Sean Payton agreed to a new contract with the New Orleans Saints Friday, ensuring the suspended coach would return to the Saints sidelines for the foreseeable future and hopefully placing the bounty scandal well and truly behind us all. In the wake of the news, another controversy developed regarding ESPN's well-documented sourcing issues. An ESPN news editor engaged in a Twitter back and forth with Jay Glazer after the Fox reporter once again criticized ESPN for their use of sources. In the process, the curtain was pulled back on ESPN's use of the dreaded "s" word.
At just past 6 PM ET Friday night, the Sean Payton report dropped. Jay Glazer did indeed "have it first on Twitter" but ESPN's Adam Schefter and CBS's Jason La Canfora were right behind him. In fact, there was only 3 minutes separating the 3 tweets. Glazer at 6:02 PM, Schefter and La Canfora at 6:05 PM.
I am reporting the Saints and HC Sean Payton have "agreed in principle" to a new multi-year contract extension to ... m.tmi.me/Ecdwa— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) December 29, 2012
Filed to ESPN: Sean Payton and the Saints have agreed on an outline of a new contract extension, similar to old extension.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 29, 2012
The Saints have agreed in principle on a contract extension with Sean Payton. Details not yet available but believed to be long term...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 29, 2012
Unsurprisingly, ESPN cited "sources" reporting the Payton news on television and Glazer took notice of the lack of credit as he retweeted this message on his Twitter page and thanked respected NFL reporters like Peter King and Albert Breer for crediting his initial tweet.
At this point in the story, Glazer's public outcry is just another in a long line of ESPN sourcing controversies in the past year. In fact, it's not even the first time Glazer himself has felt wronged by Bristol.
However, here's where our most recent tale about ESPN's mythical sources takes an intriguing and revolutionary turn. Paul Pabst tweeted this picture of ESPN's bottom line crediting "sources" for the Sean Payton report.
"according to sources"...whose sources? Why not give your reporter who broke this full credit?...You know why.via.me/-896o572— Paul Pabst (@PaulPabst) December 29, 2012
ESPN news editor and coordinating producer Steve Peresman replied to Pabst's tweet defending ESPN's policy and letting us all in behind the scenes on how ESPN's sources come into being on an occasion like this...
@paulpabst Paul - when more than one outlet has story, we credit SOURCES.Check twitter - Schefter, La Confora and Glazer all within 3 mins— Steve Peresman (@StevePeresman) December 29, 2012
In this instance, I actually side with Peresman and ESPN on the accusation of stealing Glazer's report. It's clear that Glazer, Schefter, and La Canfora all had the goods and Glazer just happened to beat the others to the punch by a mere 3 minutes. Surely that is not enough elapsed time to think anyone stole something from another outlet.
But it's not ESPN stealing scoops that became the story here, it's the revelation from Peresman that ESPN still uses the terminology of "sources" when multiple outlets are reporting a story. That public admission drew Glazer's ire even further. Glazer said this in an extended tweet when he learned he may in fact be one of ESPN's sources:
"Sorry Steve that may be the dumbest thing I've heard! You get beat on a story by more than one outlet so ESPN's policy is to decide to make US your sources??? Can't stress enough how wrong this is. I AM NOT your source!"
@jayglazer Jay - Adam Schefter had it at the virtually the same time - as did Jason LaCanfora.It's a transaction.Lots of people, sources— Steve Peresman (@StevePeresman) December 29, 2012
"Steve ur excuse is so farfetched. Regardless I AM NOT UR SOURCE!! Credit where do"
To his credit, Peresman was open about ESPN's sourcing policies and how they came to be in replies to other tweeters. His timeline answering questions about ESPN's sourcing policy is worth the read. Most interesting is the fact that ESPN won't name the source for the Saints story until it is officially announced by the team. Peresman also pointed to ESPN crediting other outlets on their bottom line for other stories.
But a few questions remain. Why wouldn't ESPN merely credit Adam Schefter by name for the Sean Payton report since he had it in due time? Why use the ambiguous and mysterious "sources" that apparently lumps in reporters from CBS and Fox in an incredible twist of fate?
This is a nuanced point, but a significant one. The issue at hand here is ESPN crediting "sources" instead of "reports." Had ESPN used "reports" in the Payton case, they could acknowledge the multiple outlets reporting the news with no harm done. The use of "sources" implies ESPN has proprietary ownership of the story. Lumping other outlets into ESPN's "sources" is the crux of the larger trust issue that has plagued Bristol in the last year and Jay Glazer has every right to take umbrage with that. Jay Glazer and Jason La Canfora are not, nor should they ever be, sources for ESPN.
If I wasn't having a blast down in Mexico for my bday I'd probably get a angrier by the ESPN thievery. But I'm having too much fun 2nite— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) December 29, 2012
In all honesty, I don't think ESPN means malice in this case, but this exchange reveals the core of their sourcing issues. ESPN needs to be more transparent and clear in how they report stories moving forward, which is what we've been saying from the outset. There are too many good reporters at ESPN like Adam Schefter for the entire network to fall under this blanket of mistrust. If ESPN is indeed including other outlets in their reports, they need to be named as such. Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk views this practice as purposely misleading by ESPN:
"The most unfortunate aspect of this exchange is that it perpetuates audience confusion regarding the meaning of the terms “source” and “report” when used here or elsewhere. For us, “source” applies when we are reporting something based on a source of our own. We use “report” when some other company is reporting something based on its own sources. For ESPN to use the term “sources” to encompass a melange of their own reporters and other reporters is misleading, factually inaccurate, and hardly inadvertent or accidental."
Only the higher ups at Bristol can answer as to their true intentions in their liberal use of "sources." From a big picture standpoint, this case shows why the sourcing issues at ESPN and decay of trust is a big story and something Bristol must address. There should have been no controversy surrounding the Sean Payton breaking news as multiple reporters broke the story at approximately the same time. However, because ESPN's use of "sources" has been clouded with so much mystery and criticism in the past year, it blew up and became a story. The problem that has developed for ESPN is that informed viewers and followers now have doubts as to whether or not ESPN's reporting and use of sources is to be trusted. That's the end result of a year where there have been repeated questioning of ESPN's sources. That's where ESPN's brand comes under fire. And it's not just blogs that are questioning ESPN now, it's mainstream reporters and outlets. Glazer fired yet another shot Saturday afternoon:
"@StevePeresman you, a news coordinator for Espn, really think its ok to credit my work and others as Your "sources" without attribution? No!!!"
Thanks to this exchange between Glazer, Peresman, and Pabst, we learned plenty about ESPN's use of "sources." What's your take? Does ESPN need to be more careful in deliniating between sources and reports? Is Jay Glazer right to be offended? Could this public exchange prompt ESPN to be more careful in their reporting moving forward? Surely ESPN's use of "sources" is gaining enough attention now to take some kind of action.
UPDATE: Monday, ESPN credited Glazer by name for breaking the news of Pat Shurmur's firing in Cleveland.
@Justin_McIsaac I wish I could but I'm actually fortunate enough to be spending the weekend in Florida. A nice little break from the cold
@Justin_McIsaac Awesome! I'll reach out late next week to hammer out the details see what we'll be talking about and such
@Justin_McIsaac I will! I'm free the weekend after if you're looking for someone then. Just let me know
@AJ_Mazza Glazer is probably the best of the "insiders". He's seem to be first almost every time. Hard to say in that world.
@awfulannouncing they have fixed it! https://t.co/2Nx2iYz5
@awfulannouncing @jayglazer never thought about it before, but JG is right, he/they should not be noted as sources!
Espn is bush league in this. They are literally big in sports but not big in ethics and fairness. Just use the best and if not at least good journalistic ethics. Don't act small as big as you are.
@SaveOurChiefs So basically it seems like one guy took typing in HS and the others didn't. That would splain' the 3 min difference. :-)
@awfulannouncing @NFLosophy I am reporting first Peyton Manning as Broncos starting playoffs QB. Pls dont use "sources" to give me credit
@awfulannouncing @jayglazer by #ESPN rationale all of "their" reports shouldbe by"sources" since a good chance mltpl outlets will have story
@awfulannouncing @JayGlazer I was 1st kinda amused & joked. Payton staying in NOLA is NOT news. Who tweets 1st doesnt mean he knows all
@SaveOurChiefs good read....I wonder if LaConfora or Schefter follow Glazer and vice versa. I'm sure they do under proxy names. FirePioli
@awfulannouncing Only @JayGlazer would be upset at something dumb. Sports fans DO NOT CARE who reports it. Crying like he's in middle school
@awfulannouncing @jayglazer I agree with Jay 100% and dislike ESPN as a biz but I do remember @AdamSchefter crediting Jay multiple times.
@richarddeitsch You think ESPN or TNT will add a former referee in the studio much like they do for NFL games ?
@richarddeitsch @awfulannouncing @SportsGrid no one outside of the media gives a shit. We just want the news Could care less who said it 1st
@truesportsguy Sorry, Marcus. Respectfully, you don't speak for all in the same way I don't speak for all media
@richarddeitsch with that being said, I just want what's reported to be accurate, that's what is most important to me.
@richarddeitsch who reports what 1st isn't gonna make me "follow" 1 guy over another or make me watch 1 network over another.
@richarddeitsch absolutely, I agree I don't speak for all. But I think most agree it doesn't matter who we get the news from....
@truesportsguy @awfulannouncing @SportsGrid Sorry, Marcus. You don't for everyone in the same way I don't speak for all media.
@richarddeitsch funny to read on twitter sports columnists whine about who is first #gradeschoolfights. Glaser is biggest whiner of all
Who cares? Im a sports fan. All I care about is the news not who is reporting it. And I bet 99 percent of fans feel the same way. I dont agree with what ESPN is doing but I camt be bothered to care that much. The story is Payton getting a new contract. Not who was first to tweet it.
@stholeary yeah it's only people's livelihoods, professional courtesy, and ethics. That's not important at all.
@stholeary if you don't care, why read and comment? Ethical behavior doesn't take a holiday just because the "average viewer" may not be interested as much as others.
@myoder84 Maybe it'd be easier if everyone didn't get their panties in a bunch every time the word "sources" comes up. You're going to play the ethics card on this? Are you suggesting sports reporters have a moral duty to give due credit to their fellow reporter? No. Who cares? As long as the job is getting accomplished, who gives a shit who gets credit for it and who reported it first? Does being first or reporting the most stories add some kind of bonus to these reporters' salaries?The main focus should be on getting the news to the fans. Building your ego based on filing sports reports quickly is as ludicrous as it comes. Are they really that self-obsorbed and insecure that they need to build themselves up with the tiny details of time of report? Getting sports news is so easy these days, it shouldn't be taken as such skillful and godly work.
@stholeary @myoder84 @wiggl45es Remember, everybody, only the actual story will be what people will remember when the stories of 2013 are recounted.