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NBA Lockout and Sources

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by lcjjdnh, Nov 4, 2011.

  1. lcjjdnh

    lcjjdnh Active Member

    I'm sure the lockout is being discussed on the Sports & News board, but wanted to have a more journalism focused discussion.

    From afar, it certainly looks as though any given lockout story is being heavily biased based on who that particular reporter receives information from (and many reporters have started accusing each other of being mouthpieces, either directly or implied). At best, we as readers learn which side the information came from ("a person familiar with the owner's thinking"). And even then, we don't exactly learn why they're being granted anonymity. For the print publications, at least, it's certainly not for reasons that would fall within their ethical guidelines.

    So a few questions:

    -- Basic question: Should reporters provide more information about what's shaping their thinking? Or are we as readers just supposed to read between the lines?
    -- More provocative question: Presumably, the reason most of these sources are talking is to spin the writer and the public, not in the name of leaking quality information. One assumes they do this for their own benefit. If so, how is this any different from simply paying sources?
     
  2. jackfinarelli

    jackfinarelli Member

    I don't think readers need to read between the lines. I think readers need to read more than a single report on the lockout situation to find balance in the reporting. Frankly, this is not all that different from what reders need to do with regard to political reporting.

    I think there is a wide gap between "being spun to some degree by a source" and "paying a source for information." I see few similarities here except in extraordinary circumstances.
     
  3. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    The biggest problem with the reporting is that so much of it is being written not as "sources said" but as facts, as things that happened. Someone linked a Henry Abbott column awhile back that went to great lengths about how at no time did the players ever offer to go to 50 percent. Well, how the hell does he know that?
     
  4. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Active Member

    Both sides in the NBA labor fight -- wait, make that all six sides (union leaders, agents, players, NBA honchos, hawk owners, dove owners) -- are spinning the reporters like crazy. And in this time of low or no journalistic standards, the outlets all are playing along.

    Too bad because it actually is affecting the negotiating process itself and needlessly polarizing fans.

    There's also the embarrassing aspect of reporters who aren't in the negotiating room -- ever -- trying to propose their cleverest ways to resolve the lockout. As if these scribbling business giants could even run a coin laundry on their own.

    Smartest fans are the ones who are fed up with both owners and players, and are tuning out until there's a deal or a cancelled season.
     
  5. lcjjdnh

    lcjjdnh Active Member

    How so? Intrinsically, it does sort of feel like there is something wrong with directly giving sources cash, rather than giving them press that they hope will benefit them. But from a policy standpoint, they're basically indistinguishable. If you're concerned about false information you: 1.) need some theory about why someone would be more likely to lie when receiving a direct benefit than an indirect benefit (when the opposite seems more likely because the source will realize that someone that receives a cash payment will likely receive much more scrutiny) and 2.) need to explain why the barriers we already have in place are insufficient to distinguish false information here, but not elsewhere. At best, I think, you could make an argument that the costs of policing potentially false information outweighs the benefits, but that's a practical concern, not an ethical one (which is how the prohibition on payments is typically framed).

    Sure, people might start demanding payment for information. But that doesn't seem all that unfair--why should newspapers have the right to extract maximum profit off valuable information other people possess*? Further, even if it wasn't, it, again, seems irrelevant to whether we consider the practice ethical.

    The prohibition does put restraints on reporters if we're concerned about the ethics of the "competition" of the industry, but the goal should be to serve readers, not pat each other the back for scoops.


    * A more nuanced argument might consider that even if that's true, journalists have the rule in place because if price goes up, it will lower the total amount of information available, which is a net negative to society. But if you argue the total availability of information, then you need to start balancing that against the rights of the newspaper itself to charge people for content.
     
  6. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Most reporters who use "sources say" are being spun, because they are too timid to force sources to use their names. It's funny how many reporters get taken for a ride by all of these sources. These big-time reporters are getting played more than the new cub reporter covering the water board beat in Podunk.
     
  7. Too timid to force sources to use their names? lol
     
  8. Dan Feldman

    Dan Feldman Member

    So, what would you do if you were covering the NBA and a source you found credible gave you important information to use as long he was give anonymity?
     
  9. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Who knows, but the whole college conference realignment BS, plus the reporting of the NFL lockout, shows media outlets aren't interested in seeking the truth. They just need something to file or Tweet about. Reporters probably want the truth, but they are under pressure to produce content, no matter if it contains any reliable information.
     
  10. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Yeah, I'm in complete agreement with you on this one...
     
  11. Azrael

    Azrael Active Member

    How does one "force" sources to do anything?
     
  12. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Gently encourage.
     
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