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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Media is own worst enemy

Newspaper executives and publishers wring their hands and shake their heads over the decline of readership and circulation numbers trying to decipher the fall of the media empire. Look no further than the mirror boys.

Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote wrote in a column which appeared on Tuesday that Dallas Mavericks head coach Mark Cuban shouted expletives at NBA commish David Stern following the Mavs' Game 5 loss on Sunday.

Cote wrote: "...there was Cuban, whose billions can buy just about anything but a mortal slump by D-Wade, careening onto the court in a blue Jerry Stackhouse jersey after the final buzzer, screaming profanity at referee Joe Derosa. Cuban then turned to Stern and other NBA officials who were seated at the scorer's table and was overheard to shout venomously in the jubilant din, '[bleep] you! [bleep] you. Your league is rigged."

Cuban denounced the column on his own blog saying, "Apparently the Miami Herald is reporting I screamed at the NBA commissioner after the game the other night. Didn't happen. I didn't say a word to the man. Not a single word. And that was absolutely by intention.

"Apparently the 'reporter' has written he has several 'sources.' Well they must be the same sources the tabloids use to find two-headed babies and aliens because it didn't happen."

The major problem is Cote didn't hear Cuban shout the profanities first-hand. He didn't even get them second-hand. No, Cuban's quote from Cote came third-hand.

Cote explained on his own blog on the Miami Herald Web site that the comment was overheard by someone who is a good friend of Cote's and that he trusted his source's source. But Cote is hardly contrite nor does he apologize for his error. "I was wrong to use the quote. That doesn't mean the words were never said, denial notwithstanding," he wrote.

The media's perpetual ambition to dig for stories and beat competitors is as old as the first newspaper. But it seems that Cote failed the first rule of journalism - know your sources. I can't imagine another reporter running a third-hand quote at another paper and keeping their job.

Isn't that a basic part of journalism, being within proximity of sources? Shouldn't journalists be at least within 10 feet of a source, before publishing a quote? As my boss is wont to say: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

No wonder the public lists the media among lawyers and politicians as the least trustworthy professions out there.


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