Texts, Tennessee, and Truth

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By J Bates

I've been encouraged by many to write a blog about Tuesday, but I'm not the type to whine if possible. Still it was a pretty amusing day, and this could be a good chance to look behind the media curtain. I warn you it may not be what you want to hear.

It all started this morning about 11:30am Tuesday when I got a simple text: "have you heard the news?"  That news of course ended up being that Justin Wilcox is headed to Tennessee to become the defensive coordinator. 

My first call was to a mutual friend I have with Justin who didn't know anything but started asking around.  My next call was to WVLT the CBS affiliate in Knoxville, Tennessee.  That may be where I went wrong as you'll see later.  Knowing Knoxville I figured they'd be excited to get on the hunt too, and with two sports teams looking into it I figured something would break.  So we agreed to share info and get back to each other.

A little while later my friend got back to me, "Done Deal!"  I of course followed up with questions, wondering just how done is done.  It was enough to call Knoxville back and tell them to start pressing because I knew I'd get nowhere calling Boise State.

WVLT then put up a blurb on their website that they were hearing from sources close to the situation that Wilcox is headed to Tennessee.  What they didn't write is that they were hearing that from me and my sources.  After that the Statesman picked it up then other stations in Boise and suddenly a story I was still working on was breaking elsewhere thanks to the CBS affiliate in Knoxville.

Now let me say I don't begrudge WVLT at all.  I've been in their shoes and they had a solid tip that appeals to their viewers.  But by trying to protect their source (me) they set in motion the rest of the market reporting, yet marginalizing today's big story.  They found out the Tennessee AD had met with someone in Denver on Monday and they believed it was Wilcox.

Back here in Boise my next call was to Justin Wilcox.  Breaking Boise State's vaunted protocol rules on contacting anyone associated with BSU football directly.  My reason for doing so was this...if he's headed to Tennessee then he technically doesn't work for the Broncos anymore so I should be able to call right?  Uhh yeah, after having to explain to Justin that he gave me his number years ago and I kept it just in case, the hottest name in coaching rumors told me to contact Boise State.

I knew that email was going no where fast, but I did my due diligence and got what I expected, "nothing to confirm" from Boise State Sports Information.  Dead end.

So I made another call,  and it turns out I got lucky.  Someone with first hand knowledge not only confirmed it, but gave me details.  BINGO!  That got things going, I had multiple sources, details and a silent smoking gun from Boise State.  The newsroom wanted me to be in the first block of the 5:00, break the news on the website, and get the word out on Twitter.  All of which i did at a frenetic pace, along the way accidentally typing "head coach" instead of "assistant coach" in the original story that didn't get changed for about 20 minutes.  Which of course threatened the credibility of the story with dozens of Internet message board media critics.

I even started getting texts and calls from colleagues at other stations and newspapers in Boise asking how I found out.  Yeah, sorry guys I'm good at keeping those secrets...secret.

So here we are.  It's a "done deal" to me in every way except the press release and we were the first to get it out there.  But a funny thing has happened along the way.  NO local media changed or acknowledged anyone but the original WVLT blurb on their website.  Even though with a simple call they could have found out it was KBOI-TV 2Sports that started all this, and even though they have since changed THEIR WEBSITE to say where all this started. 

Oh well as our news director said this evening, "we know where the story started, and so does everyone that matters."  Including those of you who read this blog.

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