively biased.  And instead, they are rooting for the paper to burn as well.  This is a terrible idea.  Fans are pushing the media even more, with vile, angry tweets.

Why would anyone want to cover something positively after that?

And yet, the newspapers have been positive about Rutgers when there has been reason to be.

The Star Ledger would not have published a book about the 2006 Rutgers football season, if they didn't want the program and department to succeed.  They wouldn't have given days of coverage to the Big Ten move if they didn't support it.

It's not enough for fans, who every other second love to talk about football driving the bus.  Today, now they want the newspapers to cover the WNIT or-apparently-gymnastics.  It almost feels desperate.

But the media's number 1 job isn't to always support the program and turn a blind eye when stories develop.  The media's role is to do its best to keep everyone honest.  And Hermann's tenure thus far has been ripe with stories the media found important to report on.

And the timing of Julie's comments couldn't have been worse.

Now Julie has awoken the news again.  And by rooting for people to lose their jobs in a business that is already struggling, she's enraged them.  Not just Politi, but everyone.

Winning cures everything, though.  And once Rutgers jumps to the Big Ten, they better start winning quickly, otherwise this drumbeat will probably grow louder.  In a time that is clearly stressful and full of tension for these reporters, Julie has given them an outlet.

She has to know better, and so must the fans.

Rutgers is in the Big Ten.  Football won.

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