Thursday, January 9, 2014

Rumors, reporting, Burgundy Blog, and the Jay Gruden hire

Permit me to indulge in a little speechifying over the reaction to Burgundy Blog's role last night in the rumors of Jay Gruden's impending hire.

It is wrong to say the journalists who started reporting the hire Monday morning were slow, or late to the story, or that BB beat them to it. It is absolutely wrong to suggest that reporters should credit or source BB for "getting the scoop."

BB did not engage in reporting, he repeated a rumor he heard from a Twitter follower. An interesting and relatively solid-looking rumor, but a rumor nonetheless. The "source," which should not really be called that, was not a person with direct knowledge of the situation. The fact that it turned out to be true does not make it any less of a rumor.

Journalists have to engage in the process of journalism, meaning multiple sources, assessing said source's credibility, and so forth. That takes more time than a retweet. Any journalists who "reported" an impending hire based on a tweet from a follower, if it turned out to be wrong, would be mocked by us and disciplined by his employers. His professional reputation would be permanently damaged. If a blogger on Twitter relays something he heard and it's wrong, we shrug it off and move on.

This is not to suggest that BB was in any way wrong in what he did. The fact that he is not a journalist is precisely why it was okay for him to share what he learned from some teenager who happens to both follow him on Twitter and know the Gruden family. We on Twitter are all just a bunch of people talking, and passing on a rumor your heard on Twitter is not inherently different from telling your friends at the bar. But it's not news.

It was fairly interesting to watch this process to play out, and a nice illustration of how Twitter and the internet are changing the way we all follow sports (or whatever topic we're interested in). Twitter has blurred the lines between reporter and audience a bit, but it has not erased them. And I think it was a useful reminder of the distinction.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Kirk Cousins promotes Robert Griffin III to GM

A week old and, I thought, fairly innocuous quote from Kirk Cousins suddenly got some more play on Twitter this afternoon, at the national level:

This has quite easily played into the narrative of the Redskins as a circus. However, while that narrative is obviously justified, not everything can or should be taken as evidence of it.

As I wrote shortly before the end of the season, although I think it is a little more complicated than this and there is certainly blame to go around, I broadly agree with Silva's perspective on the whole Snyder-Shanahan soap opera:

That said, it can become too easy to interpret everything said by or about this team in the most negative possible light. There a few important points worth remembering when considering the meaning of what Cousins said:

- All NFL franchises have some degree of ownership involvement in major decisions like coaching hires. Dan Snyder's involvement in football operations has been excessive and destructive over his tenure, but that doesn't mean the ideal amount of owner involvement is zero. This is a business with an owner, and the owner cannot divorce himself entirely from decisions that set the course of his franchise for years to come.

- There is, in fact, some room for input from Robert Griffin III. Again, forget this is a football team and think of any other business undergoing a major restructuring. The preferences of your most important employee - how he is most comfortable working and how he thinks he is most likely to succeed - shouldn't drive the decision but absolutely should be taken into account at some level.

And most importantly:

- Since when is the backup quarterback considered an authoritative source on the details of a coaching search?

To wit:

Given this franchise's recent history it is very possible Griffin's star status is giving him too much influence, or that Dan Snyder's personal whims are preventing solid football decisions from being made. I am legitimately concerned that one or both of those things may be the case. However we do not know whether this team restructuring, featuring an empowered (as he tells us, anyway) Bruce Allen, is addressing those historical problems. And Kirk Cousins' offhand comment tells us nothing about it either way.