News at the Speed of Rumor

by Dan Ward

In the weeks and months leading up to Dwight Howard’s decision to stay with Orlando, we had all grown tired of the saga.  Will he?  Won’t he?  Did he?  Didn’t he?

We now know the answer (an answer that I suspect has Magic fans dancing in the streets), but in the hours prior to Dwight’s decision, media coverage provided some great comic relief.

At one point Wednesday evening, the Orlando Sentinel website was simultaneously reporting that a) Dwight was leaning toward staying another year, b) Dwight had decided to stay another year but the decision was delayed because of a paperwork snafu, and c) Dwight said he wanted to stay but refused to sign a waiver, meaning he almost certainly would be traded.  (I’m not including links to these stories because in all likelihood they will have changed by the time you read this.)

By Thursday morning, the coverage was down to only two directly opposing headlines:  “Report:  Howard has a remarkable change of heart, will opt-in for 2012-13” and “After topsy-turvy 24 hours, Magic now likely to trade Dwight Howard.”

This is what happens when your daily newspaper decides to compete with the TMZ’s of the world and report as breaking news every new rumor.  There’s no way to keep up, and the result is a mix of stories that say completely different things.

I guess there is a bright side, though.  When your newspaper publishes separate stories that cover “yes,” “no” and “maybe,” one story is bound to be correct.

One Response to News at the Speed of Rumor

  1. With the speed at which news is “reported” these days, it opens up the discussion of what the word “news” actually means. Just recently, the Public Relations Society of America defined the public relations industry to much controversy. But I want to challenge those of us who deal with the media to really examine how news and journalism is defined.

    I’m not trying to criticize the men and women who make a living as a journalist; after all, it’s what I thought I wanted to do with my life. However, stories are rushed and not examined to the level of detail that they and the public deserve. It’s the reality of our fast-paced society and the right-here, right-now mentality.

    That’s why the Dwight Howard coverage yo-yo’d so much; it wasn’t about what reporters knew or discovered to be true, but “here’s the latest.” And by latest, I mean latest rumor.

    When good reporting is the exception rather than the rule, it’s rather scary to think about. The Fourth Estate was granted such powers to protect democracy. If abused, a reporter’s word will be as good as an article in TMZ.

    Stan Van Gundy, head coach of the Orlando Magic, had this to say about being a reporter: “That’s a great profession right there. You never have to be right.”

    As PR professionals, we have a role to play too. It requires every one of us to be true to each other – to fellow practitioners, our clients and of course, the media.

    If you can’t be trusted, what else do you have?

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