by | Jun 17, 2010 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

Tom Izzo, his athletic director and his school president all said they wanted to build a world-class program at Michigan State. That’s good. They can start by not fretting so much over the media.

In an otherwise warm affirmation of Midwestern values Tuesday night, Izzo and the administrators, in announcing on campus that Izzo was staying put, used the moment to crackle at the media.

President Lou Anna Simon decried “how rumors became stories and tweets became facts.”

Athletic director Mark Hollis “watched the public swayed by ridiculous and outrageous rumors, a media that was, self-admitted, sometimes out of control …”

Even Izzo, in what should have been a pure celebration, took time, as he put it, to “be a smart aleck” and lash out at the media, saying everyone had a boss, but “I’m sure as hell (glad) I got mine instead of most of yours.”

Well, leaving aside that I actually have a pretty nice boss, as do many in the news business, MSU would be wise to act the part of the university it says it wants to be.

And that means taking the high road. What’s credible and what’s not?

Look. An institute of higher learning already should know there is no such thing as a single “media” anymore. You cannot put credible newspapers or television stations in the same sentence as tweeters. You cannot lump legit Internet posts with a blog that begins in some guy’s basement.

Several times Izzo referenced things “I heard” on radio stations. My question is: Why is he listening to them? There are responsible programs, irresponsible programs, smart callers and callers who spew venom. But in a flat world – and in media now, the world is flat – they can all get equal volume. The smartest thing when you are the topic of conversation is to step away. Keep your own counsel.

Instead, we heard Hollis lament the damage that was done “in the race to be first” and Simon bemoaned hurtful rumors “in the name of something called news.” Does she not see the irony of saying that in a news conference? You can’t just use the media when they suit you. If your announcement is big enough to draw a nation’s attention, why act surprised when the buildup does the same?

Izzo told me Wednesday that “it became ‘paparazzish’ ” in East Lansing. And he admitted getting into a one-on-one debate with a sports writer Tuesday night wasn’t what he wanted to do.

But if he and Hollis truly wanted to cap speculation, they could have held a daily media gathering during the 10-day process. Izzo could have said, “Here’s what’s on my mind today. Here’s who I talked to today. …”

That seems silly, right? But when you don’t do that, how can you be shocked when people talk, wonder or speculate? And please don’t say, “Why can’t people just keep silent until we decide?” Have you taken a look at this country lately? Does it strike you as a “wait until all the facts are in” place? Michael Jackson? Tiger Woods? Hello?

Besides, when Izzo – and he knows how much I admire him – exits a private plane and scurries past reporters, he’s smart enough to realize that doesn’t create silence. The proper way to handle good news

I felt sad Tuesday night watching Simon, Hollis and Izzo mention so many positives, then dip into the cliched waters of media resentment. I’m not saying there weren’t silly stories. There were. I’m not saying there weren’t rumors repeated, false suggestions about ego, recruits, true motivations, and that they hurt to hear.

But you know how a world-class program handles that? It stays above it. When the news is good, keep the news good. Accept what comes with the territory. And maybe add a dash of humility. Tuesday night’s gathering bordered on choosing a pope. A school president gushing over keeping – not hiring, simply keeping – a sports coach makes you ponder if she’d do the same over a beloved English professor who touches more than 15 kids a year?

The answer is no. Why? Because such things, right or wrong, are not in the media hurricane. For the things that are, you need a special skill set: patience, thick skin and, every now and then, elegance.

At least if you want to be the best. And from what I heard that’s where MSU wants to go. Great. I hope they do. That way, next time, they can act like they’ve been there before.

Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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