The big news in Dallas today is the Cowboys’ releasing starting QB Quincy Carter, just a few days into training camp. It’s a pretty shocking move, as these things go, and the Cowboys are refusing to say why they did it.
But what’s interesting is how different organizations are reporting it. ESPN, since early afternoon, has been reporting that Quincy failed a drug test. Fox Sports, which I believe broke the drug angle (if my rapid Googling earlier today was accurate), says specifically it’s cocaine. Both attribute the news to unnamed “sources.” I haven’t had a chance to listen to local sports radio, but I’m certain The Ticket has been buzzing with drug talk all day.
Now, the DMN, the Startlegram, and the AP all have the same sources that ESPN and Fox do. Len Pasquarelli, ESPN’s reporter, is a terrific journalist — one of my favorites dating back to his days at PFW. But he’s not so much more plugged in than our guys or the Startlegram’s guys. The DMN is hearing all the same rumors from all the same sources.
But none of the local print media has decided to write about the drug angle. They haven’t even gone the route that many out-of-town news orgs have: reporting about ESPN reporting about it. (That’s the classic journalism cover-your-ass way of getting a rumor out there — pointing and saying, “Well, somebody else is reporting it!”)
I’m not passing any judgments — I don’t know what I would do. I just think the difference is interesting. When people talk about the difference between the standards of newspapers and the standards of Drudge, blogs, and other less traditional forms of media, this is exactly the sort of gap they’re talking about.
Were I a betting man, I’d bet $100 that ESPN and Fox Sports will eventually be shown correct in this case, probably very soon. I bet a drug test is what’s fallen Quincy Carter. But I’m not sure I’d print it in the newspaper right now. We’ll see what the DMN and Startlegram do in the morning.
Just a guess, but I imagine they can't legally say anything about it if they want to. Even a Quarterback is an employee, and the law precludes employers from discussing certain reasons for dismissal - at least before all appeals and re-testing and so forth have taken place. Also if he has a decent sports rep, there will be a clause in his contract that makes it breach for them to talk about it. Then - you also have the fact that I believe football players are union members, so there could be a further layer of union rules against talking about it.
I mean the team, of course - the news can say whatever it wants! But I guess given the scenerio, it may have to be based on "unofficial sources."
Joshua Benton is the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, among other things. Before that, he was a staff writer and columnist for The Dallas Morning News. (More.)
Any opinions expressed here are solely mine, and not those of my employer. In many cases, they may not even be mine.