Tom Brady's alleged retirement is the risk of quoting the reporting of others as true
First things first, it's not that TOM BRADY isn't going to retire soon. It's pretty obvious that he will. But he has not yet, as of the time I write this (Jan. 31, 2022) said that he is.
And that's a problem.
This past weekend ESPN's "Insiders" Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington reported the greatest NFL quarterback in history was officially hanging up his cleats citing "sources".
Ok, let's parse the semantics here for a minute. The way this is worded, it says he is retiring from football. Not announcing his retirement, rather he is retiring.
Reading briefly between the lines--I interpret this statement as he will be retiring but isn't ready to announce it yet. And suddenly, we're here...
A variety of outlets reported the same thing, some citing Schefter and Darlington, some just citing "reports". All assumed it was a done deal. It was official. It was happening.
My point here is that this is a BIG problem. In the race to be "First" we (journalists--yes, I am one in real life) seem to take social media posts as gospel.
A good reporter has lots of sources and clearly ESPN felt that with both Darlington and Schefter reporting the same thing that the story is legitimate. And they've not backpedaled on the report despite ESPN's Tampa reporter contradicting them.
We live now in an era where almost nothing done by people in the public eye goes unnoticed. What they do almost always appears in some form of social media whether it good, bad or indifferent. And there are people who literally scour the internet looking for such things.
I'm not going to question Schefter and Darlington's sources because I'm pretty confident they are plugged in to someone close to Brady. And he may very well announce the day after the Super Bowl that he's hanging up his cleats. I would not rule that out.
My issue is with the entire media stratosphere glomming onto the ESPN report and saying it's a done deal. It may be at some point and time, but this clearly isn't that time.
The question is why report it if you don't know that it is true? Why are you going to an all out, full-court press run on something a competing reporter is reporting?
While I just spent a couple hundred words saying that what the ESPN guys said will probably be right, it doesn't mean that the other 75,922 other media outlets in the U.S need to report it as being true because ESPN said so.
And yet that's exactly what happened.
That my friends is the problem.
When you start reporting information from people who don't work for your organization, you run the serious risk of looking stupid. Particularly if those people are wrong. And while Jeff Darlington seems to be a very thorough and thoughtful reporter with great sources, Schefter's reporting, particularly in the past few years has been at time highly questionable.
Again, I'm not so hung up on the premise that ESPN is right or wrong here. That's not the point.
The point is why are major networks not owned by Disney (NBC, CBS, FOX, etc.) reporting stuff pushed out by ESPN? Why are local affiliates and newspapers reporting stuff spit out by ESPN?
It's the weakness in modern reporting that drives me insane, yet it continues to happen. If you can't verify yourself something that someone else is reporting on social media, why would you report it anyway? For small outlets, I get it, you don't have the resources. For local affiliates or newspapers not in the town impacted, sometimes you can't report or have the sources to confirm the information yourself, I get it.
This is pointed more towards the national folks who do have the resources. Because their reporting gets filtered down the food chain, a premature or mildly incorrect story just gets blown further out of proportion the wider it goes.
There's a much bigger issue at play here when it comes to news organizations trying to compete in a social media world with less and less resources by the day, but that's a separate conversation.
In the meantime, I just hope this at least makes the journalists I know a little more skeptical or hesitant to jump all over something coming from an outlet they have no direct connection to. While the report may be spot on, it may not. And the people in your town aren't going to look at the original source for the work, they are going to look at you if it turns out to be wrong.
That's when you got some 'splainin...to do. And that ain't gonna be fun.