Miller: The Trouble with Twitter Reporting

Things used to be so simple.

Before the days of social media and blogs, reporters were the ones that, you know, reported. Oh, how things have changed.

Over the holiday break all hell broke lose in the Utah football program — or so it seemed. Twitter rumors abounded about everything from the entire coaching staff leaving to Kyle Whittingham going to BYU to Gary Anderson coming to Utah to Chris Hill and Whitt in some sort of death match. It seemed anyone could tweet anything accompanied by the hashtag “#sources.”

So, what exactly happened? Well, actually not all that much. Sure, coaches Kalani Sitake and Ilaisa Tuiaki left for Oregon State, but besides that, all the smoke led to a severe lack of fire.

Welcome to the world of underground journalism, where anyone with a Twitter handle and a “source” reports.

The Daily Utah Chronicle, like the rest of the school, was on break during all the chaos, and I’ll be completely honest, I’m so very thankful for this. Instead of trying to run down and confirm every damn rumor that came through my Twitter timeline, I got to sit at home, enjoy some hot chocolate and take it all in.

And what did I take in? Mostly the Salt Lake media taking blow after blow — some fairly, and some not so fairly — for citing unnamed sources and trying their best to figure out what the hell was going on. The only problem was that really, nothing was going on.

What did they report? Contract talks, some kind of feud between Whitt and Hill and some went as far as to say they thought, “based off what they were told,” that Whitt was leaving. The reporters were trying to address the rumors. Some got it right, others got it wrong, but the fact there was some kind of manhunt that led to no real, pertinent information shows me this whole thing was just blown a little bit out of proportion.

I don’t know if Coach Whitt was close to leaving, and I’m not sure why exactly Sitake chose to join Anderson at Oregon State, but I do know that Joe Shmoe on Twitter doesn’t either.

When Hill came out and made a statement saying that Whittingham was still Utah’s football coach, that was significant — not because of what was said, but why it was said.

All the rumors eventually led to Hill feeling pressure to clear the air. What he announced wasn’t shattering. So, why in the world did he have to?

I get that people are so eager for information that they will spend hours on end refreshing social media, but it’s time to tap the brakes.

Speculation and rumors are fun, but when it leads to wasting press,’ coaches’ and administrators’ time, I think it has gone overboard.

In the spirit of this new journalism world, I would like to announce that I am still the assistant sports editor for The Daily Utah Chronicle. Oh, no one was asking? I hope that’s the case for the football team next offseason, too.

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