Kim Mulkey, coach of Louisiana State University’s women’s basketball, has a formula for success. Her teams have won four national titles and counting. One of her motivators through the years has been to lead her players with a chip on her shoulder — and theirs.

That combativeness worked less well for her as The Washington Post readied an in-depth profile. In advance and sight unseen she described it as a “hit piece,” said reporter Kent Babb was “sleazy” and threatened to sue. The piece dropped over the weekend, coinciding with the last stages of the NCAA championship tournament.

The first thing to say is that while the story had several long sections of criticism, on the whole, it was not all that negative. Babb fully credited Mulkey’s success as a coach as well as her willingness to sign autographs and otherwise engage fans directly.

High on Mulkey’s list of beefs was that Babb interviewed her estranged father and estranged sister. However, she herself had opened the door to the topic in a 2007 autobiography. Even granted that Mulkey’s sole professional focus, as she says, is winning basketball games, the notion that the subject of a major profile should be off limits was at best naive. If family estrangement is part of the story arc, it’s standard for the reporter to dig deeper.

Babb did turn up the heat on that angle, including late in the piece a description of the father watching her games on TV in his very modest home, wishing for a reconciliation but not really expecting one.

A second long passage concerned Mulkey’s seeming hostility toward gay players. Her sharp tongue was more directed at their clothing choices and self-presentation than what they did in the bedroom. But it’s been a bad look in women’s sports, where acceptance of LGBTQ+ players has been a long time coming.

The leading case in point was how she treated Brittney Griner, her star player a decade ago at Baylor University, and openly gay. When Griner was imprisoned in Russia in 2022, Mulkey conspicuously did not join the chorus calling for her release.

Babb did quote Mulkey’s representatives saying she had prayed often for Griner’s release.

The sports journalism community separately took a hit Friday when the Los Angeles Times published a commentary by staff writer Ben Bolch comparing LSU to weekend opponent UCLA. It included a more-than-unfortunate phrase describing Mulkey’s LSU players as “dirty debutantes.”

In a Google search, I found that the racy Urban Dictionary doesn’t even define “dirty debutantes.” The term is, however, the title of a series of pornographic videos. An embarrassed Los Angeles Times has reedited Bolch’s piece and apologized that the original “did not meet Times editorial standards.”

On my scorecard credit, Mulkey with a three-pointer in her indignation against the Los Angeles Times. In the bigger game against The Washington Post, she was not a winner.

By Rick Edmonds, media business analyst and sports fan

‘Don’t bet your 401(k)’ on Truth Social

Former President Donald Trump’s social media company said Monday it lost more than $58 million last year, sending its stock down 25% only days after it went public at a valuation of over $8 billion.

The figures come from new Securities and Exchange Commission filings from the company, Trump Media & Technology Group, which logged that loss while making just $4.1 million in revenue for the same period.

The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell reports that the company’s share price drop “shaved off a quarter of its market value in a single day” and cut the value of Trump’s personal ownership in the company by $1 billion.

The new filings also detailed a number of risk factors for potential shareholders, including Trump’s status as “the subject of numerous legal proceedings, the scope and scale of which are unprecedented for a former President of the United States and current candidate for that office.”

An “adverse outcome” in one of the cases against Trump could negatively affect stock value, the filing states.

USA Today columnist Chris Brennan issued a warning for those thinking about buying Truth Social stock: “Maybe don’t bet your 401(k) on this one.”

The public debut valuation didn’t reflect the struggling business of Trump’s Truth Social, Axios’ Sara Fischer reported last week. Truth Social has a sliver of the users and income of other social networks that have gone public, with essentially a meme stock market value “completely divorced from its financial reality,” Fischer wrote.

The Daily Beast’s senior media reporter Justin Baragona offered a comparison for the company’s $58 million loss: “These numbers are similar to The Messenger, which went under in less than a year.”

By Annie Aguiar, audience engagement producer

Today is International Fact-Checking Day

What better day is there than April 2 — the day after brands you followed on Facebook a decade ago post cringe jokes to remind you that they still exist — to celebrate facts? International Fact-Checking Day, founded by the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, is an annual celebration and rallying cry for more truth in public health, journalism, and everyday life.

Celebrate this year by:

  • Reading a series of urgent columns from fact-checkers around the world (including this necessary commentary on why fact-checking is not censorship from IFCN director Angie Drobnic Holan)
  • Watching our annual State of the Fact-Checkers Report today at 9 a.m. Eastern time
  • Participating in a free training session about the structure and investigative potential of the messaging app Telegram with investigative journalist Jane Lytvynenko on Thursday, April 4 at 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

Live long and foster truths. May the facts be with you.

By Ren LaForme, managing editor

We want to know what your newsroom is creating with AI

If your newsroom is already publishing using generative artificial intelligence assistance, or you’re using it for coding or business-side tasks, I would like to hear about your projects. Last week, Poynter published an AI ethics policy starter kit for newsrooms thinking about using AI, but we know there are some smart people out there who are already using these tools. I would love to chat with you to learn what you’re working on, and how you’ve built it.

If you’re interested in chatting with me and sharing your projects, fill out this form. Responses will not be included in any publication without permission.

By Tony Elkins, Poynter faculty

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Rick Edmonds is media business analyst for the Poynter Institute where he has done research and writing for the last fifteen years. His commentary on…
Rick Edmonds
Annie Aguiar is an audience engagement producer for Poynter’s newsroom. She was previously a state issues reporter for the Lansing State Journal and graduated from…
Annie Aguiar
Ren LaForme is the Managing Editor of Poynter.org. He was previously Poynter's digital tools reporter, chronicling tools and technology for journalists, and a producer for…
Ren LaForme
Tony Elkins, a citizen of the Comanche Nation, is a faculty member at Poynter and will initially be responsible for co-directing Poynter’s Leadership Academy for…
Tony Elkins

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