San Francisco Chronicle Defends Against Straw-Man Criticism — Says Its Story on Death of Cal Football Player Ted Agu Had No Factual Errors

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“Explainer: How ‘Insider’ Access Made San Francisco Chronicle and Berkeley J-School Miss Real Story Behind Death of Cal Football’s Ted Agu,”

Complete headline links to our series:

by Irvin Muchnick


Concussion Inc. finally has heard back from someone at the San Francisco Chronicle regarding our criticism of its January 30 front-page story on the 2014 death of Cal football player Ted Agu.

Michael Gray, the Chronicle’s enterprise & investigations editor, exchanged emails with me, and we appreciate that.

Gray said he believes the criticized story “presented an accurate account of the pertinent events leading up to and following Ted Agu’s death…. It doesn’t appear that you are suggesting there was any error in the Ted Agu story, just that you believe it did not contain certain information you believe might be pertinent.”

Refuting an argument never made, that there were factual errors in a criticized story, is a textbook straw-man ploy by journalists defending a story they know they blew.

Here the “certain information” missing is the scenario three months earlier — unmentioned in the Chronicle‘s Agu story or anywhere else in its coverage — in which the same central figure in Agu’s fatal collapse, football strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington, was also an important figure. In the earlier incident, one football player brutally beat up another.

(And is it too indecorous to speculate that if the Chronicle and other major Bay Area media outlets had done their job and shared with the public the warning-sign background of the J.D. Hinnant attack on Fabiano Hale — an event chronicled only at Concussion Inc. — maniac coach Harrington might have been called to account sooner and Ted Agu might not have died?)

As I said to Gray, investigative journalism is also about thoroughness and context. Public documents surfacing after the Agu family’s lawsuit settlement with the University of California is finalized should help answer our open allegation that the Chronicle and its investigative partners at the Cal journalism school either pulled an important punch or got snookered.

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Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick