Drescher: Persistence plays big role in reporter’s job

The NCAA recently defined Hawkins as a sports agent. He purchased Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green’s jersey for $1,000; Green has been suspended by the NCAA for four games.

The NCAA is investigating UNC for possible improprieties involving players and agents. Hawkins says that he’s helped UNC players “vet” agents but that he’s not an agent. He’s been interviewed by the NCAA.

Hawkins also faces felony cocaine trafficking charges; he says he’s innocent.

So News & Observer reporter J.P. Giglio wanted to ask UNC coach Butch Davis about Hawkins’ relationship with current UNC players.

That’s a fair line of questioning. Davis is in charge of the UNC football team, and Hawkins said he met current players working out at UNC. Should Hawkins have had access to current UNC players?

Giglio was one of several reporters from different news outlets who interviewed Davis for about 10 minutes before practice last Thursday. The session was videotaped. After other reporters asked questions on other matters, Giglio asked about Hawkins.

But Davis didn’t want to talk about Hawkins. Giglio persisted. For 75 seconds, Giglio and Davis went back and forth. Here’s a sampling:

Giglio: “… How prudent is it to have him [Hawkins] in your facility and having relationships with players that are pertinent to your team?”

Davis: “Yeah, you know what, Joe, he’s not in our facility.”

Giglio: “He’s never been in your facility?”

Davis: “He’s not in our facility.”

Giglio: “You’re saying he has never been in your facility?”

Davis: “He’s not in our facility.”

Giglio: “Well, he’s not there right now. I mean Sam I Am but has he ever been in the weight room? Has he ever been hanging around the team?”

Davis: “Joe, you just said, is he in our facility and is it prudent to have him around. He is no longer in our facility, and he is not in our facility at this time.”

(In Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” Sam I Am prods his friend to try green eggs and ham.)

Giglio used some of Davis’ comments in a Sept. 17 article about Hawkins.

Some readers objected to Giglio’s questioning after seeing it on TV or online. Brian King of Chapel Hill, who works for Lenovo and received his MBA from UNC in 1996, sent me an e-mail, and I followed up with a phone call.

King objected to Giglio’s tone. “He doesn’t have a lot of respect in the way he does it,” King said. “He seems to grandstand.”

I don’t see it that way. Giglio was persistent but professional. He asked good questions on an important subject. When Davis got cagey (“He’s not in our facility.”), Giglio pushed for clarity (“Has he ever been in the weight room?”). Eventually, Davis answered the question (“He is no longer in our facility.”).

Giglio and Davis were doing their jobs. Giglio’s job is to ask the questions readers want asked. He did.

Part of Davis’ job is to work with reporters. He did. He didn’t cut Giglio off. He didn’t enjoy the questions, but he was composed and professional. Davis had no problem with Giglio’s questions, said Kevin Best, a spokesman for Davis. “Coach Davis understands and respects the job the media has to do,” Best said.

Overall, Davis has been accessible and responsive to our reporters. So have Chancellor Holden Thorp and Athletic Director Dick Baddour.

Some have raised questions about whether Giglio, an N.C. State graduate, should report on UNC. We don’t assign stories based on which college reporters attended. The only way to avoid any local connections would be not hiring anyone who attended State, Carolina, Duke or any other college in the state. That would rule out some of the best reporters in the country – journalists who know this state, its people and its traditions.

Our reporters leave their degrees at home and do their jobs without fear or favor.

Also working the UNC football investigations for The N&O and Charlotte Observer are reporters Robbi Pickeral (a UNC grad); Ken Tysiac (Notre Dame); and Andy Curliss (Toledo). Their primary editors are Steve Ruinsky (Syracuse) and Lorenzo Perez (Virginia).

This is a big story that is going to be around a while. We’ll keep asking questions.

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