NBC News — along with TMZ — has attracted attention today for the wrong reasons. Prior to the press conference of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on the sanctions to be taken against Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, NBC News saw fit to get ahead of the news.
As pointed out by Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon, NBC News reported at 2:00 p.m. that Sterling would be suspended indefinitely and fined $5 million.
The real fine was $2.5 million and the NBA banned Sterling for life.
NBC News did the right thing in coming clean:
“Prior to the press conference, we had information from our high-level NBA sourcing that proved to be inaccurate. We immediately corrected the error on all platforms of NBC News, including the special report that ran on our air.”
No word in that disclosure, however, addressing why NBC News couldn’t have waited several minutes for yet another “high-level NBA sourcing” to confirm its hunches. That “high-level NBA sourcing” would have been NBA Commissioner Adam Silver himself, in his press conference, officially, with no anonymous sourcing attached.
The point being: Even if NBC News had gotten the particulars correct, what glory would it have collected through beating the official word by a matter of minutes? Who would have remembered that feat of reporting?
Turns out there may have been strong reasons to distrust “high-level NBA sourcing.” The Associated Press (AP) is always competing to break stories big and small. This was no exception. Managing editor for sports Lou Ferrara tells the Erik Wemple Blog that the wire service’s sports reporters were working away on the likely sanctions. “We always want to be first. We’re pursuing that every day on every story,” says Ferrara. In this case, however, the AP discovered through its reporting that Silver was apparently limiting the circle of officials who had access to his plans, such that league owners weren’t apparently in the loop. “We got wind that [Silver] apparently did not share,” says Ferrara.
That morsel of intelligence preached caution. “How many people really know about this?” was the question that came out of the reporting, according to Ferrara. So AP went with the official word:
NBA actions against Donald Sterling: -Lifetime ban from NBA games, practices -$2.5 million fine -NBA will try to force him to sell team
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 29, 2014