'Free Press' Editor Defends Anonymous Sources in Michigan Football Scoop

By: Joe Strupp Paul Anger, editor and publisher of the Detroit Free Press, defended the use of anonymous sources in his paper's blockbuster Sunday story revealing alleged abuses of NCAA practice rules by the University of Michigan football program.

The report, by Michigan beat reporter Mark Snyder and columnist Michael Rosenberg, included interviews with six current and former Michigan players but did not identify them. The report alleged that the coach, Rich Rodriguez, had exceeded NCAA limits on training and practice sessions, claiming they were forced to put in more time than the rules allowed.

The story has already prompted an internal investigation by the university, while one former player has come forth on the record since the story ran to acknowledge such abuses occurred.

"We had six players who did extensive interviews -- current and former players -- separate and apart from each other that described the same scenarios," Anger said, adding that four other players acknowledged anonymously the abuses had happened, but did not sit for interviews.

"We always make an effort to get people on the record, we say that they appear more credible if names are in the paper," Anger added. "But there is a great power that a coach has. He determines playing time and success. Playing time is everything and so is peer pressure. You don't want to hurt teammates or the program."

Anger said one of the keys to allowing the story to run with unidentified players was the similarity in comments and descriptions of what occurred. "We looked for a pattern in the comments. We found very similar, in some cases almost identical, descriptions about what the University of Michigan was doing in exceeding practice limits."

He adds that the reporters first looked into the allegations earlier this year, but did not say exactly when. "They started hearing things enough times -- some comments, some things they saw -- that they started to look into this," Anger said about the origins of the story. "We got a comfort level with the story where we decided to go ahead with it."

Anger said reaction from readers has been heavy, noting "the messenger to a lot of people is at fault here. You have a lot of Michigan fans who are mad at the messenger. All we are trying to do is report the facts as we know them, that everyone ought to know about."

He said he had heard that some readers called with threats to cancel their subscriptions, but did not have specifics. The Web version of the initial story, posted late Saturday night, has already recorded some 1,028 comments as of Monday morning.


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