Volunteer fan blogger Cory Parella was removed from his position just four months--and four games--into landing the spot, where he generated 42 of 100 votes in an online survey in May.
Apparently, it didn't take long for the Star to recognize it had a controversial figure on its hands, and once comments relating to poor officiating had been published live on the Star's blog after Arizona's 20-3 loss, the Star apparently had enough.
"I wrote that I lost respect for (USC head coach) Pete Carroll, who seemed to be enjoying a favoritism on the field left over from previous seasons, and I summed that up by saying something like, 'If you see anyone wearing a Trojan hat, scowl at them,'" said Parella from his home in Colorado.
While the Star refuses to discuss the incident--"We are no longer publishing Cory Parella's blog. We'll have no further comment," said Star online editor John Bolton--Parella admits he's had run-ins with online content producer John Ames before. Ames is the man at the Star responsible for editing fan-blog content.
"Most of my blogs were faith-based, and I explained in my very first blog that I would use many biblical and movie metaphors," Parella said. "John Ames often withheld my blogs, including one in which I asked the city of Tucson to pray for players when they visited (Louisiana State University). Ames refused to publish it and asked me to stick to football, not religion."
Ames, however, did publish the blog following the USC game, even though it included biblical references and offensive language. It received plenty of negative comments, and Parella was removed shortly thereafter.
"At the moment of the UA-USC football game, when the Cats were about to kick a field goal (the score was 10-0 at the time), USC used the sleaziest trick in the book to call timeout in order to ice the kicker," Parella recalls. "At that moment, I lost respect for Pete Carroll. When the UA lost the ball for the last time, I was so furious, I began writing in the emotion of the moment, and said so in the blog, describing the USC play as 'shit.' I compared my use of the word 'shit' to a New Testament application written by the Apostle Paul, whereby he refers to all his man-made accomplishments and possessions as shit. Though modern Bibles use words like 'filth' and 'dung,' the original Greek word was 'shit.' Not the best witness for my faith in the world, but I was honest. I thought readers might appreciate the nakedness of my experience, especially since I was typecast an eternal optimist."
It didn't take long for the Star to wipe clean any blog entries written by Parella. While his name will still appear in engine searches as a blog contributor, the links to content have been shut down.
The Parella incident brings to light a greater issue facing media outlets as they attempt to adjust with the times and enhance their presence in the online community. The Tucson Weekly is no exception. It recently launched a blog, but at this time, there is no "fan" section. Bloggers are staff or freelancers for the Weekly, and everything they contribute gets vetted by editor Jimmy Boegle before it appears online.
"I'm the moderator of the blog, so anybody who wants to blog has to go through me first," Boegle said. "Comments, on the other hand, are not moderated and not approved. We'll never edit a comment. We will delete comments if they don't follow our comments policy (available for viewing at the blog)."
The Weekly's blog has very little, if any, sports presence at the moment, but there are sites in town dedicated exclusively to coverage of UA athletics. Those sites also have active message boards where fans can discuss happenings and exchange opinions, and these interactions can often get heated.
"Obviously, racial, religious, sexual orientation slanders are not allowed. For the most part, foul language is not allowed," said Brad Allis, the editor of Wildcatinsider.com. He also co-hosts pregame and postgame broadcasts for UA football and basketball alongside me on KCUB AM 1290 AM ("The Source").
"A blog is a new term for an opinion piece," Allis said. "Certainly you can have message-board posts that qualify as a blog even though the message board is designed to interact with the community. You can state your opinion, and you know people are going to respond to it. I think a blog is more of a column. In many ways, they are designed to get responses, but I think it's a trendy way to call it a guest columnist. The bloggers newspapers are using nowadays are either volunteer writers or writers who have come up through the system and worked their way up from (being an) intern. It's a way to have a fan's view of things, but to me, they're more designed to be stand-alone pieces that can get responses as opposed to throwing my opinion out so everyone can respond."
According to Allis, there are numerous posters with known faith-based leanings, including some ministers, "and they tend to be less ready to spout the religious rhetoric than some church-goers. I think the more involved they are, the more they try and separate it. It's usually the liberal vs. conservative, not the agnostic or atheist vs. religion."
Meanwhile, the Star's UA sports fan blog perseveres, albeit not with the fervor it had a few months ago. New fan blogger David Pressnall is still trying to find his way.
"If I go off and get controversial, I'll be labeled as knee-jerk," Pressnall said, "but if I stay boring, no one will read what I write."