Sports journalism facing a moral dilemma in the digital age

Sports journalists are tasked with determining the importance of timing in today’s world of immediate news. New York Mets short stop Wilmer Flores was a victim of inaccurate reporting by multiple media outlets during a game in 2015. Jason Pedreros | Multimedia Journalist

By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer

Social media has given reporters direct access to the public, so whenever something big happens, they can immediately spread the knowledge of the event for all of the world to read. For sports reporting, that big news usually has to do with trades, injuries or scandals. While this may make it easier most of the time for people to get this information, it is sometimes inaccurate and changes the narrative of the story.

In July 2015, with the MLB trade deadline looming, reports confirmed Mets short stop Wilmer Flores and pitcher Zach Wheeler had been traded to the Brewers.

The news was released through social media where Mets fans saw the news. It eventually got down to the dugout where Flores heard for the first time he was going to have to leave the club he had been at since he was 16.

As he took what he thought would be his final at bat and his last game in a Mets uniform, Flores started crying after getting on base. The deal, unknown to Flores, had fallen through, and he would not be leaving New York after all.

Then Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson said the announcements of the trade through different outlets of social media would not occur and the breaking news about the trade had a negative impact on Flores.

“Unfortunately social media, etc., got ahead of the facts, and it may have had an adverse effect on one of the players rumored to be involved,” Alderson told the New York Times. “It’s one of those things that happens today with modern communications, etc. It’s an unfortunate situation, but whatever has been speculated over the course of the evening has not and will not transpire.”

Director of sports journalism for Baylor, Jerry Hill, has been covering sports for 36 years and worked for the Waco Tribune-Herald before coming to Baylor in 2008.

Hill has had his share of sports reporting, and sports reporting from before social media to now, when it is a part of daily life. When it comes to events like the one with Flores, Hill said it all comes down to priorities of being correct with what news you share or being the first person to share that news.

“I do think that what it’s done, it’s made so much of an emphasis on being first, instead of always being right,” Hill said. “That’s an issue that I’ve always had because I think it’s good to be first, but I think it’s better to be right … I think that’s what social media, Twitter and some of the other outlets, that’s what it has done is made everyone so focused on being first that they forget about or don’t make as big an emphasis on being right.”

Social media has given reporters a big responsibility to get information out to the public in a quick fashion. Waco Tribune-Herald sports writer John Werner covers Baylor football, men’s basketball, softball and soccer as well as high school football games and said it can be difficult to have to keep up with so much and share so much information constantly rather than how it used to be where the story would just go in the paper for the next day.

“Twitter is my main form of social media,” Werner said. “Twitter you can get it [information] out faster and is probably the main form for most journalists … There’s more responsibility having to tweet, get stuff up real fast and get it on the web site.”

To make sure the information is accurate, instead of assuming the information is true and trying to make a story out of nothing, Hill said what he does is continue putting out information as it becomes available.

“I think in a way, to get the news out, it’s made it obviously more instant and you’re able to, if you want to get something quick out and then follow up on it, that’s ideally what you do,” Hill said. “You hit them with the news or whatever is going on, I try to do updates during the games whereas I wouldn’t be writing that, I would be tweeting it during the game, so I think that’s good. That’s kind of the world we live in now is more instant.”

In today’s world, it’s all about getting the news we want when we want it. Sports fans want news about their teams and their players as fast as possible, and social media has made that possible but can also take away from the accuracy of the information.