Media Defends Departing Rutgers PR Chief

jason baum

Pic via Jason Baum

In case you missed it, the world of college sports PR suffered a minor shakeup this weekend with the “resignation” of Jason Baum, the chief communications officer described by NJ.com as “an integral piece of the Rutgers football fabric for nearly a decade.”

Baum’s resignation did not come as a surprise, but the response from local sports media feels universal: he was a scapegoat. From the school’s former deputy athletic director:

“He has a great relationship with the media and I know they respect the job he does. Rutgers is going to miss him.”

Subsequent reports have borne out this fact.

A quote from Lenn Robbins, former New York Post reporter who now covers the Brooklyn Nets:

“[Baum] is the epitome of a hard-working, professional new-age sports information director who believes in working with the media, not against the media, to make for the best coverage that a university can have.

[Rutgers kids] carry themselves with the kind of respect and dignity that you hope your own kids carry themselves with. That doesn’t happen by accident.”

High praise indeed. Last week, two op-eds in New Jersey publications elaborated on Robbins’ point. First, from Steve Politi of NJ.com:

“[Athletic Director Julie] Hermann, according to multiple sources at Rutgers who didn’t want to be named for fear of their own jobs, made Baum the fall guy for her own collection of media gaffes.”

SBNation collected a few of those gaffes in a helpful September post, and our favorite is Hermann’s perversion of the phrase “media relations”:

“That would be great [if the New Jersey Star-Ledger dies]. I’m going to do all I can to not give them a headline to keep them alive.”

And where did she say that? In front of a class full of Rutgers journalism students, of course. In his op-ed, Politi goes on to praise Baum’s skill in training players to deal with the media, predicting that the “cordial” relationship between the school and the media could turn “controversial” in his absence.

Tara Sullivan of NorthJersey.com goes even further with her headline, proclaiming that Baum “didn’t deserve to be forced out”:

“…the fact that [Hermann] chose to push Baum out speaks to her lack of understanding about the work he did, and how well he did it.

Rutgers may have won its bowl game, but count this one as a loss for the program.”

These two columns aside, much of the praise Baum has received is not available for public consumption. Here he is thanking his fans on Twitter yesterday:

We’ve never seen such an outpouring of sympathy from media contacts. That, more than anything else, is the sign of a truly inspired PR professional, and we have little doubt that Baum will land firmly on his feet.