We’re not sure what or why: What did the NFL know and when did the NFL know it?
Like you, we have no idea. We’re in no position to say.
We are in position to watch TV and evaluate the journalistic conduct. In that respect, we were struck by something we saw on last night’s Maddow show.
Rachel was speaking with Shira Springer, sports enterprise reporter for the Boston Globe. Below, you see the first Q-and-A.
Springer’s statement struck us as odd:
MADDOW (9/11/14): So tonight we have the owner of the Ravens, as well as the NFL itself, disputing this report from the AP that the league was sent this explosive tape of Ray Rice beating his fiancée months ago, well before it became public this week. Where does this stand right now in terms of what is known about the league’s behavior and what still needs to be proven?On a journalistic basis, we thought Springer’s answer was odd. To watch the full segment, click here.
SPRINGER: Well, I think what we know about the league’s behavior, just from its track record, is that they do seem to have an arrogance about them and they think they can look the other way, turn people’s focus the other way, and not confront issues straight on. I fully believe that somebody in the NFL did know or did see this tape and that they are trying to cover it up. I think more about that needs to be proven though at this point.
We have no trouble believing that NFL officials “have an arrogance about them,” including a desire to avoid confronting issues straight on.
On the other hand, we often notice journalists who seem to have similar instincts. In this instance, we were struck by Springer’s rather ardent declaration:
“I fully believe that somebody in the NFL did know or did see this tape and that they are trying to cover it up.”
Is that a journalistic statement? On what basis does Springer “fully believe” that someone in the NFL saw the tape and that someone is trying to cover it up?
It’s certainly possible that such things are true. But on what basis does Springer “fully believe” these (rather imprecise) statements?
Who is Springer actually talking about? Did Roger Goodell see the tape? Is he the one who is trying to cover it up? Or is someone else in the NFL trying to cover things up from him?
It’s a basic journalistic skill: you’re supposed to be able to tell the difference between the things you actually know and the things that aren’t known yet. Springer sounded very ardent about the fullness of her belief. But on what basis did she fully believe it?
Rachel never asked. She simply moved to the next question.
The exchange we’ve posted wasn’t a journalistic exchange. We’re not sure exactly what you’d call it.
Basically, everyone knows who the designated bad guys are in the current chase. The guest came on and threw daggers at them. It’s a standard way to do cable.
Let's convert this to Watergate lingo:
What does Springer fully believe and on what basis does she “fully believe” it? And if more of this matter needs to be proven, why does Springer say that she “fully believes” anything at all?
Journalists aren’t supposed to “fully believe.” When journalists start “fully believing,” we all end up in trouble.
Journalists aren’t supposed to “fully believe;” they’re supposed to state the proven facts. When journalists move beyond that point, why can’t a person politely suggest that they may have an arrogance about them, just from their track record?
Why we mention this: We're so old that we can remember when the Shira Springers all fully believed that Al Gore said he invented the Internet, along with about three hundred other mandated full beliefs.
Al Gore hired a woman to teach him how to be a man! Back then, the Springers fully believed it, would say it on TV.
Can we talk? According to the civics books, journalists are supposed to develop suspicion about full belief.