“They just started stealing scoops.  It was a practice I never agreed with. … I felt horrible.”

-Former SportsCenter anchor Josh Elliott, Blogs With Balls 2011

ESPN has fallen under heavy, heavy fire for their favored use of mysterious “sources” and accusations that the network blatantly steals and reworks scoops and reports from other networks without giving credit.  The above quote from Josh Elliott at last year’s Blogs With Balls confirmed this growing sense that ESPN, the WorldWide Leader in sports, wasn’t above something as low and contemptible as stealing the work of others and promoting it as their own.  Others in the media have openly mocked ESPN for their perceived using of others’ material as a “source” or “sources.”  This phenomenon may be the single most embarrassing and rightfully criticized characteristic of modern day ESPN.  Yes, even more than Skip Bayless.  Why ESPN feels the need to sourcify everything is beyond me, it’s not like anyone would think any less of ESPN were they to credit Yahoo or CBS or others.  But, it’s a practice that doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.

One of those individuals at ESPN that falls under the most criticism for his liberal use of sources is NBA reporter Chris Broussard.  Broussard and his sources, whoever they are, were put under the spotlight last night with his reporting on a couple major NBA free agency moves.  The circumstantial evidence didn’t look good for Broussard, or ESPN.

First, Nets PG Deron Williams sent the following tweet, declaring his intention to stay with the franchise and sign a new contract, tweeting a Brooklyn Nets logo.

Immediately, other NBA writers from around the country began tweeting information about the contract including dollar amounts, etc.  However, many of them were wise enough to say the news was first “reported” by Williams himself.

All of these reporters used a league/team source to confirm that a deal was in fact going to happen instead of just tweeting a logo, ya know, since that isn’t legally binding. But, these reporters made sure to say the news was first broken by Williams’ tweet. To just go straight to “Source: Deron Williams tells Nets he’s staying” when Williams announced it himself more than 10 minutes earlier would just be silly…

Exactly.  Broussard followed that up by saying he got a “text” from Williams that said he was staying in Brooklyn.  That could very well be true, but it reflects poorly on Broussard to ignore the fact that he didn’t exactly have an exclusive here.  That wasn’t all though, Erik Malinowski was all over Broussard’s reporting last night and he pulled what appeared to be another egregious stunt when he reported a prepared and published statement from Eric Gordon as another sourced report.  There was also a quote from Gordon directly to Broussard.  The quote Broussard said came from Gordon was in Gordon’s statement.  Verbatim.

So that’s not just one, but two examples of Chris Broussard packaging what was already common public knowledge as his own reporting.  What makes this worse for Broussard is the professionalism of other NBA reporters around the country.  The group of reporters above (Marc Stein, Ken Berger, Howard Beck, Adrian Wojnarowski, David Aldridge) and others do things the right way.  They do their work, but aren’t afraid to give credit and/or confirm other reports, ESPN reporters like Marc Stein included.

Sometimes getting it first is taken far too seriously and I’m sure not every ESPN report that happens to be published six minutes late is stolen or lifted from somewhere else.  Sometimes ESPN reporters get a bum rap for stealing scoops, but they owe it to the poor reputation of their company as the reason why.  In a way, only ESPN has ESPN to blame for their sourced reporting earning so much derision. 

As for what happened with Chris Broussard last night, there are two theories as to how this must have transpired and two theories only.

First, Broussard could have been doing his own reporting and what appears to be his nefarious sourcing is actually coincidental.  Maybe he was away from Twitter and got no word of Williams’ tweet and Gordon’s statement.  Maybe he was on the phone doing the reporting on his own and just happened to report this news several minutes after it became common knowledge.  (In that case, he’s not stealing scoops, just late with them.)  Maybe he just happened to get the same exact statement from Gordon personally as was in the statement.  This could just be a case of bad luck that looks really, really unfortunate for Broussard and ESPN.  None of us have a spy camera on Broussard’s Blackberry or iPad so it’s impossible to know for sure.

The second option is that Broussard repackaged what was already public as his own reporting and attached SOURCE on the front of it to make it seem important and exclusive… as ESPN has had a noted habit of doing.  

“They just started stealing scoops.  It was a practice I never agreed with. … I felt horrible.”

You can decide for yourself which scenario is more believable.

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