Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in NFL history, is retiring.
Questions about the accuracy of the reports arise at a time when the media is not held in the highest regard. That’s often knee-jerk criticism thrown out by people who just don’t like or agree with what’s being reported.
But we go. With a story this size, there is simply no room for error.
Which is not to say that the stories don’t change. Maybe that’s what happened here. But the timeline is messy.
ESPN Adam Schefter tweeted Around 12:30 pm Arizona time on Saturday, he and the network’s Jeff Darlington had been told by multiple sources that Brady was retiring. A flood of stories, most citing that report, covered the internet and social media almost immediately.
Brady’s retirement is the biggest NFL story imaginable
And why not? It’s a great story. Bigger than huge. The greatest story in sports.
But is it accurate?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Later Michael Silver of Bally Sports reported that Brady had contacted the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for whom Brady played the last two seasons, and told him that he had not decided whether to retire or return.
Brady’s agent, Don Yee, released a statement: “I understand the anticipated speculation about Tom’s future. Without going into the accuracy or inaccuracy of what is reported, Tom will be the only person to express his plans with complete accuracy. He knows the realities of the football business and the planning schedule better than anyone, so he should be soon.”
ESPN Nation NFL reporter jenna laine, who covers the Buccaneers, tweeted: “Tom Brady has not informed the Bucs that he is retiring. (Head coach) Bruce Arians told me: ‘He hasn’t done it. He’s not even close to making a decision yet. He told us.'”
Brady’s lifestyle brand, TB12tweeted thanking Brady for a great run, then deleted the tweet.
and Brady’s father told San Francisco station KRON4 that his son did not retire.
big oops. So what was it?
When you’re reporting the biggest story imaginable on the country’s most popular sport, you have to get it right.
Which, by the way, can be. Many people on Twitter joked that this is the kind of thing that would inspire the notoriously sensitive and ultra-competitive Brady to change his mind and come back even if he planned to retire.
That’s unlikely, but a fun thing to think about.
Schefter was confident enough to follow the story. Change?
Schefter is one of ESPN’s stars, but his reporting and methods have been criticized before. In October, emails that were part of a broader investigation revealed that he had once sent a story he was working on to the former general manager of the Washington football team, sharing the content of a story before it was published, referring to to him jokingly as “Mr. Editor.”
“Let me know if you see anything that needs to be added, changed, or modified,” he emailed, according to reports.
That’s a basic no-no in journalism.
Schefter was evidently comfortable enough with his supply to follow Brady’s story. Which, again, may turn out to be true.
But we live in a time when some people deny the basic facts. Some people are not going to trust the media no matter what. “The sun rises in the east? That’s what the liberal media says. I’ll do my own research, thanks.”
The previous presidential administration introduced the idea of ”alternative facts”, which, of course, is not the case. However, some people are quick and happy to believe them.
That’s why being precise is so essential, now more than ever.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism