Cleveland Browns ESPN fallout: Sourcing takes backseat in reporting

Cleveland Browns Jimmy Haslam (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns Jimmy Haslam (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Fans of the Cleveland Browns are still reeling from the bombshell ESPN article and it’s raising journalistic questions about sourcing. columnist Terry Pluto recently weighed in on Seth Wickersham’s bombshell article on the Cleveland Browns.

All of which as been broken down by the Factory of Sadness, here.

Pluto basically reminded everyone that he wrote a book titled “The Browns Blues” about the dysfunction under the ownership of Jimmy Haslam, and Randy Lerner before him.

Pluto brings up an interesting point that I wonder if people care about.

He was adamant the sources in his book go on the record. Wichersham’s piece uses a lot of anonymous sources and people described as “staffers.”

"“In the process, Haslam made a lot of enemies – and some are very willing to talk, especially if they aren’t quoted.In my book, I insisted people go on the record. That stuff was harmful enough to Haslam’s reputation.”"

I bring this up because trust in the media, especially in this day and age, is at an all-time low. The media’s inability to get sources to go on the record can ultimately result in damaged credibility.

Look no further than last week’s article on the president.

No sides being taken here, as the Factory of Sadness would love to do nothing more than stick to sports, but the special counsel unbelievably disputed the Buzzfeed report, thus damaging the credibility of the story and the person who wrote it.

I bring this up because sports news, especially in the written form, is littered with anonymous sources. We’d have virtually no trade rumors,hints on coaching hires or salacious articles about our team’s owner without them.

Sports is supposed to be the great distraction in life, so why not be further distracted with a harmless trade rumor that no one wants to go on the record with.

This isn’t to call into question Wickerhsham’s piece or judgement as a journalist. He undoubtedly trusted his sources enough to grant them anonymity in his story.

But eventually, when you let people hid behind the curtain, you risk getting things wrong. We’d like to think people are always doing the right thing, helping to expose the truth, but the risk is that people are human, and a lot of times, behind the cloak of secrecy, they’ll start pushing their own agendas…telling the story from their perspective.

Perhaps the GM of a team, off the record, leaks a rumor to gain leverage over a player in contract talks. It’s great for web views, but someone still gets damaged: The player.

Reputations can take a beating, as Haslam’s did last week.

With that said, the Haslams were sought out to be interviewed, and declined to comment on the story. So when the principles of the story refuse to talk, you get a pretty one sided run down, which what Wickersham’s piece eventually was.

In the end, none of what was reported was new to Cleveland. It’s not exactly a secret the Browns haven’t been a great organization lately.

Next. Rumors: Browns to open against Cardinals on MNF. dark

Do you have a problem in with too many anonymous sources in the news? Do you feel the same away about anonymous sources in the media?