To borrow from Brian Cook, “apologies to the locals: this is pure meta”. Disclaimer up front: I am not trying to be self-congratulatory or shower ourselves with praise. I want to put things out there so that we can all be on the same page.
Earlier today, we broke the news that Tom Izzo told his team he is going to take the Cavaliers’ coaching job. We have since been bandied about as ‘some blog’, had our credibility denounced, and been generally cast aside. There are numerous people who claim contrary to our reports. We stand by what we have reported. This post isn’t about the rumors in specific, but a look at what transpired today, and how it all fits into journalism, bloggery, and where we fit into all of this.
All of this began over the weekend, when we got a report that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is pushing very hard to get Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. I published this information Sunday afternoon along with other rumors that had been covered elsewhere. At this point, Izzo had been rumored but we had the first report that things really were picking up. Soon afterwards, Brian Windhorst and Adrian Wojnarowski put out tweets that solidified our story that talks were picking up.
At 2:00 this afternoon, we came across the info that Tom Izzo had told his team that he would be taking the Cavs job. From there, Brendan worked to check with sources that he had – sources 1 and 2 that would be able to confirm. Around the same time, we got a report from a separate source (source 3) that said the same. This Source 3 later told us that Coach Izzo was waiting until his kids were done with school on Friday before making the announcement.
These emails came in between 2:00 and 2:08 PM. We confirmed with Sources 1 and 2 by 2:31 PM. We debated during the time between the inital report and our confirmation what we would as a site need to run the story. Once we had three sources, we ran the story at 2:46 PM. Fear The Sword tweeted about the rumors just after DP tweeted about our upcoming story. While we have not talked to John, we assume that our sources are the same based off of his post about the rumors at FTS that went up just after ours.
While reported from “anonymous sources”, we are well-aware of our sources and their relationships to the parties involved. We are reporting them anonymously for the same reasons that others in all areas of media report sources anonymously – because we don’t want to hurt our current relationship with them (or give up any sort of edge we may have in breaking news – we are, after all, a growing site that reports news, publishes opinion and analysis, and is not above attempting humor on occasion). There are hundreds of reports on ESPN, CNN, in the New York Times and Washington Post that are published every week from “anonymous” sources. That’s part of the issue, but certainly isn’t the crux of the issue here.
Once published, there was a nearly instantaneous proliferation of our story throughout the greater Twittersphere – from there, it made its way to message boards, other blogs, and anywhere else that electrons could take information. With the spread of the info came the speculation and the denigration. People called their sources at MSU, who denied the reports. Amidst the conflicting reports arose the standard “just a blog” argument that tends to pop up any time a blog or “new media” member breaks a story.
When it comes to looking at “blogs”, there is a certain stigma that many people have. When saying this, I don’t mean only the established main-stream media. Looking at the general population, many people still lump all blogs together and have a mindset about “blogs” one way or another. To many people there is no spectrum of blogs, no difference between KSK or EDSBS or SportsByBrooks or Deadspin or TBL or The800Level. They may be able to hear “Yardbarker.com” and know that it’s a sports blog, but the average person likely can’t differentiate between Yardbarker and SBNation or other fan-specific sites.
The lack of differentiation is a large contributor to the widespread denouncement of our report. It is a large part of the argument that happened between Spencer Hall/Brian Cook and Jason McIntyre/Alana G/Josh Zerkle this past weekend at Blogs With Balls 3.0 – a philisophical difference between bloggers at different sites. When people think “blogs” and think of the kind of sites that run rumors about Delonte West and Gloria James (for what it’s worth, we got the email that was published on a garbage website 4 days before it published there. I think that it was crap then and it still is crap now*), it is a slight to what we try to do here. It is exactly the same as thinking “newspapers” and lumping The New York Times in with The National Enquirer (I’m not saying that we are the Times or the Enquirer in this case – just pointing out that lumping “blogs” together is an obtuse thing to do).
I can speak only for myself, but I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of Cook and Hall. We shouldn’t look at the medium of the content that we’re taking in, but rather at the quality of it (H/T: Ammo). We have guidelines and standards here at our site for a reason, and the fact that we do resonates with our readers (and we hope the greater blogosphere as a whole). By not dealing with salacious rumors or over-the-top stories, we hope to keep things reasonable, sane, and reliable.
Have we been wrong before? Certainly. Have we broken news before? Yes. We had the info about Brady Quinn’s house being on the market before anyone else. Scott had info about the Browns’ interest in Tom Heckert before anyone else. We had the story about LeBron’s second MVP award and where/when he would accept it before anyone. This Izzo story is arguably the biggest that we’ve had, for a number of reasons.
As a site we are growing in scope. This past spring we started getting access on occasion to events in Cleveland. We are doing our best to cultivate relationships with people in the business that we love to cover – the sports business. We are doing our best to make the most out of these relationships. We don’t publish news recklessly – that’s not something that we have done, nor is it something that we plan to do in the future. We want to bring you news and analysis that is relevant. If that means that we publish a news story first, that’s great. If that means that I photoshop a fish head onto Sebastian Telfair’s body, it happens.
A lot of great people came to our defense today. The readership community has been wholeheartedly behind us. For some it was instinctive, stick-up-for-blogs talk that came from the greater blogosphere. A great deal of the support came via wholly supportive tweets from highly-regarded bloggers and established media members for whom we have a great deal of respect. The fact that they’ll stand by us means a great deal to us. There are those who have said their mind about what we do, who think we’re nobody, and hey – that’s just dandy. You’ll see us publish an apology if we are wrong. I hope that we see the same from these established “journalists”, but I think we all know that’s not going to happen.
This whole situation reminded me of a great, great piece from Glenn Greenwald at Salon that I came across on Tumblr the other day. Edit: Greenwald included this quote from David Halberstam, on the state of American press (thanks, Alecks):
“There are a few things I would like to pass on to you as I come near to the end of my career. One: It’s not about fame. By and large, the more famous you are, the less of a journalist you are… Somewhere in there, gradually, but systematically, there has been an abdication of responsibility within the profession, most particularly in the networks… So, if we look at the media today, we ought to be aware not just of what we are getting, but what we are not getting; the difference between what is authentic and what is inauthentic in contemporary American life and in the world, with a warning that in this celebrity culture, the forces of the inauthentic are becoming more powerful all the time.”
We work hard to stay authentic to we we are as a site, most importantly because the community that we have established here is so authentically Cleveland. To all of you who have supported us in all of this, I want to say thank you on behalf of all of us. In a few days, we’ll know for sure whether or not our report was correct. Until then, we’re extremely grateful for the support you all have given us.
* I refer to the Delonte/Gloria James rumor as “crap” referring not to the sourcing of the story, but the contents. It’s not the kind of rumor that we’re prone to cover here. This is my opinion on the topic.