Look, glass houses glass houses glass houses.
All of us in this crazy slightly frozen Internet sports landscape are skating around rather quickly, praying we never fall through. We’ve all sacrificed due diligence for speed at some point, even though we all basically recognize that being sort of marginally accurate is a lot more important than being quick.
But yeah, we’ve all messed up. Take me, for example. I got a press release a few weeks back about some stuff Redskins PR guy Tony Wyllie said at a University of Maryland journalism summit. I ran with the quotes, even after I realized they were taken from a live blog, and not from slow-mo audio. Then I asked for (and received) the audio, and found some small (but significant) word differences.
The lesson? Get the audio first, if it’s at all possible. Listen with your own ears before passing on quotes.
And so we get to Peter King, passing along a quote from Dan Snyder on Monday that he saw via a tweet over the weekend. When I saw this, I immediately e-mailed Sirius and asked for the audio, so I could do an item of my own. Within a few minutes, Sirius told me that there was no such interview. Had Peter King, or anyone else who picked up this story, sent that e-mail, they’ve had avoided passing on fake news.
And really, when you think about it, this was a goofy nugget to begin with. After making such a show of stepping back from football operations, why would Snyder now go on the radio and talk about potential trades? He hasn’t done anything remotely like that in years. After being so close-mouthed about every personnel issue for months and months, why would any Redskins executive suddenly be so open? If Dan Snyder were actually on the radio, why would not a single D.C. media member have caught wind of or mentioned it? And why would the only quote from this interview have emerged, without quotation marks, on the Twitter feed of a Pittsburgh media member?
Well, Peter King and Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio discussed the incident on Pro Football Talk Live this week, and they placed the blame squarely on the Pittsburgh Web writer’s tweet.
(UPDATE: In case anyone forgot, the writer in question was Jim Wexell.)
Florio: “Explain to us what exactly happened to cause you and me to conclude that Dan Snyder gave an interview this weekend on Sirius radio talking about the possibility of a trade with the Steelers in Round One of the draft?”
King: “Well, I mean, as I put Monday Morning Quarterback together, I think it was at some point on Saturday – it might have been [Sunday] because I did it on both days this weekend – I read this note on Twitter that was kind of heavily trafficked and a lot of people had picked it up. And [it] basically said that Dan Snyder said that the Redskins and Steelers had some talk about Washington trading down to Pittsburgh’s pick at 31 if the player that Pittsburgh still wanted was gonna be there at pick 16. And everybody assumed it was gonna be Mike Pouncey.
“And so I’m not saying it was wildfire over the weekend, but it was a very well-traveled note, and because it was done by, you know, by what I consider – and I’ve read some of their blogs before….And look, I mean, we all wonder sometimes where some rumors come from, but this seemed to be about as straightforward as it is, Snyder said this on the radio, on Sirius radio.
“And so this morning Tony Wyllie of the Redskins, the PR guy called me and said Dan didn’t do this interview, and he called me back a little later and said Bruce Allen said that they didn’t even talk on draft day. And in the meantime, the Sirius public relations guy said that to the best of our knowledge Dan Snyder’s not been on our air in this past week. So you know, it sounds like somehow this thing grew some legs, and I’m still trying to find out – and I’ve got a call into the Steelers.”
Florio: [After talking about Mike Wise’s Twitter hoax.] “This is a guy who’s been on the Pittsburgh media scene for 20 years, he covers the Steelers. If he puts it out there, it’s reasonable for Peter to assume and everyone else to assume that it’s legitimate. And he’s gotta explain himself. He can’t just say my apologies, he’s got to explain himself.”
King: “And again, if Ed Bouchette in Pittsburgh writes a story that basically says that Dan Snyder was on Sirius radio saying they were in talks with the Steelers to trade this pick, well, there’s a certain cache that Ed Bouchette has or that a veteran Steelers media guy [like Wexell] has or any veteran guy has. And that’s one of the reasons. And it isn’t like [Wexell] was reporting that it happened, he was reporting that it was done on an interview on Sirius radio.
“It’s one of those things that unfortunately makes you kind of doubt even more of what you read on the Internet, I think. You know, that you have to check two plus two equals four these days...The one other thing is it’s a long way to move for a guard, you know, moving from 31 to 16 would have been a very long way to move, and I doubt that they would have been able to get it done, but hey, who knows.”
Florio: “And it makes me very interested in what the Redskins would have done at no. 31, would they have gone with a quarterback at that point, and if so why didn’t they just take the quarterback they liked at 16? Were they worried about the criticism of reaching or whatever the case may be?...You’ve just got to wonder if they were thinking about going down to no. 31, what were they thinking about doing once they got there?”
Ok, these guys have accomplished way more than I ever will in this field, but with all due respect, the question is not whether the Steelers would have been able to get that deal done, or who the Skins would have taken at 31. The question is why major and influential Web sites both ran with a story based on a single tweet without any other evidence that this interview had taken place, or without any attempts to verify whether it happened?
Just say, “Our bad, next time we’ll try harder to check this out before hitting publish.” That’s my advice, anyhow.