The Blurred Lines Between Rumor and Scoop: Mike Anderson Edition [MIZZOU]
Back in the good old days, the world found out “breaking news” about things like basketball coaches changing jobs when the nightly news sports anchor was damn ready to tell them – 10:00PM. No sooner.
Now, firmly entrenched in a multi-media age where info is spit out so rapidly that most fans can hardly keep up, guys like Chris Lincoln have to rely on this new thing the youngsters call “Twitter”.
There’s a reason you had never heard of Chris Lincoln. He happens to be the sports anchor at a TV station based in Tulsa, OK. And despite the fact that he works in a state that is neither Arkansas nor Missouri, Chris Lincoln’s Twitter feed also became the epicenter of a furious Mike Anderson-to-Arkansas rumor explosion on Saturday night…
Lincoln’s claim put on display the mainstream media’s tendency to go to great lengths to score a story regardless of whether they have any familiarity with the “sources” they’re quoting. Lincoln himself may have a trusted connection that fed him the info even though we’re sitting here more than a day later without a peep from either school about the introductory press conference he assured us would take place yesterday. What may have been even more notable was how quickly other media outlets were willing to push aside their famed journalistic ethics (the same ones bloggers are told they lack), slap a quick qualifier on the headline and, bang, throw out a story that carries all the upside but can’t be pinned on your outlet when it doesn’t come to fruition.
It didn’t take long after Lincoln’s definitive statement began making some minor waves, for THE college basketball network – CBS Sports – to snatch it up and make it a national headline…
With a well-known outlet like CBS giving the initial report some serious credibility, albeit without any further information, Twitter was flooded with reactions from average fans, media members and even former MU players such as Leo Lyons who reacted as expected given that the stance from those reporting was that it was finalized. His statement was “Coach Anderson left Mizzou and is now the coach of Arkansas. I don’t know what to say. I’m happy for him but I feel sorry for the players.”
And if you’ve got an otherwise unknown reporter out of Tulsa, OK claiming it’s happening, CBS and its talking heads promptly running with his statement and subsequently drawing reactions from someone as close to the MU program as a former player – even though said player admits he has no direct knowledge - then damn it, that’s enough for a local outlet like KSDK to roll out their story and get a slice of the pie, with qualifier of course…
And here we are Monday morning, all able to agree that the crap Chris Lincoln threw against a wall over the weekend hasn’t stuck. The general suggestion of Mike Anderson being hired by Arkansas may ultimately come true, but even if it does, there’s no credit owed to Lincoln. There’s no credit owed to CBS and no credit owed to a local outlet like KSDK.**
Instead it should serve as a shining example of the vicious circle in today’s mainstream sports media. The desperate desire to break a story inevitably eliminates any hesitation to swan dive into Rumorville. In this case, CBS, KSDK and numerous others scored a potential traffic hog of a story that stemmed from a single tweet from one guy in Tulsa, OK citing a source that they could very well be a Boston Terrier that he calls “Reports out of Arkansas”. If Chris Lincoln’s sources turns out to be incorrect and another news anchor with a source pops up claiming something different, we can hit the reset button and start all over again.
Ironically, amidst the rumor-fueled chaos, Leo Lyons pulled his initial tweet and replaced it with a simple clarification -
If only Chris Lincoln could have the same journalistic principles as Leo.
**Gabe DeArmond of PowerMizzou.com and Vahe Gregorian of STLToday.com are two examples of reporters who cover Mizzou that deserve credit for avoiding the temptation to jump in and milk the story upon first rumor and instead only addressed it objectively when hounded by those fans that had been riled up by the “legit” sources. Their message was simple – we don’t know anything but we’ll let you know when we do.