by Irvin Muchnick
Earlier this week Concussion Inc. reported that the Houston Chronicle was about to publish an article on a U.S. Center for SafeSport investigation of Scott MacFarland. Sarah Ehekircher accuses MacFarland of grooming and abusing her from age 17, and USA Swimming of botching the original 2010 hearing of her complaint.
Our March 25 piece was restrained to a fault: The Chronicle in fact did briefly publish online a story linked by the Google News web crawler with the title “Area swim coach faces new investigation.” The link itself was dead by the time I got to it, the Google News cite went away, and the Chronicle reporter, David Barron, explained that his story was pulled from the Saturday print issue because of space problems, and hence the online link got scrubbed.
This seemed like a reasonable benefit of the doubt for the newspaper. But as the week wore on without publication and the website of MacFarland’s Magnolia Aquatic Club started fussing with its “branding” of him, a fish stench rose up from the water. We briefly touched on the swim team’s manipulations here and here. The upshot appears to be this: In a series of revisions (not necessarily in the exact order presented here), the Magnolia coaches’ page (a) gave him the full-name alias “James Scott MacFarland”; (b) removed him from the page altogether; (c) restored MacFarland, but now at the bottom of the list of coaches but with a bio shorn of much of its previous detail; and (d) finally, and apparently permanently, restored him to his original position on the page with the new micro-bio and (uniquely among the coaches) no mug shot.
By today, Chronicle reporter Barron was all but conceding the possibility that his pulled story had nothing to do with the size of the news hole, and advising me to direct questions about the publication date to acting sports editor Reid Laymance and managing editor Vernon Loeb.
“We are vetting the article with our lawyers because of the sensitive nature,” Laymance emailed in response to our query.
This answered our first question — “Why has your report been published yet?” — but not the two others: When is the story now scheduled? And if and when published, will it reflect the new information about the slicing and dicing of MacFarland’s presence at the Magnolia website?
As Concussion Inc. was publishing this piece, the Chronicle editors also had not answered follow-up questions prompted by Laymance’s partial answer to the first questions: