Don’t get burned by unnamed sources

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As we’re waiting with baited breath on what happens to Johan Santana, here’s something to consider: Don’t print unsubstantiated reports or repeat rumors. Last week, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit reported that LSU coach Les Miles would sign to coach Michigan, a report that was proven incorrect. Herbstreit claimed on-air that the report was based upon solid information. That may be true, but that’s the problem we face when reporting anonymous information. We’re wrong when this information is wrong, not the unnamed sources. At times, we are used by sources trying to advance their own agendas. Most of the time, anonymous sources suck.

Instead, verify reports and rumors as CBS Sportsline’s Scott Miller did last night at the baseball meetings. Where’s Santana going? Who the heck knows? But Miller does a terrific job addressing rumors circulating in Nashville, Tenn,. and in various online news sources and blogs by speaking directly to the primary sources involved with the reported trades — namely, to the general managers. Yes, these GMs could be lying, but at least they are on the record doing this, not the sports journalist.

Check out Miller’s most recent post:

As the stare-down continued, reports circulated wildly, ranging from the Red Sox increasing their offer by adding a fifth name to the proposal (not true, say sources with knowledge of the talks) to multiple reports that the Los Angeles Angels had met with the Twins.

Not true, said Angels general manager Tony Reagins, who noted that he had informally spoken with Minnesota GM Bill Smith a day earlier but had not conducted any formal meetings with the Twins.

So where do these rumors come from?

“I ask myself that question,” Reagins said. “Watching ESPN, I see things being reported and you wonder where it comes from sometimes.”

Regarding whether he envisions a scenario in which a trade with Minnesota could develop, Reagins said, “That would be tough to say. There are a lot of things being reported out there, obviously. But I don’t see anything on the horizon.”

Miller speaks directly with the Angels’ GM to address the rumor instead of passing along unsubstantiated information. He also speaks with several other GMs and to some other verifiable sources. Yes, Miller offers several other trade scenarios, but based upon his earlier reporting, I’m inclined to believe him. Evaluate for yourself whose reports are most accurate. I’ll bet it’s the ones where reporters speak directly with sources. Being accurate is more important than being first.

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One Response to “Don’t get burned by unnamed sources”

  1. Kyle Says:

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Your credibility is everything as a journalist. Why risk it because it makes it easier to get the story or to be nice to the source?

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