Everyone reads it at one time or another. The word “Source”. In reference to someone who says something that any reporter, fan, or just about anyone else will “cite” for information. It’s funny how many people have sources. Some of them are the same, some of them are different, and some don’t exist at all. Think about it, what would stop you from posting a forum thread and saying you have a “source”?
The answer? Absolutely nothing.
At the center of any good reporters articles is their own personal opinion but even the best opinions at times have sourced information. Whether it comes from someone close the topics subject or someone within the organization who secretly exposes every little nugget of information they hear. That person can be a janitor, a secretary, a security guard, or sometimes even a player. In some cases, that person can be someone with an in depth working knowledge of the team. Someone trusted. It’s rare, but it does happen.
How do “sources” become sources? Well, it takes a long time to develop a relationship to the point they trust you enough to give you any information and know that you will not summarily toss out there name and cause them to lose their jobs. In any business, jobs are hard to come by and the retention of those jobs will normally require a high level of internal trust.
When it comes to the Miami Dolphins you can bet that Harvey Greene, the teams media relations director, is a source for no one. At the same time, you can bet the Jeff Ireland is a source for no one. The same can be said about 98 percent of the other members of the Dolphins management team if not 99%. Hell I would go so far as to bet that 100 % of the management staff do not talk. It’s counterproductive for the team as well as their future of employment. If a person gets fired for leaking information, you can bet they won’t land on another NFL team’s payroll.
Yet still, you will hear “sources” all the time. I myself have sources and I will never reveal who they are. Why? Simple. I won’t cost them their job and I will not lose them for information that I need or covet. For me, I don’t call upon my Miami sources often. In fact, I rarely talk with them at all. They do not work for the team but they in turn speak with someone who does. So why would I not pick their brains more? I don’t want them to be in a bad situation. It’s not worth it. In the grand scheme of things, the only thing that sources are good for, more often than not, is the ability to be the first to break news. I don’t seek that type of fame.
Previously I had “sources” in Dallas and Cleveland. They have moved on from their jobs but they were reliable and built out of friendships first and foremost. They actually worked in the management areas of the team and had first hand knowledge, but I never wrote about their teams. So gathering information on things was more about how things were approached from an insiders view or in some cases things they heard about in league circles.
For example, it was easy for them to speak about things that did in fact concern the Dolphins and were not considered sacred. In Dallas, I had the scoop on Anthony Fasano’s trade to Miami a month before it happened. I knew that Tony Sparano was going to be the HC and also knew that Jeff Ireland would be the GM despite objections from Jerry Jones at the time. In Cleveland, I learned about the draft day trade talks between Miami and the Browns in Saban’s first year and that they in fact fell apart. The point is, as both of them told me and remember they are considered “close friends”, that no one will give any information that could be detrimental to the team they serve or anything that could hurt the teams plans. That is something that will hold true of any NFL team.
Of course there are always exceptions and the higher you are in rank and file the higher your sources tend to be. Take for example Adam Schefter or Chris Mortenson. Their “sources’ are likely not janitors or secretaries. In all likelihood they have higher placed “informants” but also consider that despite the level of that person, they too are often wrong.
Sometimes someone overhears a conversation or is told to do some research on this guy or that guy. Sometimes a piece of paper crosses their desk or they run into a visitor in the hall and to be honest, sometimes there was no source at all. Some will put two and two together, connect the dots and make an educated guess and you know what? It was from a source that never existed to begin with. Rarely will a reporter or journalist or TV personality put his or her reputation on the line from their own opinion in a definitive nature. It’s easier to source a phantom and place that blame on them, then to take the credit and face the wrath of being wrong. For some it’s a matter of ego and for others it’s a matter of avoiding embarrassment.
I visit a lot of forums and it amazes how many people know someone that is a “source” for information. It amazes me how easy it is to claim a source. How do you check that for fact? No one will ever give a name. Ever. It’s their word against…their word. They are either wrong or right. If their source is wrong they are not, they only cited that information and this is the game that we as fans and journalists play on a daily basis.
There is nothing wrong with having or citing sources so long as the reader realizes that a source is only a provider of a rumor and rarely one of fact. Even in the event that rumor turns out to be 100 percent accurate. Sources tend to provide credibility for the person who uses the information they provide. The more you are wrong, the less you have. The more you are right, the better you are. Of course that is a pendulum that swings back and forth with every hit and miss.
Over the last week we have read that Mike McCoy was the lock as a head coach for the Dolphins. Armando Salguero of the Herald had a source that pointed in that direction. On Friday, I was told that McCoy was the likely choice. Others claiming “sources” on Twitter said the same things. All of us were wrong. Last year I unfortunately had the scoop on the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. A Dallas contact alerted me to the firing of Tony Sparano that was to come in hours. His information had always been spot on and in that case, it was a matter of being told that Sparano was going on the coaching market. He was wrong. I was wrong for publishing it.
As I said, I unfortunately ran with that information and well, it took on national attention and we all know how that ended. I manned up on that one and apologized on this site as well as by sending a letter of apology to the team. Needless to say I felt horrible over the mistake…as did my “source”.
So what is the purpose behind this over 1200 word article? Only to point out that while “sources” are great to have and can be fantastic assets to any writer or journalist, in the sports world, sources tend to be wrong as often as they are right. In other words, just because someone says they heard it from a source, doesn’t always mean it to be true. And in some cases, that source is only something that was made up to deflect the possibility of being wrong. I get asked quiet often by readers through Email how I got sources to begin with and even more often I get asked “how accurate are your sources”. To which I reply…only as accurate as the outcome.
A source can be great when they are right but nothing beats connecting the dots by loads of research, coming to a final conclusion, and then sticking your neck out to be chopped off and saying “this is my opinion based on what I have heard or deduced from my own research”. More of us need to do that, myself included.
So how do I know that some if not most of what I wrote above is accurate? Simple. I have a source.