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Fighting with reporters… a conundrum

01/17/11
by

I’m not one to obsess about the whole ‘Mainstream media vs. Bloggers’ thing, but I had an experience over the weekend that caused me to rethink it some. It all started with an article by Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News.

http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/columns/bucky-gleason/article299556.ece

The article was generally good. Bucky clearly has a source close to the sale process, and he’s provided plenty of good info about how things have been moving along. Later on, he presents a section titled ‘Who are the prospective GMs?’. In it, he lists Rick Dudley, Don Luce, Craig Patrick, Jim Benning, Claude Loiselle, Pierre McGuire, Mike Mudd, and Jason Botterill as possible condidates. Out of that list, only Patrick and McGuire are NOT currently employed by an NHL franchise in some way.

 

When I first read this article, I took the list as speculative, just tossing out names that might make sense. Nothing wrong with that at all.
Two weeks later, a new article was posted about Chris Mueller from West Seneca, and his debut with the Thrashers. Good piece on yet another local kid making his way to the big show. Never get tired of reading those.

http://www.buffalonews.com/incoming/article313689.ece

In this piece, Gleason reference his previous list in a curious (to me) way:

In a column two weeks ago, Rick Dudley, Don Luce, Jim Benning, Craig Patrick, Claude Loiselle, Jason Botterill, Mike Mudd and Pierre McGuire were listed among those who could become available and/or are interested. Feel free to add former Wild GM Doug Risebrough and former Regier underling Larry Carriere to the possibilities.

The ‘and/or are interested’ implies that everyone on his list is interested in the Sabres GM position should it become avaliable. This struck me as odd. Why would someone who is already employed by an NHL franchise show interest in a job that isn’t open? I can’t imagine most would even comment on it on or off the record. I know my employer wouldn’t be pleased if they found out I was talking to people about a job at a competitor, even if it wasn’t a postion that existed yet.

 

I sent a snarky tweet to Mike Harrington from The Buffalo News about how I felt Gleason took a speculative GM list he created, and then had it morph into a list of interested parties 2 weeks later. (I probably could have left the snark out, so I need to own that.) He was not pleased with my message. The entire twitter conversation is reproduced below.

@BNHarrington Poor job by Bucky sourcing his own made-up GM list as legit in his column yesterday.

@Beechsack Made up list? Please. He has spoken to every person on it, or at least a rep of each, to gauge interest. That’s what MSM does.

@BNHarrington No current GM is going to comment about the Sabres GM position when the job isn’t even open.

@BNHarrington His original article with that GM list is also clearly speculative,just tossing out possibilities. http://bit.ly/fvBJLu

@Beechsack dude, get a grip….you’re just only 100% wrong..NO ONE talks about things before they happen? Really? Come on. #realitycheck

@BNHarrington Bucky made up a list of possible candidates in article 1, then cited that list as interested candidates on article 2. Period.

@BNHarrington I have no problem with speculation, just don’t try to play it off as fact later. As a reader, that’s how it looks like to me.

@BNHarrington I just have a hard time accepting that employed GMs would discuss other potential job openings while still under contract.

@Beechsack the list is NOT made up. Why is that so hard to understand? He talked to EVERYONE on it or their reps. and SOME CALLED HIM

@Beechsack The MSM doesn’t make things up dude. Sorry. That’s called having standards.

@Beechsack i’ve read your replies before. You’re way better than that. The facts are what I’m telling you. It’s not speculation.

Maybe I’m naive to assume that an employee of one NHL team wouldn’t talk about a possible job opening on another team. The NHL is (allegedly) very strict on enforcing tampering rules with players, and I am of the opinion they’d be just as strict on that type of thing with front office employees.

 

My issue is this. The initial list of GM candidates was presented in a way that made it seem like speculation. If it wasn’t, I feel like that should have been spelled out. If contact with some of these individuals couldn’t be spelled out because of tampering concerns, then the names shouldn’t have been published. Gleason never wrote that he had contacts with these folks, that information came from his colleague. From the perspective of a reader, it just looks sorta fishy. In hockey circles, that’s basically Eklund’s MO. Contrary to what Mike Harrington says, the mainstream media does like to provide an opinion, then source that opinion as factual news later. (Exhibit A : The kindergardners singing to Obama fiasco on Fox News). The Buffalo News doesn’t usually do this, and they deserve credit for that.

 

What do you guys think? Am I way off base here? Do you think Gleason should have made it clearer that his GM list wasn’t just speculation and that he had reason to list those named? To that end, do you feel that readers should question professional journalists, or just accept what they say as truth? Let me know what you think.

 

(And to Mike Harrington, my goal was not to offend you or TBN in any way. If you took any of my comments in that way, I apologize. My personal belief is simply that just as professional journalists question everything to find the truth, readers are entitled to question things too. )

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 01/17/11 1:40 PM

    I am totally with you on this. I’ve been vaguely irked by Bucky’s columns about Pegula for exactly this reason. It hasn’t been immediately obvious when he’s reporting (as in carefully and objectively laying out facts) and when he’s doing his armchair GMing (which he famously does every year). Like you, I assumed Bucky’s list of potential GMs was just a list of guys who were out there in the business and that Bucky gathered using common sense. There is nothing in the original article that suggests otherwise. I think the reader has every right to raise an eyebrow when that list is later sited as a group of interested parties.

    Now, I trust Mike Harrington, so, if he says Bucky has talked to everyone on that list, fine. But in that case, Bucky isn’t presenting his information very well. That’s just a bad job by Bucky.

    This next part doesn’t speak directly to your point, but I want to say it anyway: The larger issue here for me is that over the years I have come to see Bucky as an unreliable source of information. His columns aren’t smartly written, and ultimately I don’t trust him to use his insider information to create a product that is useful to me. So, while I accept Harrington’s assertion that in the MSM facts are checked, and phone calls are made, in Bucky’s case, the bottom line is I don’t trust him to relay the info back to me in an intelligent manner. So, I tune him out. I don’t trust his work. It’s a judgment call that I have every right to make.

    I watched your twitter convo with Mike with interest yesterday. It seemed to me that Mike reacted as if you were accusing Bucky of *lying* about something. In that case, I can understand Mike’s reaction. I can see this both ways. I don’t think Bucky is lying, but I’ve also had the same reaction as you to Bucky’s recent columns. I’m desperate for real, concrete news about what is going on with the Sabres in regards to Pegula and the potential changes to the organization. I’m frustrated that Bucky is the man on the job, because his columns aren’t well written and I’m ultimately confused about what is fact and what is speculation.

    Just because I believe Bucky isn’t a liar, that doesn’t mean I believe everything he says. I don’t really see this as a MSM issue. I see it as an issue specific to a particular reporter.

  2. Tom permalink
    01/17/11 2:32 PM

    That’s a very fair point about Bucky. I have had similar thoughts about his writing, so I wanted to take a step back and make sure I wasn’t looking at this in a biased way.

    I’ve been torn on his sale coverage. On one hand, he clearly has a good source close to the deal, and has brought out some great info that nobody else has. On the other hand, he seems to be trying to work Pegula into his stories any way possible, even when there is a specious connection at best.

    Cast in point : the ‘Even Briere excited about Pegula’ article. ( http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/columns/bucky-gleason/article309729.ece) Briere is never quoted as saying that he’s excited for the sale to Pegula, simply saying that he hopes Buffalo gets a good team back. Only one line in the entire story even connected to two:

    “He almost sounded excited upon hearing about Pegula buying the team with the idea he can win a championship.”

    The rest of the story was simply a rehash of the same ‘the Sabres screwed up on Briere’ saga that we’ve read and re-read so many times. If you read that article without a title, I don’t see how you could come to the conclusion that Briere was excited about Pegula at all.

    I don’t want to hate on Gleason too much; he has the job for a reason. Maybe I’m just spoiled after years of Kelley, a great man who I had to fortune to spend a decent amount of time with in my early 20s. Heck, even if Gleason could write like Harrington, we’d be better off.

    Just stinks that our primary Sabres writer in this hockey mad town is just……meh.

  3. 01/17/11 3:47 PM

    The other problem with Bucky’s coverage is that his tone conveys so much bitterness towards the current administration. That line about the popcorn vendors was just so…not objective. That line is all about Bucky and his ego and his ongoing beef with Golisano and Larry Quinn. That line would’ve been perfectly acceptable had Bucky been clearly writing in his role as a columnist, when his job is to offer an opinion. But when he’s our primary source of information about a deal I’m keenly interested in I do NOT want to have to wade through layers of Bucky’s personal perspective on the Sabres.

  4. 01/17/11 6:23 PM

    When I pull up the first story about potential GMs, the word COLUMN is in giant print at the top of the page which only lends more weight to the idea that Bucky was merely throwing around names. I think that’s a perfectly logical deduction to make, Tom, and I think it makes sense to question it later when it’s suddenly being reported as fact. (In fairness to Bucky, however, reporters don’t generally write the headlines so blame for the Pegula-Briere headline probably goes elsewhere.)

    Overall, I think you’re actually being generous to Bucky. He doesn’t write clearly enough to be an effective columnist and he’s incapable of keeping himself out of a story which makes him a bad reporter. He often comes across as condescending to his readership. I think his role at TBN is very unclear. Is he considered a part of the hockey beat? If he is, then he should be around more. I don’t get the impression that he goes to practices or games on any kind of regular basis although maybe I’m wrong about that. It seems to me that Vogl and Harrington are doing the daily grind and Bucky gets to come along and do the BIG STORIES. Which is kind of dumb. As far as reader trust goes, I have it in Harrington and Vogl. Like Kate, I don’t have it in Bucky. Like Kate said, even when he has good information, he can’t be relied on to report it clearly and objectively.

    I guess all I’m really saying is yes, I think you’re read on the situation makes perfect sense and yes, I think readers should absolutely evaluate not just the message but the messenger.
    You can ignore the Bucky rant in the middle there. :)

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