ARTICLE OF THE DAY
 
Where Is The Line?
by Chris Stansbury
9/26/07


When James Madison drafted the Bill of Rights in 1789, do you think he intended the First Amendment to stand for what it does today? The answer would be a resounding "NO!"

The First Amendment allows for the freedom of religion, free speech, free press, free assembly and freedom of petition.  In the 216 years since being ratified and called the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment has been beaten up, dragged through the muck, and basically forced into such a gray area of oblivion that it's hard to even determine where the line exists to determine right and wrong.

Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy's reaction to a column in the Oklahoman this past Saturday is only the most recent event to draw attention to this clouded subject.  Gundy used his postgame news conference to address a column written in The Oklahoman by Jenni Carlson that basically said OSU quarterback Bobby Reid was benched because he lacked the right attitude and wasn't tough enough.

Gundy went off.  For three-and-a-half minutes he crushed Carlson's column and credibility. Some are criticizing the head coach for his actions, even calling for a suspension.  I do NOT agree at all.  Gundy insists that information in the column was inaccurate.  If that's the case, then the column looks like a personal attack on an amateur athlete. 

As for Carlson, she is writing under the window of a "column," thus making her a columnist, which is different than a beat writer.  Columnists typically write about topics that will spark conversation, controversy and are usually mostly opinion.  Carlson's "column" did two-thirds of that.  It definitely sparked conversation and controversy, but it lacked opinion.  Her writing was more a style used on message boards or blogs.  It even stated "If you listen to the rumblings and rumors." 

No wonder there is such disgust between college and professional coaches with certain members of the media.  I consider myself a member of the media.  I co-host a sports talk show on the radio and that makes me a member of the media.  If you want to attack a person under the umbrella of opinion or a commentary than do it, but it still needs to be accurate and it needs to be your opinion, not speculation. 

It seems kind of confusing.  What's the difference between opinion, commentary and speculation? It is a fine line and one that gets fuzzier by the day. 

The only constant is the reaction when someone steps over a line that people can't see anymore. It usually leads to a full scale eruption like Mike Gundy's on Saturday night. 

Don't get me wrong: he has some blame in this, too.  This story stayed local, or at worst, statewide, in Oklahoma until he blew a gasket.  He said Carlson's column ruined a good kid's name.  That may be true, but making it the top story nationwide on every television and radio network as well as newspapers and the internet didn't exactly help. 

The First Amendment provides Americans with the freedom of speech and freedom of press.  I bet James Madison would have a hard time find anything positive to say about the 21st century interpretation of the First Amendment. 

I guess the one good thing is that he would at least have the freedom to say whatever he did feel.

Chris Stansbury