Saturday, December 29, 2007

What Do You Do When The Rumors Are Wrong?

Rumor starts to run that Mike Conley was trying to be, or was, Darren McFadden's agent. They were spread far and wide. Those darn internets at work again against Arkansas? Well, it spread on the internet, but what do you do when it's the traditional media?

Within 24 hours, hardly any of the details stood up to scrutiny. Some of them should have been obvious from the get-go. Former Razorback track star Conley is not registered with the NFL, working instead the NBA for his son and friends. He hasn't lived in Fayetteville in years, and by all accounts was in Chicago the past week.

The car first came from a dealership in Fayetteville that didn't sell the brand. Then it changed to a correct dealership, but in Little Rock. It was registered to his mom. Then his step-mom.

ESPN bit, and sunk the hook deep because of "multiple" media sources reporting the troubles. Problem is, two of the stations are really one when it comes to the hybrid combined sports department.

Much time has been spent decrying the blogger, the new media, the citizen journalist; but this was at best a two source -- more likely one source -- story that the media began to multiply without a lot of time spent on verification. That is a fact that one TV station in its apology and retraction has admitted as much.

Reminds of the multiple coaches hired by Arkansas -- men's basketball and football -- reported by media thanks to unnamed sources. Being first appears to have completely overtaken being right.

And how was this behavior any different from the folks who blindly post rumors on line? At least on this one, it's hard to see it.

The story isn't over, and it still could turn out with McFadden missing the bowl. That would be a tragic outcome for the media. What would be remembered is that taking a chance on a rumor -- and getting almost all the key supporting facts wrong or severely twisted -- led to a scoop.

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