As we wrap up our series on technology, today we look at the effects it has had on the Cam Newton allegations. Even a decade ago, this would be a much slower developing story. In today's world, rumors and innuendos explode across the internet by the second. With blogs, Twitter, Facebook and message boards, the allegations have taken on a life of their own.
Like any big story there's been good reporting and bad. Even the "mainstream media" gets it wrong many times in a rush to beat its competitors.
ESPN's Joe Schaad has been out in front of the Newton story from the start. He was asked on a radio show earlier this week if he holds stories to post at certain times in order to get the most impact from his internet audience. Schaad said he publishes as soon as the story is ready. There's no morning rush on the internet.
In today's world, there is no prime reading time. It's 24/7 and that's where the problems start. Going back a century, newspapers have always been competitive, especially in cities where there's more than one. Compare that to now and the coverage Auburn receives daily. There are three pay-sites, at least four credible Tiger blogs, more than a dozen message boards, plus the mainstream media.
Everybody is tripping over each other trying to get a scoop. On Wednesday, Birmingham radio host Paul Finebaum tweeted that the NCAA was going to rule Newton ineligible "in the next three-to-four hours." His source was Ian Fitzsimmons, a reporter for ESPN Dallas. That simple tweet caused chaos for the next two hours with message boards melting down.
It was amazing to watch the news spread across the state's media. Each time it appeared, the story was a little different. Maybe amazing is not the word to use. Frightful is probably better. Within a matter of minutes, Fitzsimmons denied the story, but the damage was done. It ran like a wildfire in Southern California.
And the craziest thing about the story? The NCAA does not suspend players. Neither does the SEC. Only the school has the power to rule someone ineligible. They make the decision and live with the consequences.
As the Newton controversy continues - and it's likely to go on for a while, it's important that fans be cautious in what they believe. Technology is a beautiful thing - sometimes. On the flip side, it can also destroy people and programs without having to prove anything.
The last sentence on Newton is far from written. What if he and his father are innocent? Can they ever really get their name back? I'd like to say yes, but I have my doubts.
Be careful what you read, but whatever you do, don't stop reading Track'em Tigers!