BYU's Brandon Davies returns, but what does lack of stories say about the media?

Published: Friday, Sept. 9 2011 1:55 p.m. MDT

Brandon Davies sits on the bench during the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas, NV, Thursday, March 10, 2011.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

It's been two weeks since BYU's announcement that forward Brandon Davies would return to school and the basketball team, but still little has been written or said about it, especially compared to the immense and widespread national attention his suspension generated last spring.

In March, when BYU decided to suspend Davies for an honor code violation in the middle of one the school's best basketball seasons ever, news of and commentary about his suspension flooded Twitter, sports websites and other outlets.

During the commotion, Deseret News reporter Jamshid Ghazi Askar, captured some of the intensity in a story that included at least 15 links to national stories about Davies and the suspension, and that was just a small sampling of some of the biggest and best stories.

Five months later, far fewer sources are closing the loop on the story by noting his return.

Why not? And is it a black eye for the media?

When the media fails to follow up on a story like this one, it leads consumers to assume the media always focuses on the scandal, Poynter Institute media business analyst Rick Edmonds said. "It leaves the story incomplete and may contribute to the common perception (not all wrong) that the media dwells on the negative."

He also said the timing matters when covering a follow-up to a story and suggested organizations keep a record of stories to update.

"Media are notorious for losing interest and not following up, especially if the sequel is delayed over months or a year," Edmonds said. "The remedy is to maintain a good tickler file. But most editors and reporters don't."

Jay Evensen wrote a Deseret News column last week about how he believes Davies' return has not been well-publicized because people care less about stories of redemption than scandal.

"But there ought to be more room on our public radar screens for stories about redemption, as well, and about an honor code that forces athletic programs to focus on students more than games," Evensen said.

Other factors likely contribute to the lack of focus on the decision by BYU to allow Davies to return, and the decision by Davies to do so.

Author, writing coach and senior Poynter Institute scholar Roy Peter Clark believes the media have avoided covering Davies' reinstatement because of a cultural clash on religious views in sports.

"Any time religion or moral values enter the news, there's going to be debates and disagreements," Clark said. "Mainstream journalists and maybe a poll of general Americans would probably not list sex before marriage as a reason to be suspended from an extracurricular activity."

He said some media outlets might disregard the story because they didn't agree with BYU's actions in the first place.

"What you may be seeing is kind of a judgment that's being made on the university's values, maybe the perception that the kid got a bad deal to begin with," Clark said. "It's not a matter of not covering his reinstatement, it's that they may not want to drag his name through the mud."

Dr. Andrew Billings, a sports media expert and broadcast chair at University of Alabama, identified four factors he thinks determined the relative lack of coverage following up of the Davies story. He said widespread publicity of the reinstatement was constrained by the timing, the circumstances, the degree of Davies' offense and the breadth of his story.

"Part of the reason his story got so much attention last year was because of Jimmer Fredette, and it seemed to have a bigger affect on the team's potential Final Four bid," Billings said.

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