Imagine my surprise Saturday night when I was watching Joyce Peterson anchoring WLMT’s 9pm news Saturday night. Not surprised that she’s anchoring, it was the breaking news that led the show. Here’s the headline: Allen Iverson Leaves Memphis Grizzlies.
According to the way the story was reported, Iverson asked the team’s owner for permission to “leave the team,” which was granted. He was then headed off to Atlanta to attend to family business. Peterson tossed to a live report, which basically repeated that bit of information with the promise of more to come.
After listening to the whole story, I had the distinct impression that the headline didn’t actually tell the entire story. It seemed that Iverson just needed some personal time off to take care of something with his family, not that he was “leaving” the team after complaining of having to come off the bench.
The Sunday edition of the Commercial Appeal was a little more informative, although its headline was also a tiny bit unclear: Allen Iverson leaves Grizzlies for personal reasons.
The CA report went on to say that Iverson had asked for an “indefinite leave of absence.” That’s a little bit different that him quitting the team in a huff, which is what the “myEyewitness News” story was still reporting into Sunday afternoon. While the team is not saying specifically when he’ll come back, the team owner says it’s nothing more than that.
So why the breathless reporting that AI is gone? I know the guy has had a sometimes tense relationship with this previous teams, but why write the story in a way that even suggests that he’s not coming back? I know that occasionally, an incomplete story comes into a newsroom. I also know there’s a pretty big urge to report what you’ve got and go with the rest when it comes in. Still, I consider myself a fairly experienced news consumer and the headline left me with the impression that Iverson was gone for good. The story itself managed to be incomplete and confusing.
How about this? Next time, report the nugget you’ve got, without sensationalizing it. After all, at the time of the original story, it’s obvious that no one at “myEyewitness News” knew the extent of Iverson’s absence. Why not make that part of headline, as in “Iverson Goes, Return Unknown,” to indicate the fact that you don’t know all the facts? I’m not trying to be too critical, but the story on 30 and the myEyewitness.com site made Iverson out as a bad guy who just up and left after complaining about his playing time. If that turns out to be the case, so be it. But the CA story makes this point: “the veteran guard did not ask for a trade or request to be waived. Team owner Michael Heisley said the team knew about Iverson’s issue before signing him to a one-year, $3.1 million contract in September.”
Most of the stories on other sites are making the case that no one knows whether Iverson will play again or not. Seems like nobody knows enough about this story to report it accurately.
Edit: Just watched Fox 13’s Sunday night report. Scott Madaus went out for man on the street reaction to Iverson “leaving the team,” and how people are “fed up” with his antics. Nothing from the team or the player on what his plans actually are. Doesn’t anyone get facts before going on TV anymore?