My take on our pursuit of Arron Sears
There has been a good deal of discussion today about our decision to delve deeper into Buccaneers guard Arron Sears' problems.
To recap, Sears has been dealing with what the team has termed a "private matter" for the better part of the last three months and hasn't been with the team or even in Tampa. The Times decided that I would travel to Sears' hometown in north central Alabama and make an effort to talk to him and/or his family.
We knew it would not be a popular decision, nor was I particularly looking forward to it. But we don't make editorial decisions based on how we think they'll be viewed. We do what we think is in the best interest of serving our readership and fulfilling our obligation to it, no matter how uncomfortable that might be to us personally.
How, you may ask, does this serve the readership?
For starters, there have been many, many rumors thrown around -- irresponsibly so -- since the earliest days of this story. We have gone to great lengths during this entire offseason to avoid doing that ourselves. Making a concerted effort to get information enabled us to establish that the rumors are largely incorrect because there's been no official determination about the cause of Sears' problems.
We also were able to show the depths of his issues, which allows everyone to better understand how serious this is. When the Bucs understandably referred to his issues as "personal" earlier in the offseason, it left this open to much interpretation. It's now clear that we are not talking about a young man who is dealing with something petty but a critical situation.
One point that screams for clarification is this: When I first went to the home, I spoke very briefly with Sear's mother who in a polite way declined to comment. I left, but minutes later decided I needed to give her the opportunity to speak to me off the record, sensing she likely didn't want her name associated with a newspaper article. I had no way of knowing that Arron would at that point be in his car in the driveway. It was not an attempt to be underhanded. I did not knock on the car window. I did not make any attempt to coerce him to speak with me when it became clear he wasn't interested. I left almost immediately. Just like the story in today's paper, it's best if we stick to the facts. And, so you know, the facts in the story came from a variety of sources and were all corroborated.
For the record, I have two children myself, and I would do everything I could to protect their privacy if there was a need to. But I also recognize that if they are public figures, there are going to be many who are interested in finding out what is going on with them.
That's where the media comes in and that's what this week's trip to Alabama was all about.