There is never a good time or place to say dumb stuff. But there are times and places that are worse than others. Rutgers University Athletic Director Julie Hermann found a particularly inopportune way to screw up recently.
According to The Star-Ledger newspaper Herman was speaking to a Rutgers “Media Ethics and Law” class when she told the students that it “…would be great” if the Star-Ledger went out of business. The Athletic Director’s goal was simply not to “give them a headline to keep them alive.”
What was she thinking? If you are going to express your desire that the largest newspaper in the state fold — the (second) worst place to do it would be in front of a group of aspiring journalists. Sure enough, one of the students (a “sixth-year undergraduate”) recorded Hermann’s comments and wrote about them in Muckgers.com, a campus online publication.
The story got picked up in the Star-Ledger and Hermann’s remarks did not go over well with the paper which only recently had laid off 167 people.
When asked about Hermann’s goring of the Star-Ledger, Rutgers reportedly opted not offer an apology but simply explained that she was giving her views on media relations “in an informal way and out of the glare of the media spotlight.” How’d that work out for her?
The massive cuts at the Sta- Ledger are just the latest example of what is happening to print media in the past few years. The newspaper has long had a solid reputation for professionalism. The same cannot be said for Julie Hermann’s stewardship of the Rutger’s Athletic department. She is, of course, entitled to her opinion about the value of the publication. But as the face and the voice of Rutger’s athletics, she should understand that attacking the messenger is not going to earn her or the university better coverage.
In this age of social media, everyone is a journalist and even the most rank amateur (or 6th year undergrad) can make prominent people regret unguarded remarks. (Just ask Mitt Romney about his 47% comments during the recent presidential election.)