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Reporter outs anonymous source on purpose

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by godspell, Mar 3, 2008.

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  1. godspell

    godspell Member

    It's been a while since I've posted on here, but this wacky development has me astonished. Is it unethical or just bad form? Either way, it comes off as reckless and amateurish to me.

    I wanted to see what you all thought of Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald outing Bill Parcells as one of his anonymous sources.

    I'm simply amazed after getting an e-mail from a colleague pointing me to the story. My friend had read Salgeuro's blog Sunday afternoon on Jason Taylor and was checking Sunday night at about 10 p.m. to see what he might have added about the big story. At some point during the day Salguero SWITCHED THE ATTRIBUTION of his quotes from "a source close to the Dolphins" to "Parcells said."

    Here's what my buddy wrote to me:
    I'm certain the quotes are identical even though I don't have a page capture of the original to prove it. I could swear on my children because the wording of the quotes was memorable to me. Salguero also left the original time stamp of 11:56 a.m. with no update notice (bad form). Since I couldn't have read the blog until I turned on my computer at around 2:30 p.m., Salguero had been quoting this anonymous source for at least three hours. Given the popular subject matter, I'm sure many readers saw the original version before it was changed to this:


    I'm grappling about the ethics of such an editorial decision. Parcells has been invisible and unreachable for months, so unless he explicity told Salguero they were off the record or not for attribution, why else would Salguero choose to label him "a source"? You'd have to assume then that Parcells asked to be protected and Salguero changed his mind.

    OR ...

    I also noticed the other two papers got Parcells at the ballyard Sunday afternoon while he was watching his buddy LaRussa's Cardinals. So Salguero probably made the attribution switch -- and made it a point in his column to flaunt he got Parcells BEFORE the baseball game -- after the Palm Beach Post and Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel got Parcells on the record. I'm sure Salguero felt the need to scramble and show he got Parcells as well.

    That's somewhat more acceptable (I guess) but you would think Salguero would call back and ask permission first and in the process get some NEW QUOTES TO COVER TRACKS AND PROTECT PARCELLS, THE MOST IMPORTANT SOURCE A GUY CAN HAVE ON THE DOLPHINS BEAT.

    But as a lower-level reporter myself (I've never worked a big beat, but I am in the business), I couldn't just OUT someone like that. It would tinge everything I wrote moving forward. If I quoted an unnamed source or noted intimate information about the team readers would automatically assume Parcells was the source. Plus, anybody who noticed the switcheroo would trust me that much less to protect them down the road.

    I just don't know what to think about this professional decision, but I know it's not good.
  2. godspell

    godspell Member

    One last point, sorry ...

    I think once you label somebody "a source" he has to stay that way for that story. Anybody who read both versions has to think Parcells is a snitch or a gossip or whatever negative pronoun you want to use -- those shady characters front offices always detest and try to weed out of their clubhouses. I'm sure Parcells didn't want to be portrayed as a tool when he agreed to speak to Salguero which is why the reporter has the responsibility to look out for a source.

    Bare minimum, Salguero should have got new quotes or left the story as it was. The more I think about this, the more I'm just amazed at the decision.
  3. godspell

    godspell Member

    Then it's still bad form because of the appearace. No notice that the blog had been updated? No notice Parcells had given permission to go on the record? No new quotes to cover tracks?

    Not doing any of the above opens up the reporter for everything I wrote above and makes Parcells look like a snake. One of the cardinal sins in sports is the guy who talks to the press but doesn't have the balls to put his name to it. Many teams invest a lot of time and money to keep guys like that off their rosters and out of their front offices. I can guarantee Parcells doesn't want to be known as "one of those guys."
  4. jlee

    jlee Active Member

    I doubt the director of football operations would say anything to a media member that he didn't expect to get published.

    Salguero could have been iffy on what was on the record in the conversation with Parcells and decided to go with the information and keep Parcells name out of it as a precaution. He learns the conversation was on the record and makes a quick update to the blog.

    Parcells doesn't look like a "snake" if conversation was always on the record and it was the reporter's misunderstanding. Also, I would looooove to see someone confront him with that accusation.
  5. Barsuk

    Barsuk Active Member

    I seriously doubt the Herald would burn Parcells right out of the gate. That would be a pretty dumb move. I would bet the explanation is much simpler, like he checked back with Parcells, who told to go ahead and put it on the record.
  6. Norman Stansfield

    Norman Stansfield Active Member


    That's all that needs to be said.
  7. forever_town

    forever_town Active Member

    I'd rather err on the side of caution.

    I'd rather have my "source" come up to me and say "you could have used my name and attribution" than have said source tell me I never should have. And yes, I've had people tell me I could have -- or should have -- used their names.
  8. spinning27

    spinning27 New Member

    I've written plenty of stories in my career where I used "off the record" information to get it up quickly. Then later, after it's already out there, other sources may step forward and confirm on the record, thus negating the need to use your anonymous sources.
  9. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Sources change their minds. If that's what happened, no problem with him changing the quotes from anonymous to attributed.
  10. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    And how many people...other than godspell's friend ... would even notice that Salguero changed it from "a source" to "Bill Parcells?"

    My bet is godspell's frined is in the busness and this is something only people in the business would even notice or care about.
    Not an issue whatsoever.
  11. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Also, we're not dealing with a rookie high school coach here.

    Parcells has been around long enough, and dealt with the media enough, he knows when he wants to be attributed or not. In fact, given the circumstances, my bet is he called Salguero and told him he wanted to be on record.
  12. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Except this board is all about something only people in the business would even notice or care about.

    Whether this is much ado about nothing or latent unprofessionalism is a relevant discussion for this place.
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