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  • Nana, De Ro, and the downside to 24 hour "news" reporting


    Football rumours start any which way. A quote taken out of context can lead to speculation a player is planning on leaving their club. The reluctance of a manager to say whether they will sign a long term deal with their club immediately triggers the bookies to lower the odds on his departure.

    Most of the time these rumours turn out to be nothing at all, especially in Major League Soccer, where every week we discover anonymous tips from a guy who knows a guy on some forum about a player “coming over from Europe,” dot dot dot (though to be fair, that sort of thing has calmed down in recent seasons at the league has grown and matured). Even so, it can often take a lot of hysteria and sometimes more than one news cycle to clear everything up.


    Canadian soccer being what it is, there is a down home coziness unparalleled in other North American sports that allows these rumours to spring up and die in rapid succession, often within hours, if not minutes. Yesterday, when news emerged via Rogers Sportsnet and on Twitter (where else?) that Nana Attakora was released from Toronto FC, a few local soccer journos simply called him up and simply asked him if it was true. So, Attakora got at least two phone calls (Rycroft and John Molinaro at last glance) that can be paraphrased thus:

    “Did TFC release you Nana?”


    End of story. Attakora left training early along with Dan Gargan due to illness. Somewhere down the line this became “Attakora is leaving TFC.” Irresponsible journalism? Perhaps, but certain not without precedent in 24 digital sports news reporting. And all it took to clear up was a couple of friendly phone calls.

    Still, it is alarming how a bit of news with important consequences initially originated from what most consider to be a fairly legitimate news source, Sportsnet. Even the patented De Rosario Breakdown in Communication with the Powers That Be routine—this time, neglecting to tell New York Red Bulls’ head coach Hans Backe he was planning to play for Canada in the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup tourney—spurned journos to get quotes from Stephen Hart on the matter instead of the source. At least one reporter however called De Rosario and asked him. Paraphrased again:

    “You want to play for Canada in the Gold Cup, Dwayne?”

    “Yeah, if they let me.”

    End of story, again.

    It’s safe to say this kind of flash fire reporting is a recent thing. In the old days, when print news was published once a day, the De Ro and Attakora “stories” would either have never made press, or appeared as truncated “news and notes” bullet forms nestled in the back of the sports section.

    Now, with online media on all the time, what we’re witnessing isn’t up-to-the-minute journalism, but the journalistic process laid out in real time, masquerading as news. Saying Attakora is leaving TFC without confirming it isn’t a “rumour,” it’s a malformed news story. Calling Attakora and asking if he was leaving or not would normally be part of a journalists job, not reason to put out a wire report, or, heaven help us, a Tweet.

    Canadian reporters should be thankful for the access they have to players and managers. But the question remains: why didn’t they use that access yesterday prevent hysterical and patently false rumours from littering the RSS and Twitter feeds in the first place? Why did Stephen Hart’s reaction to the De Ro news supersede Dwayne’s own telling of the matter? The answer is likely because for a competitive sports media industry, any news, even when it’s not news at all, is better than nothing.

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