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05/02/2011

ESPN & Every other Sports Hack/Journalist: Please Stop With "Told Me"

Dm_101122_nfl_werder_on_childress ESPN has given birth to many a wonderful things for sports fans, from endless college football coverage to round-the-clock sports news when there is none. It helped create a new genre of sports journalists - the sideline runway model. It has turned many a hack into wealthy men/women, giving opinions endlessly about subjects they probably don't even care much about. Good stuff.

The four-lettered has also created this false strata of exclusivity, otherwise known as "Told me", that has sadly caught on nationwide. I do it, too.

It used to be back in the day a reporter interviewed a coach/athlete/GM and just reported, "Both teams played hard," he said.

Now, however, in an effort to distinguish ourselves from every other 24-hour outlet a reporter must write or say, "Both teams played hard," he said to me after the game.

For instance, about 10 days ago Mavs coach Rick Carlisle was surrounded by about 20 sports hacks, including a TNT sideline reporter, and answered a question with a rather benign response. A few days later during a Mavs' playoff game against Portland, this TNT sideline reporter recounted the group interview with a "Rick Carlisle told me ..."
Technically, this TNT reporter isn't lying. Carlisle did tell him that. And me. And about 18 others, too. 

Does the reader/listener/viewer really care? Probably not.

Sal_paolantonio This is an ESPN initiative that has morphed its way into nearly every piece of reporting on that network, and nearly every other station and sports news outlet in the nation. The design was to create the illusion that you can't get this news anywhere else, which is often true. If the reporter is talking one-on-one with a player/coach/owner/GM "Told Me" is significant. Or can be. If a reporter has a great relationship with a source, "Told Me" can be a very big deal.

But all too often "Told Me" is a question and answer exchange in front of other reporters.

Even though journalism is allegedly about the news and not the reporter, "Told Me" also serves as evidence to an editor or someone high in the food chain that the interviewer actually went out to collect their own information rather than just sit on their computer and steal someone else's work.

The overall effect of "Told Me" dilutes the genuine, original exclusive reporting. There is so much "Told Me" now that it's become nearly impossible to distinguish the exclusive material from the information that was gathered in large groups.

Before I forget - Mavericks shooting guard Peja Stojakovic told me after the Mavs' Sunday practice that he is very excited and grateful for this opportunity to be on a winning team like the Mavs, and to play in the second round of the playoffs against the Lakers.

@MacEngelProf
tengel@star-telegram 

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