Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Al Jazeera deserves the blame, not the Philadelphia media


By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
December 29, 2015, 11:00 AM EST
@PGordonPBR

The Philadelphia media was chastised on Twitter earlier this week for its reporting of Ryan Howard's alleged connections to a doping ring.

The allegations against Howard stemmed from an investigative report released by Al Jazeera that linked Howard to Delta-2, a performance enhancing drug.

Most Philadelphia media outlets ran stories about the report as it was news-worthy by tying a well-known athlete to the underworld of PED's.

Hours later, most of those same Philadelphia outlets ran follow-up stories with quotes and statements from Howard's lawyer, the Phillies, and Major League Baseball.

Though the Al Jazeera investigative report was lacking in evidence, Philadelphia-based journalists had a duty to report on the story.

The role of journalism is to present evidence and facts in a fair manner that allows consumers to determine their own opinions. In this instance, Al Jazeera released a report connecting Howard to a doping ring, so it's logical Philadelphia-based outlets reported on the story.

The Philadelphia media often is accused of sensationalism, however, in this instance, the journalistic blame falls to Al Jazeera. The investigative report lacked supporting evidence, and the primary source admitted to "making up" information.

The majority of Philadelphia media outlets handled the situation perfectly, running an initial report about the Al Jazeera story, and hours later running a follow-up with comments from those involved in the story.

News outlets would have handled this entire story differently in the days before the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, but that's not where we live now. A journalist and a reputable outlet need to straddle the fine line between truth and timeliness. At times, that line means reporting on stories that may be undeserving of coverage.

From a journalistic standpoint, Al Jazeera failed miserably with this investigative report. Securing one primary source isn't enough to run with a story of this magnitude. There needed to be a paper trail or video connecting Howard to Delta-2. There also needed to be other sources corroborating Charlie Sly's allegations.

In the end, Sly may have just pulled Howard's name from thin air.

Al Jazeera should be embarrassed. Not for tackling a serious issue in sport, but rather for its lackluster care of the basic tenets of investigative journalism.

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news source in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of all things baseball related in the Philadelphia region.

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