The Buffalo Sabres are on the market for a new head coach, and Eric Duhatschek tweeted out the following on Monday afternoon:
I'm hearing that Todd McLellan is closing in on an agreement to replace Phil Housley as the next coach of the Buffalo Sabres and that an announcement could come as early as tomorrow.— Eric Duhatschek (@eduhatschek) April 8, 2019
My pal and podcast guest John Wawrow tweeted this response:
And while we're at it, are we in the media going back to simply reporting what someone tweets as opposed to checking and verifying what's been tweeted.— John Wawrow (@john_wawrow) April 8, 2019
If so, why do we need so many people covering sports if all we're doing is aggregating?
Now, it may very well turn out that Duhatschek is proven correct and that McLellan is hired as the new Sabres coach this week.
But there’s a word in his tweet that made my journalistic spidey sense tingle.
I wrote this a few years ago to describe Stephen A. Smith’s “hearing” in the Deflategate case, and it still feels relevant today:
“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 ...
“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. It’s reporting in the passive tense.
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.