Stephen A. Smith was right.
Let's start with that. Smith, the ESPN embrace debater, was right about the NFL upholding Tom Brady's four-game suspension and that Brady destroyed his cell phone. He could have heard things from people in the NFL or elsewhere in sports who are connected.
But it's the presentation of what he heard that's bothersome. Here's the Tweet from ESPN itself:
And here's what Smith said on TV today, courtesy of Pro Football Talk:
“I’m hearing that Tom Brady actually destroyed his cell phone,” Smith said on the air. Smith later clarified that he was just “hearing” that Brady destroyed his phone, and can’t confirm that for certain. “I don’t know,” Smith added.
The problem here is "hearing."
"Hearing" is a word you hear a lot in sports media these days, especially in the realm of transactional journalism. It's a way of embracing process journalism. It's one step below reporting something.
And that's where it turns problematic for me.
"Hearing" is not "reporting."
"Reporting" something connotes that you actually did some, you know, reporting. That you sought to verify and confirm the information. That you vetted its veracity, thought about why the source is telling you this, etc. Reporting is an active verb. If your reporting is wrong, incomplete or erroneous, it's on you and not your sources (something The New York Times is still learning the hard way)
"Hearing" is a passive verb. It gives the appearance of transparency but is really just a cover word. If you're wrong - hey, I never reported that. I just passed along what I heard. I don't know if it's true or not, I'm just passing it along.
Telling the readers what you're hearing isn't a bad thing. I'd argue it's a fundamental part of process journalism. That's the way a lot of people are consuming news these days, and it's important to be in the conversation. Giving readers more information, not less, is a good thing.
But when "hearing" and "reporting" are used interchangeably, when a reporter/journalist/embrace debater begins and ends his or her job with telling me what they're hearing instead of reporting something, that's a dereliction of journalistic duty.
(Note: This post was editied from its original form at 5:45 p.m. on July 28 to reflect the Tom Brady suspension news.)