Dave Hickman of the Charleston (WV) Gazette wrote on June 6:
MORGANTOWN - First of all, I'd like to send a huge thank you out to the blogosphere and the rumor mongers today because I really didn't have much else to do on a Monday afternoon and evening except maybe spend some quality time with my family.
Of course, that was shattered in the waves upon waves of silliness that kept coming and coming and coming all day and half the night. If Jeff Casteel wasn't packing his bags for Pitt, then Bill Stewart was being outright fired and either his big mouth or his wife's was the reason. His contract was in jeopardy, as is the very future of West Virginia football.
So here it is, a response to all the lunacy in place of the nice little piece I'd written about something completely different earlier in the day.
Ready? The bottom line?
Two percent fact.
Ninety-eight percent unadulterated imagination.
It's easy for members of mainstream media outlets to blame the ethereal "blogosphere" for rumor mongering. Often, however, the blame is simply sour grapes. The breaking news process is increasingly a battle between established, mainstream outlets and unaffiliated and newer outlets (usually lazily all lumped under the term "blogs" or in Hickman's case "blogosphere", and of course Twitter). When it comes to the two week drama of Dana Holgorsen, his incident at a casino in May, and the ultimate early dismissal of Bill Stewart, it was the much maligned blogs that reported the news first, correctly, and responsibly.
Holgorsen's Incident at a Nitro, WV Casino
I've reviewed the websites and Twitter feed of every media outlet that covers West Virginia and the Big East and the earliest reference to Holgorsen's being asked to leave the Nitro, WV casino was reported by Charley West of The Smoking Musket blog.
Hearing WVU just sent the Associated Press a statement about an incident last week involving Holgorsen that was described as "terse."
To the best of my knowledge, no one reported anything about any incident elsewhere on the 24th. It wasn't until the 25th that other outlets began to report the rumor as well. On the 25th, Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail officially reported that West Virginia was looking into the story of Holgorsen's ejection from the casino.
The Chuck Landon Hit Piece
The story of Holgorsen's being escorted from the casino then took a bizarre turn for the worse when Chuck Landon of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, citing the now infamously anonymous sources, reported that Holgorsen had been involved in as many as six alcohol related incidents in his time in Morgantown. West Virginia announced that it would be looking into the incidents and ultimately found that there were gross inaccuracies in the story. In fact, there so many aspects of the story that could not be corroborated that West Virginia officials began to think the story was leaked from someone internally in an intentional effort to discredit or smear Dana Holgorsen. This was not a blog lazily reporting rumors or "word on the street" gossip. This was a columnist at an established newspaper that was duped by a source into posting an article full of things that could never be substantiated.This once again led Charley West to postulate on June 2:
It may not be that @Chuckonsports made things up, but more that he received trumped up information.
The Rumor that Bill or Karen Stewart Were the Sources for Landon
After the Landon story began to be picked apart and West Virginia officials became suspicious that it had been fed to him intentionally, it only took a few days for rumors to leak out that Bill and/or Karen Stewart were in fact that sources of Landon's story. Again, the first indication at all that there was a problem on the coaching staff came from Charley West on June 4
High level Mountaineer Athletic Club executive says WVU football staff is in "disarray."
If I could sum up the WVU coaching situation using only one bad movie title, it would be "Something's Gotta Give."
The notion that the West Virginia coaching staff was in disarray was later indirectly confirmed by Colin Dunlap, when he tweeted
If what I heard is correct -- and the source has always been spot on -- a case of this is set to rock Big East football: http://t.co/EH93vPC
This set the internet ablaze and speculation immediately centered on West Virginia as Dunlap used to be a beat writer covering the Mountaineers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Within a few hours, a source had informed me what the alleged Benedict Arnold type of betrayal was, and then the first real attempt by anyone to report it was made by Jim at HailWV.com. Jim sloppily posted that he'd heard rumors that Bill Stewart's wife Karen was the source of Chuck Landon's hit piece. Jim's rumor posting was the very thing that often gets blogs and bloggers skewered: irresponsible rumor mongering. Jim stated that he didn't know if it was true, that he had no real sources, and that if it's wrong, oh well, it's wrong. To the credit of "the blogosphere, many within decried Jim's posting. SBNation's Sean Keeley wrote
I just hope this WVU rumor is 100% true because otherwise its another black eye for blogging.
I do not dispute that blogs and Twitter can often be the source of utterly damaging and irresponsible rumors. For that, they deserve the scorn that they often get. In the case of Bill Stewart and his apparent attempts to smear Dana Holgorsen, it was a print journalist from an established media outlet that produced the utterly erroneous hit piece on Holgorsen in the first place and it was another that dismissed the rumors as irresponsible, when they were in fact true and led to Stewart's ultimate dismissal. Meanwhile, it was one of our own here in the blogosphere that had the news before anyone else and was accurate without ever overstating or sensationalizing. This time the bloggers were right.