Sports media Twitter went kind of nuts tonight after Adam Schefter reported that New York Giants' defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had a finger amputated following a July 4 fireworks accident.
What caused the incident to go viral was the fact that Schefter published a photo of Pierre Paul's medical chart on his Twitter feed.
And this story leaves me conflicted. This post is the opposite of a hot take. It's not the "this side is right/this side is wrong" post you're taught to write in blogging school. The world's gray sometimes, and for me, this is one of those times.
First off: Schefter and ESPN did nothing illegal or wrong here. HIPAA - the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act - applies here only to the hospital (as is my understanding). It is illegal for the hospital to leak the information to Schefter. It is not illegal for Schefter to receive and/or publish said information.
Is it ethical? Here's where things get gray.
A lot of reporters I really respect have defended Schefter and ESPN tonight. A lot of reporters I really respect have ripped Schefter and ESPN tonight. All of their opinions hold a lot of weight with me.
For me, the issue is this: I have no problem with Schefter reporting what he learned in the document. That's newsworthy. No question about it. But to publish a photo of the report feels like it crosses a line. I can't really say why that is, but it feels wrong to me.
A more prudent course would have been to use this information and confirm it through other sources. Get the report from the hospital and start working the phones: "Look, I know what happened to him. I know he lost a finger. Help me out here." Posting the photo just seems a line too far - especially with a story like this. This is not the Pentagon Papers. This is an injury to a football player no one who's not an NFL fan has heard of. This is not the hill to die on for a journalistic issue like this.
In a way, Adam Schefter did great reporting.
In a way, Adam Schefter was really unethical.
The world's gray sometimes.