Coaching rumors are tasty, but they don't stick to your ribs

May 8, 2011 

The same question keeps coming up lately.

What really happened with (insert name here)?

Everybody wants to know the inside scoop on why this coach left or that coach changed jobs, and many have a theory or rumor to contribute to the discussion.

And there has been plenty to discuss in that regard recently, with a flurry of movement in the Hilton Head Island high schools.

Realizing most of you didn't go to journalism school, this seems as good a time as any for a quick, oversimplified briefing on reporting ethics and what can and can't -- or at least should and shouldn't -- make its way into print.

What we can/should/do print:

  • Comments from outgoing and incoming coaches, administrators or players, when relevant.

    What we can't/shouldn't/won't print:

  • Comments from anonymous emails, upset parents who only have second-hand information or people who refuse to speak on the record and attach their names to the comments.

    It can get more complicated in some cases, but that pretty well sums it up.

    Basically, any statement that begins with, "Well, I heard ..." is virtually useless to a reporter. Sure, it's nice to know, and we can ask the powers that be whether there's any truth to the statement, but until someone with first-hand knowledge confirms it on the record, it isn't going in the newspaper.

    Certainly, most coaching changes come with some sort of juicy back story, or at the very least something more interesting than the sanitized reasons given publicly for the change, such as "spending more time with family" or the ever-popular "pursuing other opportunities."

    Those are the stories everyone wants to talk about and read about.

    With almost every coaching change we report comes a rash of conversations beginning with, "That's not what I heard," and launching into the "real" story of why the coach is no longer the coach.

    And, sure, we often wrinkle our brows about the reasons given for a change and wonder if there's more to the story than meets the eye, but when both sides -- coach and administration -- are singing from the same sheet of music, so to speak, we're usually left spinning our wheels.

    The other problem, from a reporter's standpoint, is when no one who can speak with any authority or credibility wants to do so on the record.

    A little deductive reasoning can go a long way, especially when "no comment" is involved, but all we can do is report what we can confirm and let readers draw their own conclusions.

    Want to know what really happened to (insert name here)?

    Give them a call. Maybe they'll tell you more than they told us.

    Otherwise, you'll just have to read between the lines.

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