Mr. Ed12345: The thing that really does it for me on this one is the way Florio has reacted to Smitty’s interview. If he wants to play journalist, that’s his prerogative. But if he’s going to do that, and expects to be taken seriously, he needs to do the things that come with it. Now, I didn’t go to journalism school, but I’m in a field that involves dealing with the press, and I’ve worked with and around a lot of journalists. Actual journalists. Actual journalists, in a situation like this, would have done things very differently.
First, they would have sourced the claim that Smitty called Clausen a punk. They would have talked to Smitty, they would have talked to the other WRs and TEs, and they would have talked to Clausen. They would have asked all of them what happened, and if they denied it, or if some did and some didn’t, then that goes in the story. Florio clearly didn’t do that. When you’re quoting someone as saying something, and you’re going to write on it, the first thing you do is find two (minimum) more sources to back that up, and you check with the person quoted, tell them what you’re running, and ask them if the quote’s accurate. Not only is it common courtesy, it’s good journalistic practice. Put the information out there. If you’ve got a source that says Smitty called Clausen a punk, then you put that. If Smitty then says he didn’t, you put that in too, and then people can decide if they think he did or didn’t say it. Your job is to put the facts out there, and then, if you feel like editorializing, to draw some conclusions.
Second, they wouldn’t make this personal, and they definitely wouldn’t engage in ad hominem attacks with the subject of a story. That’s exactly what Florio did in his response, posted above. What kind of reporter writes a story on someone, then calls them an idiot when they refute it? That’s not reporting, that’s school ground name-calling. "Steve Smith is an idiot and doesn’t understand anonymous sourcing" is not a defense of your piece. Providing some other sources who can verify your piece, by contract, would be. If nobody on that roster or in that organization wants to go on-record to verify what happened, that says something about the story you’re running with. These aren’t matters of national security. Nobody’s talking about some anonymous source who’s leaking CIA memos. It’s a he said, she said name-calling piece, and if you can’t source it better than one unnamed flapping jaw, then you better know somebody’s going to call you on it, and you better have something in your pocket to give them when they do. If you’re not happy with somebody calling you out on it, and you don’t have anything else to run with when they do, you’re probably better off sitting on it. If it’s legit, then you’ve still got the quote down the line. If not, you saved yourself a lot of trouble. You don’t run with a story like that, with that kind of sourcing, unless you’re trying to get your name in the papers while the NFL news cycle is at a post-draft standstill. If you’re trying to get a handle on the locker room rapport in Carolina, then you take that, sit on it, and do some more digging around until you come up with something real. Then you can pull out your anonymous quote, tack it on with some verified facts, and call it a case. But not until then. Not if you’re trying to do some actual reporting.
That brings me to my last point, and that has to do with this cyclone of journalistic ethics hokum about protecting anonymous sources. Florio put himself in a situation where he ran with a story with one anonymous source, and it was a story he knew good and well would be inflammatory. If the only thing you can say in defense of it is…. well, nothing, then you’ve done something wrong. The anonymity if sources is important, yes. It’s important for people to know they can remain anonymous so that when things come up that people need to know about, they know that they can get that information out there without compromising their careers, reputations, livelihoods, etc. But, again, we’re not talking about some whistle blower at DOD. We’re talking about football. Maybe if this guy’s name gets out there, he loses his job. I doubt it, but it’s possible. That’s a legitimate concern. On the other hand, maybe Florio shouldn’t have put himself in a situation where the only way he has to defend a story is the one anonymous tipster. Then this wouldn’t be an issue. He could point to somebody else. At the very least, there shouldn’t be a quote from an anonymous source hanging out there without any qualification. He doesn’t have to give away the farm, but he should say, for example, that there’s a QB battle brewing in Carolina, and maybe someone has an axe to grind with Clausen because they’re a fan of Matt Moore, and so forth and so on. But my real problem is with the statement that Florio’s "most important job" is protecting his source. I’m sorry, but it isn’t. His most important job is getting the information that the source has out into the open. There’s always the possibility that a source gets revealed. Most of them do. Most leakers get caught. There are only so many people you can fit in any given room at any given time. NFL players take up more room than most people. There couldn’t have been that many people in the room. You don’t run a quote that could cost someone their job unless you think there’s more value in the quote than there is risk to their job. At least, most people don’t. If Florio was really worried about the source, he should have gotten some cover for him. Somebody, anybody else who was willing to say something. Even two anonymous sources would have been SOMETHING. If you can’t get two people on the phone to anonymously verify a story, something’s wrong with the story. An NFL organization is definitely, definitely not that airtight. You can usually pull more than one unnamed source with the national security stuff, much less a mini-camp dust up.
My point is this: Florio needs to get off his high horse. He’s up there bareback, he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing, and he’s going to end up hurting himself.
Thanks Ed more supplying the industry insight into this matter that in my debunks the entire premise of Florio 'protect the source' argument.
Yet those Panther fans who have studied Smith since he entered the league already knew better. I think it's obvious Florio used Smitty's name because he thought it would be the most believable based on his history of conflicts with teammates. What Florio failed to consider is that this, believe it or not, to take about someone behind their back is very out-of-character for Smitty, who if nothing else wears his feelings on his sleeve and isn't afraid to confront someone if he feels the need. He says it to their face rather than gossiping to the media or so-called friends. For example, he didn't hesitate to call out WR Dwayne Jarrett and his work ethic a few seasons ago. He also isn't someone to run from his comments if he truly said something, like when he said to Delhomme "I never like you as a QB" last season. He explained what he meant, he didn't deny saying it.
Make no mistake Mr. Florio, Panthers fans know who to believe in this case and it certainly isn't your 'unnamed source'. I suggest you take Mr. Ed's response to heart and change your ways the next time you want to report gossip about Jimmy Clausen or Steve Smith for that matter.