The rage around USC the past week had nothing to do with John David Booty or even the Song Girls.
A blog on the site USC Rips It appeared on the scene, and it immediately raised eyebrows with the media because of the access given to blogger Ben Malcolmson, pictured below, a former member of the Daily Trojan.
Malcolmson, taking a page from the George Plimpton playbook in the spring of 2006, decided to try out for the team with the sole intent of chronicling his experience for the student newspaper.
Twenty-eight students tried out, and two days later Malcolmson learned he made the team. "I have covered the team for three years," he wrote. "Now I'm part of it."
It turns out that Malcolmson, whose playing days are now over, is still a member of the team.
In an email interview, Malcolmson gives us the scoop on his involvement with the site.
Question No. 1: Word is that you are on USC's payroll or are being paid to do the site through the football office. Is this true?
Malcolmson: "Yes, it is true. I am employed by the USC athletic department and work directly out of the USC football office.
"We believe this is a revolutionary concept, to have insider journalism like this, and the response we're getting has been awesome."
Follow-up questions: Who came up with the idea? What is the relationship with the sports information office? Is there coordination with that office regarding anything you write?
If a player gets into trouble (arrest, suspension), will that information be reported?
You were a journalism major and worked at the Daily Trojan before you joined the team last year. Rules of engagement in journalism would not allow one to be paid by the source. With those ethics breached, from a journalist's standpoint this would appear to be a way to control the news. Do you agree or disagree?
Malcolmson: "Coach [Pete] Carroll originally started the site about a year ago, but I started working in April and, along with quarterbacks assistant Yogi Roth [who has a background in media], we've sort of taken this site and run with it.
"We're run completely out of the football office, so there's not an hour-by-hour relationship with the Sports Info office. They have their site that's for press releases and a really cool revamped video section for all sports, while USC Rips It.com is solely a football site. I work with the [sports information directors] a lot, but we definitely have our own circuses to deal with.
"In response to your question about a player getting in trouble, I'd say that every situation is different. There will be situations that I wouldn't be able to write about and certain situations that I'd be able to write about with a better perspective than other sources.
"It goes the same for the newspaper writers and fan websites out there. Sometimes they can write certain things, while sometimes they can't, for whatever reason. We're hoping the access I have, combined with the unique perspective I have, will produce the most entertaining and informative content about USC football.
"Yes, I was a journalism major and a reporter for the Daily Trojan before making the team [my journalism work is actually why I made the team, if you remember correctly]. USC Rips It.com is different than P.R. or simply controlling the news. It's a revolutionary way of disseminating information — the mixture of my access and perspective [as a former player and journalist] provides the most appealing and revealing look at the Trojans."