Yesterday highly respected media outlet CBS Sports reported that Chiefs owner Clark Hunt had offered his embattled general manager Scott Pioli a two-year contract extension…
Whereupon, KCTV, KSHB, The Kansas City Star – even NFL.com – then reported CBS’s “scoop.” As did KC Confidential columnist Craig Glazer.
Cooler heads at KMBC TV and Fox 4 passed on covering the CBS Sports report altogether.
And naturally, as a hard-edged opinion kinda guy, Glazer’s assessment of the “news” was far more harsh and he called the team and Hunt out for being arrogant, only caring about Chiefs fan’s money and taking them for a bunch of “dumb hicks.”
Which brings us to the “news” in the Star claiming that according to a single source the CBS report was untrue. And rendering this headline on the newspaper’s web site yesterday as a bit bogus: “Report: Pioli offered two-year contract extension.”
Now let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of the reporting on this matter.
Five hours after the Star‘s story on the subject this headline appeared: “Source: No contract extension for Chiefs Pioli.”
“The Chiefs did not offer general manager Scott Pioli a contract extension, a source close to the situation said, contradicting a report on CBS prior to Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers,” the now widely discussed Star story began.
“The source was emphatic that the Chiefs have had no discussions with Pioli regarding a contract extension,” it added.
Hold it right there...
Exceptions, I might add, that do not include snaring a sports gossip scoop.
“Credibility is The Star‘s greatest asset,” the newspaper’s policy begins. “For that reason alone, editorial employees must make every effort to fully identify the news source in a story or behind one…When you grant someone confidentiality…you run the risk of making the story less credible in the eyes of the reader.”
“Generally, confidentiality only should be granted to protect someone who is relatively powerless or who might be harmed should his or her identity be revealed. In addition, the story should be of overriding public importance. In all cases, the reason for granting anonymity should be made clear in the story.”
In the case of the Pioli contract offer report there are really only two likely possible sources that could have authoritatively spoken as to whether Hunt offered the contract or not; Pioli (since it’s been reported he has no agent) and Hunt.
Which means the Star decided to let one of them off the hook in order to get a “scoop.”
Would fair-minded readers describe either Pioli or Hunt as “powerless?” Doubt it. Was whether or not a contract extension was offered to Pioli “of overriding public importance?” Seriously? Would Hunt or Pioli be actually “harmed” by clarifying that CBS made a mistake? Come on.
And was the reason for granting anonymity “made clear in the story?” I didn’t see any such explanation.
The reporter has a working relationship with the source or sources – in this case, longtime Star sportswriter Adam Teicher who has just such relationships with both Hunt and Pioli. The reporter goes to both parties to ask if the CBS story is true. Both decline to comment on the record, but one offers to give the Teicher the scoop if he agrees not to identify him.
Teicher and his editor take the bait.
Now here’s what’s wrong with the above, other than appearing to be in conflict with the newspaper’s stated policies:
Quite obviously the CBS report splashed down smack in the midst of a local sports media firestorm over Pioli’s future with the Chiefs. With pretty much everybody who can type or get on a radio show calling for his ouster.
Thus CBS’s story put incredible pressure on both Hunt and Pioli. Pressure neither of them wanted or needed now in the midst of this gawdawful football season.
Maybe the CBS report was true or just partially true. Maybe not. But Pioli and Hunt undoubtedly wanted off the hot seat.
And the easiest way to accomplish that was to feed an anonymous, unnamed quote denying it to the local newspaper. Then if later it’s learned to be true or partially true, no skin off their dicks. Blame it on that anonymous source dude.
Here’s what’s wrong with the Star getting journalistically bought off so easily.
“Before promising confidentiality, try to obtain the same information from sources willing to be quoted…” the Star‘s policy reads. “Also, make it clear to the source that you will pursue other avenues of verifying the information.”
Since the Star obviously didn’t have CBS’s sources (otherwise they’d have broken the story) their only ticket into this news game was to either get Hunt or Pioli on the record one way or the other – or let them off the hook and go the anonymous sources route.
Pretty simple, really.
What’s lame about it is, had the Star played a better game of journalistic poker it probably would have resulted in Hunt and/or Pioli having to go on the record to escape the heat (rather than nipping the story in the bud that same day by getting the newspaper to compromise its ethics).
Because had Hunt and Pioli had to run the sports media gauntlet for however many days, they likely would have had to issue a public statement, meaning no scoop for the Star.
Which now leaves the general sports public to sort out not one but two reports based on anonymous sources. And now major news organizations around the country are “reporting” that the Star says no such offer was made by Hunt to Pioli.
What they should be reporting rather is that the Star‘s unnamed source says CBS’s unnamed source is wrong.
What a country!