by Irvin Muchnick
Nine months after USA Swimming’s chief executive withdrew from the sport’s Hall of Fame in disgrace, and just weeks before a Government Accountability Office report requested by a congressman is expected to focus on the organization’s part in widespread youth coach sex abuse in national sports governing bodies, a reporter for USA Today is a featured speaker at next week’s USA Swimming “SwimBiz” conference in Colorado Springs.
After a series of inquiries by Concussion Inc., to which the reporter, Jayme Deerwester, did not respond, and which reached all the way to publisher Larry Kramer, USA Today’s ethics and standards editor, Brent Jones, earlier today gave us a statement explaining why Deerwester’s role in what USA Swimming describes as a “marketing-focused conference” was approved by the newspaper’s management. We are publishing below the full text of the statement.
Next Sunday through Tuesday, March 29-31, swimming’s “SwimBiz” is intended to assist in “growing participation, increasing revenue and promoting the sport,” according to the announcement at http://www.usaswimming.org/ViewNewsArticle.aspx?TabId=0&itemid=7673&mid=14491. “A signature” of this first-ever such conference “is the ‘Social Media Boot Camp’ followed by a food truck tasting event at the Colorado Springs Marriott. There will be presentations on social media, advertising, branding, communications, sponsorship and local promotion for clubs.” One of the SwimBiz topics is “10 Ways to Make Your Logo Not Suck.”
It is not known how much the event costs. The overwhelming portion of USA Swimming’s budget comes from its 400,000 dues-paying members. The organization doesn’t respond to Concussion Inc.’s inquiries.
Another entity that doesn’t respond to my collaborator Tim Joyce or myself is Denver’s GroundFloor Media, USA Swimming’s public relations contractor. In 2013, Concussion Inc. published an internal memo in which CEO Chuck Wielgus and the then board president explained that GroundFloor was their “partner” in “direct public relations and crisis communications resources” for local clubs. The memo said that this round of the PR campaign – launched shortly after now-retired Congressman George Miller of California asked the Government Accountability Office to prepare a report on federal legislation and amateur sports abuse – would cost up to $200,000. We also reported that GroundFloor trolls Concussion Inc.’s critical coverage of USA Swimming. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=7961 and https://concussioninc.net/?p=8014.
Last summer, before leaving office, Congressman Miller asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to “fully investigate USA Swimming’s handling of both past and present cases of child sexual abuse.” See https://concussioninc.net/?p=9765.
At SwimBiz, GroundFloor Media’s president and vice president will conduct presentations on how to utilize Facebook and Twitter.
Also at SwimBiz, Tom Ugast, CEO of Nation’s Capital Swim Club, with multiple sites in and around Washington, D.C., speaks on good use of text and telephone communications. Nation’s Capital Swim Club was known as the Curl-Burke Swim Club until 2012, when co-founder Rick Curl was exposed following a quarter-century-long USA Swimming cover-up of his serial molestations of his swimmer Kelley Davies, in the 1980s, beginning when she was no older than 13. The next year, Curl pleaded guilty to statutory rape in Maryland court, and he is now serving a state prison term.
Yet another featured speaker at the USA Swimming conference is Pat Hogan, the managing director of club development. Hogan’s topic is “What’s a New Swimmer Worth (And Why Spending Some Marketing Dollars Is Worth It)?” Hogan’s history includes an allegation of a rape of a swimmer he was coaching at the 1984 Olympic Trials, and his job reference as a “great people person” for the former USA Swimming Olympic team head coach, Everett Uchiyama, who secretly left in the face of abuse allegations and who almost immediately landed as the aquatics director of a country club just down the road from USA Swimming headquarters in Colorado Springs. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=8358 and https://concussioninc.net/?p=9223.
Other SwimBiz speakers include the sister USA Swimming executives Susan Woessner and Geri Woessner. Susan, the group’s director of safe sport, will talk about “Social Media Pitfalls.” Geri, the business development manager, speaks on “Where’s the Beef: How Much Are My Sponsorship Assets Worth?” We have noted that the Woessners’ organizational positions are in conflict, and further noted that in announcing the hire of Geri Woessner, USA Swimming did not even disclose her relationship to Susan Woessner. See https://concussioninc.net/?p=6855.
Of course, CEO Wielgus is also present, in the form of a talk called “Marketing Lessons Learned By Turning My Back to the Pool.”
Last June 3, USA Today’s Kelly Whiteside, who covers Olympic sports, wrote an article headlined “Hall of Fame rescinds Chuck Wielgus’ invite amid sexual abuse allegations.” (The story dealt with the meticulously documented contentions of victims and advocates that Wielgus had directed cover-ups and told public lies.) See http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2014/06/02/chuck-wielgus-usa-swimming-hall-of-fame/9893275/.
To the best of our knowledge, USA Today did not cover the subsequently issued Wielgus “apology.” Nor did the newspaper publish anything on Congressman Miller’s letter to the FBI; preview the upcoming Government Accountability Office report; or analyze how critics believe the U.S. Olympic Committee’s incipient “Center for Safe Sport” is an effort to head off federal executive and legislative branch investigations of national sport governing bodies by funding a new and purportedly more independent dedicated agency.
(If readers show us evidence that USA Today’s coverage has been more thorough and faithful than described above, I will amend the paragraph and add appropriate links in real time.)
Jayme Deerwester, who covers the television industry for USA Today, will speak at the SwimBiz conference on “How to Tell Your Team’s Story in a Way that Makes a Journalist’s Job Easier.”
USA Today ethics supervisor Jones said Deerwester was not being paid an honorarium for her promoted participation. Jones declined to answer our question of whether Deerwester is being paid her expenses, and in what amount. Here is the newspaper’s full statement:
“Jayme Deerwester’s personal interest in swimming, well documented on her social media accounts, prompted USA Swimming’s communications directors to invite her to address its member clubs on how to best work with reporters on facilitating media coverage and leveraging social media. She discussed details of the SwimBiz conference with her immediate supervisor, as newsroom policy guides, and she is not accepting any honorarium for this event.
Certainly, we are aware of the sexual-abuse claims regarding USA Swimming, which USA TODAY has covered in-depth over the years. Jayme is a female swimmer who came up in the ‘80s and ‘90s and now enjoys a role as a journalist and part-time swim coach. Her experiences are first-hand, and she has shared that she wants to make her ‘favorite sport safer, happier and more supportive than it was’ during her childhood. We appreciate her goal as well as your interest in the matter.”