11 Nov, 2010
Auburn quarterback allegations based on single, unverified source
Posted by: admin In: Uncategorized
This report from FoxSports.com is bad journalism:
Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton had three different instances of academic cheating while attending the University of Florida and faced potential expulsion from the university, according to a source.
Newton, considered the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, attended Florida in 2007 and 2008 before transferring to Blinn College, a junior college in Texas. He first violated Florida’s student honor code by cheating in a class during his freshman year, according to the source.
According to the source, after the student said he had turned in a paper, he and the instructor went through all the submissions and discovered that Newton had put his name on the paper in question.
This report could turn out to be true but that doesn’t mean it’s ethical to publish it. Thayer Evans’ story is based on one, unverified anonymous source.
The author makes no attempt to verify these allegations — even with one other unnamed source. (That technique was once common in journalism; however, practitioners have appeared to abandon it over the last decade.) Furthermore, Evans offered no clues as to the source’s identity or how he came about the information. Is he a casual friend or someone who works for the university? What are his motivations for releasing this information? Also, Evans fails to explain why the source asked for anonymity — presumably because the source is breaking a law by divulging the information. That should be stated clearly in Evan’s article.
In my opinion, this type of reporting represents a clear abuse of anonymous sourcing. At times, journalists must rely upon unnamed sourcing to report the news. Those reports would be received with more credibility if other journalists did not abuse the technique.