I am not a die-hard sports fan. I only occasionally watch a Patriot’s football game. So it is highly unusual for me to decide to even comment on this affair that is all the rage in the news. I don’t claim to know who is and who isn’t telling the truth. I could easily be convinced of either side being untruthful if any news medium decided to report all the facts.
What strikes me as particularly galling about the reports is an example of the problem in The Boston Globe article Bill Belichick and Tom Brady provide no insight on Deflategate by Christopher L. Gasper on January 23, 2015 – today’s newspaper. On the front page of the sports section of the printed version of the paper, the headline was Belicheck to Brady: Incomplete Pass.
The Patriots were informed by the National Football League on Monday that their game balls were not properly inflated at halftime of the AFC title game. League office personnel and an alternate official inspected each ball twice, using different pressure gauges. ESPN has reported 11 of the 12 tested balls were two PSI below the specified limit.
Every story about the 11 footballs that I read refers to reports by ESPN. I have yet to see the name or names of the people who actually did the measuring and reporting. I don’t take ESPN’s word for anything any more than I would take Tom Brady’s or Bill Beklichick’s word. You’d think that people giving these details would have actual names, and other media could speak directly to them to verify ESPN’s report of what they supposedly said.
Ironically, as I searched the Globe’s web site for the article that I had read in the paper as Belicheck to Brady: Incomplete Pass, I stumbled across a different article before I found the original article that was renamed on the web site as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady provide no insight on Deflategate.
This other article was named Patriots’ spying opened the gate, also by Christopher L. Gasper, and written on January 21, 2015, two days before the article that started my investigation.
According to an NFL letter about the investigation that was shared with the Globe, the Patriots were informed that initial findings indicated the game balls New England used did not meet specifications (inflation to 12½ to 13½ pounds per square inch). The league inspected the Patriots’ game balls at halftime. It studied each ball twice using different pressure gauges. It found footballs that were not properly inflated.
Does the person sharing the letter with The Boston Globe have a name? So if the author Christopher L. Gasper had knowledge of an NFL letter when he wrote on January 21, why did he not mention this letter instead of an ESPN report when he wrote about the subject on January 23? Did he actually see an official letter from the NFL, or did he see a report of the letter on ESPN or a copy supplied by ESPN?
Casper may think that Patriot’s spying incident opened the gate for questioning the veracity of the Patriots, but for me the past history of lazy journalism opened the gate for questioning the veracity of the press, One example of what I call lazy journalism is for one journalist to quote as fact what was reported by another journalist without doing any investigation of her or his own. That investigation would include finding out who are the original sources, and conducting your own interview with those original sources. Then the enterprising journalist could use names in the article written to explain who said what.
I am still open to the possibility that this story could go either way when the facts come out, if the facts ever do come out. I am not sure that my source for reading about the facts will ever be The Boston Globe or any other corporate source for so-called news.
I understand why some news stories quote anonymous sources. Often a source is afraid of someone finding out who spilled the beans. Many important stories would never get told if a reporter could not guarantee the confidentiality of a source. However, anonymous sources open the reporter to the risk of publishing a lie.
The solution to the problem of anonymous sources is simple. Any promise of confidentiality must be predicated on the source telling the truth. The reporter should advise the source that if it turns out that source knew that the information was untrue, the sources’ name will be published as the teller of the false information. If the source cannot agree to this, then the reporter should not report anything the source has said based solely on what the source said. Anything of what the uncooperative source said should only be reported if another, more cooperative source can be found for that information.