By TED SILLANPAA
on Twitter @TedSillanpa
Jason LaCanfora’s an NFL insider, whatever that is, for CBSsports.com. He broke a story that represents everything that’s absurd and wrong about sports journalism these days.
LaCanfora wrote Sunday that the 49ers have traded quarterback Alex Smith.
Wait. Woa. Hold it. That’s not the first part of the story LaCanfora broke. In order for that to be the story, in order for it to be any story at all, we’d need to know which team acquired Smith and what they traded to the 49ers in exchange. That would be a news story that means something to 49ers fans.
LaCanfora posted on Twitter that he doesn’t know where Smith is headed and that this trade isn’t official. He tweeted that “both clubs view the trade as effectively done.” The guy then acknowledged that the Chiefs and Jaguars “make sense” as destination spots for Smith.
It’s no longer about reporting the facts or digging into the details. It’s about web page views and tweets and followers. Be first! Be first! Report it first! Or, in this case, just report what we knew and give the impression you know something you then admit you don’t know. Being first is meaningless if you don’t know a darn thing.
LaCanfora’s getting attention from NFL fans who mistake rumors for stories. I’m seeing 49ers’ fans giddy over what the club will get in exchange from whatever team hasn’t officially made a deal with the 49ers. He’s getting Twitter hits and hits to his link on the CBS website.
The 49ers announced during Super Bowl week that they were going to trade Smith or release him. So, a trade was “effectively done” when the club declared they’d deal the quarterback. They’ll find a trade partner to give up a third round pick and another draft pick for Smith. The Chiefs, Jaguars and Browns are all teams that “make sense” as clubs that would find Smith an upgrade over other quarterbacks on their roster. All we need to learn is … where the 49ers trade Smith and what they get in return and that’s all that LaCanfora doesn’t know!
This is the state of sports journalism. A guy who is actually pretty prominent in NFL circles tweets that the 49ers are trading Smith … but he doesn’t know where the guy’s going or what the team will receive in return. Hey! All 49ers fans care about is what the organization gets in return for Smith. The Jaguars, Chiefs and Browns already know that they didn’t have a quarterback on their roster last year who, like Smith, was among the leaders in quarterback efficiency rating. Their fans know that getting Smith makes “sense.” They just want to know if Smith’s going to their team.
LaCanfora has no idea. He can’t tell fans anywhere anything that they don’t already know. But, he wrote on Twitter that the 49ers had traded Smith and it became a national story.
It’s too late to put the genie back in the bottle and expect the insiders who’ve replaced journalists to get their facts straight, or just get facts, before reporting something that hasn’t officially even happened yet. It’s too late to expect fans to ignore a report built so clearly on what we all knew, oh, a month ago.
So, yeah, Overtime confirms that the 49ers have a plan in place to trade Alex Smith. The Browns, Jaguars and Chiefs don’t have a quarterback better than Smith. LaCanfora’s on his own to explain where he got his information and how a trade is “effectively done” without him being able to tell us anything about the trade.
If I confirm that the 49ers do want to trade Smith and that they are trying to trade him, does that make me an NFL insider? And, I do know which teams make sense as trade partners, so … really, what keeps me from getting insider status?
Wait. I don’t want to be an insider if insiders work for page views and web hits. I sort of learned that sports journalism is based on informing and enlightening fans. All I can do here is give you a heads up … and tell you that you might not want to lean on insiders for actual news.