Why does context matter? When considering yesterday's closed door meeting on the topic of stadium expansion, appearances can be everything. Put "closed door" in scare quotes, and that will cause readers to associate the meeting with secrecy and the appearance of having something to hide.
I've previously argued that Rutgers needs to be as transparent and open with the media as possible, but there's a very good reason why the doors were closed. George Zoffinger has taken advantage of a lack of context to make a merely inept athletic department appear unethical and criminal over the past few months.
Context matters when evaluating Zoffinger's "revelations" (scare quotes!) to the Star-Ledger. One was a draft revision of a clause that was never inserted into Greg Schiano's contract. The other were details of a side arrangement with Nelligan Sports that the Star-Ledger had reported on in 2006, and Rutgers had previously announced in press releases. At least with these two incidents, the Rutgers athletic department was entirely in the clear, but their reputation was dragged through the mud.
The media has an obligation to dig for scandal in a state like New Jersey. I don't begrudge the Ledger for their reports, even though they should have used better judgment, and their refusal to recant the above two stories was a black mark on the paper. The latter is why so many Rutgers fans are now angry at the Star-Ledger; it does not solely stem from the initial reports. Even worse in my mind was how the national media picked up both stories (or even further garbled their details) without doing independent verification. Now, I have to continually explain to my friends why both stories were incorrect; just like how I needed to explain that Rutgers fans do not hate the Navy football team (as the result of a factually inaccurate editorial coincidentally published in the Ledger last year, and subsequently picked up by the national media).
Unfortunately, there are some Rutgers fans who do believe that their favorite team should be free from all criticism. Really? Should the critics have sat idly by while Terry Shea was running the football program into the ground? It is extremely important that the Rutgers athletic department still has not raised the needed funds for stadium expansion (even though we don't know what internal timetable they're working on). The media has every right to report on the needed funds; they have a duty to do so. It's a debacle, and anyone who is not worried about fundraising is in complete denial.
That does not mean that everything is doomed. Are you familiar with the concept of anchoring? When the stadium expansion was first announced, my first thought was regarding the unexpected amenities. Rutgers just built a practice bubble; why do they need new facilities? Why do they need a lounge to host recruits in? The reason they asked for those perks was due to a simple negotiating ploy. Anchoring is the process of asking for more than you expect ro receive, and then negotiating downward by conceding issues that aren't top priorities.
By all accounts, the stadium's capacity is still going to expand (along with logistical upgrades like concessions, bathrooms, and hopefully the far overcrowded concourse). Media reports have hinted that the excessive amenities are going to be cut, but the core of the expansion is moving forward. I don't know how the eventual story will be reported ("Rutgers expansion a go", or "Rutgers scales back ambitious dreams"). What matters is that it happens, and that there are funds to pay for it.