Image courtesy of Vikings.com

I’m certainly not an example of the perfect sports journalist. I make stuff up, although I try to clearly identify the line between facts and my own opinion, and I’m all for exploring the fan fiction side of the NFL through entertaining endeavors such as mock drafts or free agency predictions.

I’ve really had a burr up my you-know-what about some recent reporting, however, and want to explain how it comes to be that an entire fanbase can me mislead to believe something untrue. If nothing else, at least the readers here at VT can be that more educated about how a false report can come into being.

So, on Saturday, Bleacher Report posted this video centering on Jason Cole’s sense of the Adrian Peterson situation.

In the video, Cole explains that he’s hearing that Peterson wants to play for the Dallas Cowboys and that a source told him the Vikings don’t have interest in that scenario. Neither are all that shocking considering Peterson’s desire to play in Texas has long been known and that the Vikings gain nothing by admitting they want to dump Peterson, even if they do.

It is important to note that Cole never said Peterson demanded a trade and never said Peterson has spoken with the Vikings about his desires. With that understanding, tell me how we arrive here with a reputable media outlet like Sporting News:

The report said that Peterson has met with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman to request a trade.

The article on Sporting News, penned by Brandon Schlager, drew immediate reactions from upset Vikings fans that hadn’t seen the original Bleacher Report video from which it was drawing from. It also immediately jumped out to me because a meeting between Spielman and Peterson would a major violation of the suspension that is currently in place until April 15th.

I used Twitter to call his article into question and soon the following edit was made.

The report said that Peterson has spoken with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman to request a trade.

Soon after the edit was made, Schlager had this to say on Twitter, directed to me and another VT follower.

I again used the Twitter conversation to point out that swapping the word “met” to the word “spoken” in the article (without an acknowledgement of the edit to his readers) didn’t make it any more accurate or truthful. I went through the evening without hearing anything further from him. The bastardization of his completely vague “report” caused Cole to go on the defensive on Sunday, at least a little, when people were misdirecting accusations of false reporting to Cole.

 

I actually feel bad for Cole, because he really didn’t say all of the things he reportedly said, and for an NFL fanbase that has placed so much importance on video evidence over the last year, the fact that Cole’s words are freely available to watch makes the situation even more pathetic.

So, back to the culprit, I again went back to the Sporting News article that had been tweeted out to their 117,600 followers and was actually mildly surprised to find that it had yet to be corrected or altered any further. It also went out to their various social media feeds like Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, their email subscribers and, well… you get the point.

It was then that I decided I was going to write this article, if for no other reason than for our readers to be the most informed ladies and gents around the water cooler on Monday morning. Out of fairness, however, I thought I should give Schlager and Sporting News a chance to comment on the situation.

I reached out to them and got an initial request for an email outlining my issues with their reporting. I told them they are welcome to comment, and this was fairly early in the day on Sunday, and I proceeded with my day waiting to hear back.

As the day progressed, however, people with more prominence than myself made it known that the reports were erroneous.

For example, Josina Anderson of ESPN reported early on Sunday:

Adrian Peterson has not asked for a trade to the #Cowboys and has not had any conversations with (Vikings GM) Rick Spielman.

Then, later on Sunday, Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer were both guests on PFT Live from Indianapolis and they both explained that the supposed conversations with Peterson never happened. They both explained that such conversations because, as we’ve noted, communication between the Vikings and their star running back is currently prohibited. They were clear that Peterson has not, to date, requested a trade from Minnesota.

It wasn’t until very late Sunday night, and after one last attempt initiated by me, that I got a response from Brandon Schlager at Sporting News. To his credit, the content of the article was finally changed and the error was acknowledged in this aside:

The original version of this story stated that it was reported Adrian Peterson had spoken with Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. That was not the case.  Per NFL rules, the Vikings cannot engage in dialogue with Peterson until his suspension is lifted. It has since been reported that Peterson has not asked the Vikings for a trade.

I also got an emailed explanation from Brandon Schlager, who works for Perform Media as it turns out, and he took sole responsibility for the error. I asked if I could print his explanation, but he declined and did not want to be quoted in this article.

I appreciate and respect Schlager for admitting the mistake and doing what he can to make things right retroactively. My purpose for continuing with the publishing of this article isn’t to give him a harder time than I already have, but rather to serve as a reminder to all of us consumers of today’s instant-opinion world to take a minute and think about what exactly it is that we’re reading, or watching, or listening to.

I’m not perfect. VT isn’t mistake-freeWe all get caught up in the storylines that unfold in real time on social media. I get it.

But, keep in mind, it only takes one hasty misinterpretation to go unnoticed in the editing process and all of the sudden you’ve got thousands of people opining on something that, in fact, never happened.