Journalists report truth, not rumors

I’m sure by now almost any college sports fan has heard that Tyrann Matthieu was recently released from the LSU football team.

And, I’m sure, almost any UNA fan heard the rumor that he was headed here. Old news, right? So, why on earth is your Flor-Ala sports editor bringing it up now?

I, like much of the UNA sports community, saw the tweets claiming the Honey Badger was headed to UNA (Matthieu has since announced that he will sit out the season at LSU and check himself into rehab).

When I heard the news, I went to sports news websites to see what was going on. What I found was a story on a major sports news website that went something like this:

LSU’s Tyrann Matthieu had been released from LSU’s team for unknown reasons. There was speculation about failed drug tests, but no one knew for sure. The story I read went on to predict that Matthieu COULD POSSIBLY transfer to a Division II school for the season so that he could still play, and perhaps would transfer back to LSU the next year. This writer went on to tell the story of former Florida and UNA player Janoris Jenkins, who transferred to UNA after being kicked out of Florida’s team due to multiple arrests.

Due to multiple retweets of this story, I assume the rumor essentially came from stories such as this one.

I have a bone to pick with “journalists” like this, simply because starting rumors is not our job as journalists. It is our job to report to the public the news—what we do know, what we don’t know, and what can or cannot be confirmed.

I’ve seen this happen before—for instance, last spring a story surfaced claiming Jenkins had used drugs while at UNA. I looked at the story, saw nothing more than anonymous quotes and shoddy reporting and contacted both Athletics Director Mark Linder and Jenkins himself to set the record straight. I also contacted the public relations contact for the NFL (as the incriminating anonymous quotes were attributed to NFL officials) but did not receive a call (or Facebook message or email) in return.

As a journalist, and as a member of the public, I find reporting rumors a gross abuse of journalistic privilege. When a rumor surfaces we should address it, yes, but we should not be the proprietor of such information.

When the Honey Badger rumor surfaced, Staff Writer Matt Wilson did exactly what a responsible journalist should—he contacted Defensive Coordinator Chris Willis directly. Willis stated that he had not had contact with Matthieu, but that he would be willing to talk to the player if he made contact—Wilson tweeted this information out to let the public know what was really going on.

Letting the public know the facts, in my opinion, is what we as journalists are here to do. We are here for you, and our news stories should act as an informative tool rather than a gossip column. And as the public, you should be able to trust that your news source isn’t filling your head with daydreams and conjecture.

So, to that point, I want to assure my Flor-Ala sports readers that I will not print senseless rumors or agendas. When rumors come to me, I will do everything in my power to investigate the claims and give the public the most accurate information. And, please, if you ever see something that is incorrect, I want to hear from you.