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(Associated Press)

Hobbs Column: According to my guy in Baton Rouge ...

Last Modified: Tuesday, March 05, 2013 5:33 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

By now surely you have heard that LSU’s Les Miles did NOT resign Monday at a press conference, most likely because the school NEVER actually scheduled or held a press conference in the first place.

The lack of a press conference apparently was LSU’s direct and calculated response to the FACT that Miles was NOT, in FACT, ever — as in NEVER —implicated in anything spicy and certainly NOTHING involving untoward behavior with ANY LSU coed.

But, gosh, it made for an interesting Saturday night in cyberspace anyway.

It’s what passes for news in these brave exciting days we now live in.

I was out eating Saturday when the first phone call came.

“I just got a call from Baton Rouge, pretty reliable guy, and ...”

Uh-huh. Gonna happen Monday, huh? OK.

A few minutes later, another phone call.

“I don’t know ... I’m think there must be something there ...”

Uh-huh. Monday huh? Your guy is sure? OK.

And still another.

“But it’s all over the Internet... ”

Any motorcycles involved in this one?

In truth, I was not inclined to rush to Baton Rouge.

And it’s not that I’m smarter than all the helpful callers or that Miles appears to be an honorable family man, although he does.

I am a paid, professional journalist, and I have a rule of never saying or assuming that ANYBODY would NEVER do ANYTHING.

But there are certain tricks of the trade you pick up on.

The giveaway on this one was that all these “sources” were clear on one point — the press conference for Miles to step down would come on Monday.

That’s why I went ahead and finished my seafood cannelloni.

If LSU officials were faced with the scandal of the year — which they WEREN’T— but believe me, if they were, they would not be lounging around all weekend, letting the story grow taller and lewder, to wait for a convenient Monday to schedule a press conference.

If LSU had already decided they needed a press conference on such a sordid matter, it would have been going on before Twitter knew about it.

LSU officials did what everybody else should have done, which was to ignore it and go to bed.

And maybe the most amazing thing about this particular Internet flare-up was that it was pretty well ratted out, dead and buried alive by midnight Saturday.

Normally, while the truth can be an elusive creature, a rumor this juicy normally must die a thousand deaths before it’s finally put to rest.

Oh, but how many times Saturday did we hear, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire ...”

Saturday, mostly there was just Twitter, a scourge on our planet.

Apparently it all started, off hand enough, when a student journalist from Western Kentucky University broke the startling Miles “scandal” on his Twitter account.

He has already had his 15 minutes of fame, so there’s no use repeating his name. He wasn’t the original source, but the fact that he was identified as at least a budding journalist is what made it go viral and spark a rash of exploding cell phones all over America.

His source was an Alabama Crimson Tide message board, which I’m sure is usually quite a reliable source for breaking LSU news. But evidently the normally diligent Bamaonline fact checkers let everybody down just this once.

Truth-finding is normally more complicated than that, and perhaps this is why the media should not be mingling with the general public, even on Facebook and Twitter.

Paid professional journalists mangle the truth just fine without any outside agitating from amateurs. to muddy the waters.

This Johnny Appleseed of the Miles rumor insists he meant no harm and was just getting in touch with the “student” side of his student-journalist to tweet mindless blather for friends.

His defense, apparently, was that he never claimed it was true and he was modest enough to admit that “I don’t deserve any credit for this if it ends up being true.”

He did pick up 30,000 followers, which, best I can tell, is what the new journalism is all about these days.

But, OK, no harm done.

Had LSU not let the facts get in the way of a good firing/resignation, it would indeed have been twisted irony if they’d just gone ahead and fired him on the word of a WKU student journalist helpfully relaying wishful thinking from an Alabama message board.

After all, it would only seem fair. Miles recently got a pay raise and an extension to his contract, a process that was probably going to happen anyway, but one which was certainly sped up by equally bogus Internet “rumors” that Arkansas was interesting in throwing serious money at him.

But, just to clarify — there was NO press conference Monday.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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