The Free Press’ Very Big Anthony Fenech Problem

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By Jeff Moss
DetroitSportsRag@GMail.com
December 8, 2014

If you are interested in underage drinking; injuries resulting from rollover accidents while intoxicated; backstabbing; unkept promises; creepy and disturbing social media interaction between co-workers; potential discrimination; and a depressed high school journalism teacher ….. well ….. you’ll love tonight’s episode of Beverly Hills, 90210.

Actually, Fox isn’t bringing that teenage melodrama back to the small screen for a third time; that paragraph is just a teaser for today’s look at the Detroit Free Press sports section potentially hitting rock bottom under the rudderless direction of sports editor Gene Myers.

If you thought the Freep was at its nadir from a credibility standpoint after Mitch Albom’s fictional Jason Richardson/Mateen Cleaves tale, which ended with Albom’s non-apology and the paper’s publishers basically playing the role of Ohio State President Gordon Gee to Albom’s Jim Tressel …..

“I am just hoping that Mitch doesn’t fire me.”

Well, think again.

If you were under the misguided notion that things couldn’t get ANY worse than Myers allowing former columnist Michael Rosenberg to declare his own fatwah against Rich Rodriguez while trumping up bogus NCAA violations, you were dead wrong.

Replacing Rosenberg with a watered-down in-house version of the Catskills comedy columnist in Jeff Seidel instead of going on a national search? Not even close.

Continuing the employment of a disingenuous troll in Drew Sharp and not even offering an apology when that lazy columnist wrote a factually incorrect article about an historical moment in Detroit sports history? Mere child’s play.

Nope. All of those above transgressions just seem to have been a build up to the paper’s latest controversy — replacing longtime Detroit Tigers beat writer John Lowe with someone who doesn’t seem to have the resume, mental capacity or the writing chops to handle such a high-profile gig.

When the paper announced that Lowe would be replaced with the 27-year-old Anthony Fenech, it wasn’t a huge surprise. The Freep set a precedent when it promoted Seidel from within even though the talentless yuckster had no business writing sports columns for a major daily newspaper.

But with the advent of the Internet, subscription rates at an all-time low and their business model in shambles, the Free Press decided to promote Fenech on the cheap, hoping no one noticed that they were handing this gig to a “kid” who is ill-prepared for such a high-profile responsibility.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the higher-ups at the Freep delegated the vetting process of Fenech to A.B. Culverhouse because not since that powerhouse attorney signed off on John McCain nominating Sarah Palin for the Vice-Presidency have so many red flags gone unnoticed.

The DetroitSportsRag.com has spent the last few weeks doing the research the Free Press should have done before they idiotically promoted this “kid”. From filing Freedom of Information Act requests to interviewing witnesses and culling information from various sources, we have done our due diligence and this is what we have learned …..

June 6, 2008 — The Drunk Driving Accident

On June 6, 2008, Fenech was involved in a two-car injury accident on I-75 near Southfield Road in Lincoln Park.

I am not sure what is more embarrassing, that Fenech was driving a Chrysler PT Cruiser or that he was operating that vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content of somewhere between .18 and .21 when he crashed that Shriner’s clown car into another vehicle.

The incident report isn’t completely clear but it seems like the PT Cruiser rolled over before coming to a stop on the Southfield Road exit ramp. We attempted to contact Mr. Fenech to get his version of events but he has refused to respond to multiple inquiries.

[I am dubious about someone even being able to  flip over a PT Cruiser. Have you ever SEEN one of those things? They have a lower center of gravity than Barry Sanders. I am not sure Bob Probert in his imbibing prime could’ve pulled off such a maneuver.]

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Anyway, here is the full report I obtained under the FOIA:

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And this wasn’t even Fenech’s first alcohol-related incident while underage. On September 24, 2005, he was cited for a minor in possession. I filed a FOIA request to obtain the details on that arrest but I have not been able to get my hands on the paperwork because Fenech was a juvenile at the time — a month away from his eighteenth birthday.

[I am still working on receiving all of the information pertaining to the 2005 arrest, but we were not going to hold up this entire story just for that.]

[Update: Below is the record of the Minor in Possession conviction. We are still working on obtaining the underlying documents from that arrest. I have been told by the DSR Legal Team that his sentence to perform two “work days” is more punitive than normal community service. Why the harsher penalty?  Still trying to find out.]

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According to several local attorneys I interviewed, Fenech was very fortunate that he wasn’t PT Drunk Cruising in Birmingham or Bloomfield because he almost assuredly would have done jail time based on his BAC, previous citation and underage status.

Fenech also was lucky that this offense occurred before Michigan adopted its “Super Drunk Driving” laws.

According to my sources, it was not the last time that excessive drinking Downriver left Fenech bloodied. The following story makes it harder to just chalk all of this up to youthful indiscretion.

Sometime AFTER the operating while under the influence conviction, Fenech was hanging out at place in Wyandotte called Brooklyn’s Bar and Grill. My eyewitnesses state that Fenech was clearly intoxicated and was hitting on a female patron incessantly.

The only problem with Fenech’s advances was that this woman had either a boyfriend or a husband who was also at Brooklyn’s that night. My sources tell me that Fenech was asked REPEATEDLY to cease and desist from flirting with this guy’s companion.

When he refused to do so, either the woman’s significant other or a friend of his knocked Fenech out with a punch to the face. Two other men dragged Fenech’s nearly lifeless body out of the bar and he was never seen there again.

There was never a police report filed as the gentleman who threw the punch was a regular at Brooklyn’s. And I will let your imagination run wild with the plethora of reasons why Fenech likely didn’t want to involve the cops even though he had been physically assaulted.

This wouldn’t be the last time that Anthony Fenech would make an ass out of himself by making unwanted advances towards the opposite sex, however …….

The Creepy Co-Worker Facebook Messages — 2010

Back in the fall of 2010, Fenech was working at CM Life, the student-run newspaper at Central Michigan University. Based on the various sources I contacted, Fenech had a crush on a co-worker who we will call “Lisa.”

Lisa’s roommate apparently had a blog where she would post some of the stranger things that occurred in a house of six girls. Well, those oddities included some extremely creepy Facebook instant messages that Fenech sent to Lisa.

Here are the texts for your perusal …..

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I wanted to hook up with you

when can we make this happen

what if i love you

i tried putting you in a relationship with me

your boyfriend is ugly

i know you feel cool that i creep on you

let me remind you that i was writing for the paper you interned for last year when i was 12

because i am a beast

Who knew that Anthony Fenech was going into “Beast Mode” before Marshawn Lynch? Of course, when the Seahawks running back accomplishes that transformation it means running over defensive players and not sexually harassing co-workers at a school newspaper.

The guy KNEW this girl had a boyfriend and, from what I can gather from my sources, he should have known that these advances were unwanted.

And if those missives were not gross enough, here were some “anonymous” comments left under the blog post which one can only assume are from Fenech himself. Well, at least the nasty ones.

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Repeatedly telling a girl you work with that her boyfriend is ugly? And comparing him to the disfigured son of Cher? What the hell?

You might not think this is a huge deal, but I will tell you who DOES think this stuff is grounds for termination. The Denver Post and Awful Announcing. 

Just last week, Adrian Dater was canned after covering the Avalanche for three decades, in part because because he was using Twitter to hit on a Red Wings fan.

And just days after that occurred, hockey writer Steve Lepore was axed by Awful Announcing for his own gross text messages to female followers.

You could very easily make the case that Fenech’s past creepitude was even worse because he knew his target was not interested and was in a relationship.  He also flat-out asked for SEX, not merely some pictures like Lepore and Dater requested.

Or to quote an anonymous member of the DSR Legal Team:

If it’s clear to a co-worker that they have no interest in a physical relationship with you, any unwelcome sexual attention that is severe or pervasive could be the basis for a harassment claim. I would say that clearly applies here. He clearly sexually harassed her as defined by the law.

It is also important to note that an employer is legally responsible for the sexual harassment of their employees, and will be determined to be operating a “hostile work environment”. So, the Free Press is exposing themselves to liability by employing someone who has already turned one publication into, by definition, a hostile work environment.

The Free Press now knows that an employee has sexually harassed a co-worker in the past. And that he has no respect for existing relationships between people. If he does it again, what will their excuse be?

“I want to hook up with you.”

“I am a beast.”

John Lowe’s hat is so offended by this inappropriateness it just got up and left.

Somehow, Gannett thinks it is a good idea to let the gentleman rent a car under their umbrella while probably working 60 to 70 away games a season. His beat also lends itself to having tons of time to kill in his hotel room with a laptop.

Ya gotta believe me.

Or as one of my sources up in CMU said, ” [It’s p]retty well-known around here that he is a creepy weirdo douchebag.”

Oh.

The Facebook messages did stop because Lisa blocked Fenech on that social media platform.

But I still can’t get over Fenech calling himself a “beast.” Because he was supposedly interning for some hickville newspaper when he was 12.

I am sure Anthony Joseph Fenech is quite frequently mistaken for John Mugabi.

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The High School Journalism Teacher’s Opinion 

So maybe you are a very forgiving person. Or you really don’t care about underage drinking arrests, getting behind a wheel ossified drunk or sending creepy, unwanted sexts to a co-worker.

What kind of writer is Anthony Fenech?

Well, here is a link to an article that Fenech wrote for the Freep on September 30, 2014.

The entire feature on the family that sponsored Victor Martinez is so confusing that I would advise having some Tylenol nearby when you read it. At least I think it is about his sponsor family. The damn thing is so freaking muddled that I gave up on trying to decipher it.

Here are a few lines from the piece, quoted verbatim. Please tell me what you think of his writing style.

He is the heartbeat of a team hungry for the final course of a four-year meal of maddening missteps and he doesn’t think about it every day because he has a lot of stuff going on, but he thinks about it, and he wants to win a World Series.

But he wasn’t going to do anything at home, his mom said, so keep trying and see what happens and how was he going to tell her, a nurse who double-shifted for years to put maybe $100 a week into a family of four kids, that he was going to quit because the Indians were moving him to a new position?

And that was how he learned English that summer, from Patti Bixler in Warren, Ohio, while he learned the American way and catching and when he wasn’t busy learning, he was busy worrying about C.C. Sabathia’s fastball and he might not have known much English, but he knew enough about Sabathia’s fastball that when he would see him throwing in the bullpen, “I just ran away from him,” he said.

This article was so shockingly bad that we at the DSR decided to send it to a high school journalism teacher. We didn’t tell this advisor that the V-Mart piece was published in the Freep or that it was written by a “professional journalist.”

The teacher was under the impression that this was the work of a high school student. We requested that he edit and grade the feature. I am going to include all of his excellent notes just for shit and giggles.

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Just in case you skimmed ALL of those notes, let me give you a Cliff’s Notes summary:

The reader may put this article down because of this lead.

Run on sentence. Consider making it two, possibly three, sentences.

Again, an overloaded sentence.

Why is his name Martinez but mom and brother are Bixler?

Run on/overloaded sentence. This can be three sentences. Should be three.

Why the colon all the sudden?

Here is the high school journalism teacher’s final verdict on Fenech’s writing ability based on this published piece ….

I would say this writer is a good high school level journalist. Too many surface and construction errors.

A good high school-level journalist. Now, look … I didn’t like John Lowe’s antiquated views on Major League Baseball or his passive-aggressive attitude towards sabermetrics and I wasn’t shy about pontificating on it.

But you can’t argue that he was an EXCELLENT WRITER. It would seem he has been replaced by someone easily mistaken for an eleventh grader.

The journalism teacher went on to say that he would give his high school students an 11/15, or 73%, based on his grading rubric for a feature story like the one presented.

“C-” HIGH SCHOOL work splashed across the pages of the Detroit Free Press. 

When we dropped the bomb on the teacher that this wasn’t the work of a pubescent teen but rather that of the current Detroit Tigers beat writer for the Freep, here was the Maury Povich payoff:

DSRThis piece was published exactly as you read it in the Detroit Free Press a few months back. Do you have any reaction to that?

TeacherOh, man. Yes. Was it online or in the newspaper? [Update: It appeared online and in print.]

DSR: I believe both. Definitely online, though.

Suddenly Depressed Teacher: That is too bad. It is the state of the world today, though, and even in the field of journalism, that we don’t have time to pay attention to detail. I know it is a little more informal when it is online, but still, this needs to be a whole lot more cleanly written. I wouldn’t print it as is in my high school newspaperThe editor is to blame for letting this get through as is. Though these days, many people have straight access to posting on the web.

I. Wouldn’t. Print. It. As. Is. In. My. High. School. Newspaper.

Hate to go Bart Simpson on ya here, but ……….

I. Wouldn’t. Print. It. As. Is. In. My. High. School. Newspaper.
I. Wouldn’t. Print. It. As. Is. In. My. High. School. Newspaper.
I. Wouldn’t. Print. It. As. Is. In. My. High. School. Newspaper.
I. Wouldn’t. Print. It. As. Is. In. My. High. School. Newspaper.
I. Wouldn’t. Print. It. As. Is. In. My. High. School. Newspaper.
I. Wouldn’t. Print. It. As. Is. In. My. High. School. Newspaper.

So to summarize this for the jury, this new hire has two alcohol-related convictions, has seriously creeped out a co-worker to the point of harassment that led to social media blocking AND he writes like Rob Parker. And that ain’t a compliment.

Which begs the question …. HOW DID HE GET THIS JOB???!!!!???!?!?!

Does the Freep have so little regard for its remaining readers that they would promote someone so in-over-his-head, morally compromised and unprepared for the extremely important job of covering the city’s beloved baseball team?

I mean, this is a paper that used to hire HARVARD GRADUATES to act as Lowe’s lackey; now, the #1 Tigers beat writer posts this online as a biography:

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I have been informed that when Freep sports writer George Sipple left his Michigan State beat writer position and became Lowe’s backup that Sipple was promised by management that he would replace Lowe when he retired.

Sources also have told me that the final call on who would replace Lowe didn’t come from Myers but from someone else. I was told this same story when Seidel replaced Rosenberg.

It would seem that Myers is the sports editor of the Freep in the same way that Tom Clements is the offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers. What does that job title really mean if Mike McCarthy calls all the plays?

As I wrote in my last article about this situation, my sources have informed me that the reason why Sipple didn’t receive the promotion he was allegedly promised is because of an issue with his weight.

It is bizarre that Gannett would be so terrified of the possibility of a strenuous work schedule killing Sipple in some Marriott in Kansas City, but they have no issues with Fenech’s checkered past and how that could bite them in their ass. They can’t even claim ignorance at this point.

And even if they didn’t want to hand the gig over to Sipple, they wouldn’t even have had to leave the building to hire a competent replacement for Lowe.

Tony Paul of the Detroit News is more than ready to take over as a beat writer for this team and it is appalling that Fenech got this opportunity over the  national baseball writer for the “competition.”

And before I finish this article, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: NOTHING I have reported in this story or in my previous Fenech piece came from either George Sipple or Tony Paul.

The natural inclination by many will be to believe that Sipple now has an axe to grind and is feeding me this stuff because he is pissed that he got passed over. That’s patently false. I have tried on two occasions to get Sipple’s take on what went down and he didn’t even bother to respond either time.

And while I am on friendly terms with Paul, I am pretty sure all of this crap makes him feel very uncomfortable because he is friends with Fenech. In fact,  when I asked Paul to join me on a DSR Podcast over the summer to discuss the Tigers, he told me that I should ask Fenech as well.

The truth is, when I first started mocking Fenech on Twitter about his inane posts, the floodgates opened up and people started coming out of the woodwork with stories about the guy — from Mt. Pleasant to the Metro Detroit area. He has made PLENTY of enemies over the years.

Or as DSR contributing editor Justin Spiro so succinctly put it on Twitter over the weekend …..

I have had sources coming to ME to provide information about this guy; with the gentle assistance of a Brother Shamus pointing me in the right direction along with some FOIA requests, I have presented an airtight case against this maniac.

Fenech — who is currently in Southern California covering the baseball Winter Meetings for the Freep — has childishly continued his asinine countdown to Tigers’ Opening Day on his Twitter account.

After this mountain of evidence against him is made public, will Fenech even be at Comerica Park to cover it?

Stay classy, [Fenech in] San Diego.