Throwing a match into a puddle of gasoline

By AUSTEN GREGERSON

Oh, Twitter, what are we going to do with you? We take our eyes off of you for a second and you go and lie to everybody, saying Jon Gruden has signed to become the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes football team.

Bad Twitter! Very bad!

Yes, less than 24 hours after Randy Shannon had been fired, reports started popping up that Jon Gruden had been signed to a $3.4 million annual contract to take over the vacated position. Specifically, sportswriter Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald tweeted out reports that the deal had been signed and he was simply trying to “confirm” he story. What Navarro did by sending off that single tweet, that Jon Gruden had already agreed to coach the Hurricanes, is provide the only spark needed to ignite an entire fan base into believing their rudderless program had already hired a new coach. Only problem was, well, it was not the case.

I have no problem with Navarro trying to get out in front of the story. That’s half the fun of journalism – not only being right, but being first as well. But after re-reading his time line of tweets, what struck me as odd, or at the very least premature, was how he had basically reported the story with the same authority as if it had, in fact, been confirmed.

I also don’t think for a second that Navarro was in any way lying or knowingly spreading false information. I’m sure he had gotten that information from a good source, one that he trusted, and he ran with it on Twitter.

Not having the guardian of an editor to slow down the news reporting process makes Twitter a dangerous thing. Now, what should have been the behind-closed-doors process of reporting a story became exposed to the world, a world that doesn’t understand how a news story comes to life. The attempt to find somebody to confirm a rumor you are hearing probably happens every time a story has been written, ever. The only difference is the reader never knows about it. Showing the few thousand Twitter followers you have the process of fact gathering proved to be too much for the Internet community to handle.

What may have surprised me most was not the fact that Navarro tweeted it, but that he seemed to not understand what his message would do. His account on Twitter is not a personal one; most of his stories and video journals are linked from there. It is very much his business account, so in the eyes of the reader, everything sent from that profile carries the same weight as a byline in The Miami Herald. People who like to troll the Internet for scoops are rarely going to be discerning enough to wait for an old, stodgy mainstream media outlet to confirm the story. All they needed was one legitimate spark, and boy did they get one.

The realities of the alleged contract discussions between Miami and Gruden on Sunday will only be known by the two parties involved. And for me, I won’t believe anything said about this coaching search until I see a guy holding up a Canes jersey at a press conference. But until then, I am going to sit back, relax, and watch everybody else flail around looking for their first lead.

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