[DISCLAIMER: The Detroit Free Press publishes a weekly Michigan State column written by our isportsweb MSU writers. We are not compensated for it. The Detroit Free Press has published my writing/pictures multiple times. I have been compensated for my work.]
As soon as I hung up the phone with Drew Sharp two months ago, I knew I should write this article. So, before we get started, I need to apologize that I didn’t write this sooner.
See Drew? That wasn’t so hard to do.
Over 9 weeks have passed since Drew Sharp and I spoke – and I’ve spent a lot of time second-guessing how I handled it then… and how I’ve handled it since. I made a commitment to Sharp that the conversation between he and I would remain private and off the record – and I will honor that; I will not disclose what we discussed.
However, as I have looked back at how this whole thing went down, I find myself unsatisfied with how I handled the public aspect of it. If you are unfamiliar with the situation, I detailed it here. As I said in that article, I am satisfied with how the Detroit Free Press handled it:
As of today, the Detroit Free Press has done everything that I have asked them to do. They investigated my questions and corrected their mistakes. Beyond what I asked for, they offered me compensation and agreed to double it since it was going to charity. It truly is none of my business as to how the Free Press handles this situation internally. Should Sharp be suspended? Should he be fired? I don’t know. That is up to the Detroit Free Press to decide. If you, reader, want to influence that discussion, then by all means, do so. I am stepping aside in that regard.
I am, however, not satisfied with how Sharp has handled it.
Put bluntly, I did my best to take the high road during this situation, assuming Drew Sharp would join me there eventually. Clearly, he has not.
So, it’s (past) time to for me to speak up.
In all honesty, I’ve struggled with how to handle this for months. From the moment I noticed the eerie similarities between our stories on the morning of December 3, 2015, to the moment I pushed “end” on our 17-minute phone call on January 23, 2016, I had difficulty deciding the right steps to take. And even since then, I have gone back and forth, trying to figure out the best way to handle this even while muddying my way through it. Admittedly, I’ve made mistakes along the way and I didn’t always handle everything in the best manner.
At the base of it all, my Chrisitan faith has been my guide and my default position in life is to forgive others – even if they don’t deserve to be forgiven. I forgave Sharp, even if he never asked me to.
But it shouldn’t have stopped there.
When I read Drew Sharp’s column this last weekend that bashed Jim Harbaugh and LeBron James over their use of Twitter – and at the same time generalized sports fans on Twitter as “lazier, dumber, [and] quick to judge” – it caused me to look once again at my approach to this situation. I read Sharp’s article three times and a realization started to became crystal clear: here is a man who has not made a single public statement regarding his own egregious error, yet had the gall to call out others for their supposed errors. Even if what Harbaugh and James did – sending some tweets – were errors, they pale in comparison with what Sharp did.
What did Sharp do? He lifted information from my story without attribution and presented it as his own. Plenty of media watchdog sites have called reported the story (here, here, here and here). The Detroit Free Press acknowledged it as an attribution/sourcing issue and made the necessary corrections both online and in print.
Drew Sharp has remained silent throughout.
And it’s not like Sharp didn’t have multiple platforms with which to communicate from. He could have used his Free Press column or his daily radio show (before it was cancelled) or even his Twitter account.
If Drew Sharp was writing a column on Drew Sharp’s handling of this situation, he wouldn’t hold back any punches. He’d call the man out. He’d put him through the wringer. Yet he has been silent; he has not held himself to the same standard to which he holds others.
In his column last weekend, Sharp actually accused Harbaugh and James of being “so full of themselves that neither cares about appearances.” The irony in that statement is shocking.
Here is a man who couldn’t be bothered to interview Miranda McCoy for his story. It would not have been difficult to do – McCoy is easily accessible and more than happy to talk. Sharp was lazy and took the easy way out, googling her name to find the compelling details needed to enhance his story. Sharp made a purposeful decision to use the information that I had reported to fill in the blanks for his article. When he was caught doing so, he lied about it and – in my opinion – has tried to cover his tracks ever since. When his employer made the corrections, he still remained silent. Throughout whatever internal punishment the Detroit Free Press handed out (if any), he remained silent.
Is Sharp so “full of himself” that he doesn’t “care about appearances?”
Here he is, lecturing public sports figures about how to handle themselves in public. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? If so, then what’s good for the sports public is good for the journalists that report on them.
I apologize that – until now – I have remained silent regarding Drew Sharp’s public journalistic transgression. I have labored through this, all the while trying to balance journalistic integrity with compassion for a man who might have simply made an unfortunate mistake.
So, yes, it’s taken me some time. But when it is all said and done, I have come to the conclusion that I need to warn others about Drew Sharp, the journalist. The entirety of Drew Sharp’s current audience – and those who will read him in the future – need to know how he handled this (and how he didn’t).
Drew Sharp had every chance to earn the benefit of the doubt from me. He had every chance to humble himself and apologize to the public. It takes a bigger man to admit when you’re wrong and ask forgiveness for your wrongdoings. He arrogantly chose not to do so.
So, moving forward, I will not attack Sharp on a personal level. But I will take pro-active steps in making folks aware of his failure to own up to his mistakes. I will no longer turn down interview requests on the subject. I will address the subject in journalism classes at the University of Michigan, and at Michigan State University, and anywhere else I’m invited. I will warn others that how he handled this situation speaks to who he is as a journalist. And, in my opinion, it speaks very poorly. If he calls you to interview you, you shouldn’t trust him. If he reports anything controversial, his credibility deserves to be questioned.
Like I said the day I was first asked about this situation: everyone makes mistakes. It’s what you do after you realize your mistake that determines who you really are. I truly believed that Sharp would come around and handle this situation correctly. He has not done so.
Drew Sharp owes Miranda McCoy an apology.
Drew Sharp owes me a public apology.
Drew Sharp owes isportsweb a public apology.
Most importantly, Drew Sharp owes the public an apology.
[If everyone who reads this article is able to click this link and make a donation to Shriner’s of Chicago in honor of Miranda McCoy, together we’ll be able to make a huge, positive impact on children struggling through some of the most difficult times of their lives. Let’s continue to turn this series of events into a net positive by raising funds for Shriner’s of Chicago (click here). Also, please take the time to read the original stories of a resilient young woman who has overcome — and is overcoming — more adversity than most of us will ever face in our entire lives: here and then here. Thank you.]