On the first day of the 2021 postseason, the Dolphins pushed a new, and factually unsupported, narrative regarding the team’s past interest in Deshaun Watson. Reporters from both ESPN and NFL Network, in an effort to remain in the good graces of those who eventually will be leaking news of the next coaching hire in Miami, gladly passed along the team’s alternative narrative, truth be damned.
Adam Schefter shared a particularly egregious tweet, which tried to pin all past interest in Watson on Miami’s former coach.
“With Brian Flores out in Miami, the chances of the Dolphins pursuing or acquiring Texans’ QB Deshaun Watson are greatly diminished, if not gone, per sources,” Schefter tweeted. “Flores had an interest in exploring a Watson deal, but others in organization, including owner Steven Ross, did not.”
As we explained, that claim is factually inaccurate. The Dolphins were ready to trade for Watson. The only requirement was that he settle the 22 civil lawsuits pending against him first. As PFT has previously reported, 18 of the plaintiffs were poised to settle; four weren’t. If the other four had agreed, the trade would have happened.
Coincidentally, or not, Schefter later posted a dramatic backtrack on his tweet. “Another source insisted today that the Dolphins were all on the same page and that they all wanted Deshaun Watson. ‘100 percent,’ one source said.”
So where’s the truth in all of this? Unfortunately, truth often becomes a casualty of today’s copy-and-paste text-message journalism. In order to at all times, and at all costs, preserve the ability to alert the world to transactions five minutes before they are announced, some reporters will from time to time hold their noses and serve as the messenger for someone who currently wants to paint a certain picture — and who can be counted on later to, for example, share the name of the next Miami coach five minutes before anyone else has it.
It’s a transactional approach that is all about boosting the value of the reporter without regard to the interests of the audience. Really, what are Schefter’s 8.9 million Twitter followers supposed to think tonight? The Dolphins didn’t want Watson, unless they did.
At a time when the New York Times reportedly is considering making a run at Schefter, who becomes a free agent in June, it’s fair to wonder whether one-source reporting will satisfy the Gray Lady’s standards. Unless those standards will be changing, it won’t.
Still, even if the Times reflects the times and authorizes reporting based on something less exacting than two sources (very often, the phrase “per sources” is cover for the fact that it’s one agent sending out a group text message), it’s hard to imagine any media outlet with any amount of credibility shrugging at two tweets that are nearly diametrically opposed in the message they send.
By the way, here’s the truth. The second tweet is the right tweet. The first tweet is the self-serving B.S. aimed at blaming all dysfunction in Miami on former coach Brian Flores. Schefter posted the first tweet to preserve his ability to break the news of the next Miami coach. He posted the second tweet when, apparently, someone he trusts made it very clear to him that the first tweet was as wrong as it could have been.