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Sports Media

Accuracy takes hit from rush

On Twitter, speed can be hazardous

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / September 10, 2010

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One of the obvious reasons for Twitter’s appeal is its ability to deliver breaking news instantaneously. But this week, we were reminded on two notable occasions — both involving Tom Brady — that the race to be the first to report something too often results in an incomplete or inaccurate story.

The news Monday, first reported on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan Show,’’ that the Patriots quarterback was close to signing a three-year contract extension quickly blew up on Twitter, with varying levels of assuredness.

Most notable among the wafflers was ESPN’s Adam Schefter. While the former Denver Post and NFL Network reporter is well-established as a tireless journalist who probably and unofficially leads the league in scoops the past couple of years, he was all over the map as this story evolved.

Schefter at first dismissed a report by the Herald that Brady was close to signing, tweeting at 11:15 a.m.: Aware of Brady-contract talk. But two knowledgeable people say reports of deal being in place are “inaccurate’’ and “wrong.’’ We’ll see. Schefter’s tone changed in a curious way over the course of the afternoon.

At 4:27 p.m., he wrote: Just [because] people say a story is “wrong’’ or “inaccurate’’ doesn’t mean it is. Ron Borges is experienced. Brady deal could be close. Let’s see. It was an odd acknowledgment given that he was the one who used those two words while citing what he knew.

At 6:25 p.m., he followed with a tweet that said in part: Boston Herald was on to something, followed by a link to his own report on Brady’s “potential new deal.’’

Four minutes later came his final tweet on the subject, which at least differed from other outlets’ previous reports on the length of the deal: If and when Tom Brady’s contract gets done, it is expected to be a four-year extension, matching the length of his previous two deals. After all of the scattered speculation, Brady still did not sign the contract until last night.

Brady was at the center of a second Twitter sandstorm yesterday when news of his car accident early that morning began trickling out. Again, WEEI’s morning show was ahead of the story. But one crucial factor was inaccurately reported elsewhere, lastly by Channel 7’s Joe Amorosino, then repeated and re-tweeted by other outlets and reporters.

Brady, contrary to those rapid and dramatic early reports, did not have to be extricated from his vehicle.

It was a critical detail to be wrong about, and a high-profile piece of evidence that racing to Twitter to report something can backfire. And for readers or followers, it epitomized the frustration that can come from using 140-characters-or-less social media as a news source.

The lesson is an obvious one. But the temptation of Twitter will still be strong the next time major news is developing.

Good show by MLB
Since its launch on Jan. 1, 2009, the MLB Network has demonstrated a pleasant knack for reintroducing viewers to compelling stories from baseball history that have often been overlooked.

The latest gem will air tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. when Bob Costas narrates an episode of “MLB Network Remembers’’ on star-crossed Astros fireballer J.R. Richard.

Perhaps the most intimidating pitcher of the late ’70s not named Nolan Ryan, Richard saw his career abruptly derailed in 1980 when he suffered a stroke during a workout.

Just 30 years old when he was stricken, he struggled with personal hardships after his career ended and was briefly homeless, but he turned his life around with the assistance of his former team. Richard’s story is a fascinating one, and kudos to the MLB Network for retelling it.

As for a future episode: How about one on Lyman Bostock, the charismatic and gifted Angels outfielder who was gunned down by a childhood friend’s estranged husband in September 1978?

Must-see TV
Boise State earned a thrilling 33-30 victory over Virginia Tech Monday night, but the Broncos weren’t the only big winner on Labor Day. The prime-time telecast averaged 7.25 million households on ESPN, making it the most viewed college football game — including bowl matchups — since the network began measuring its audience in 1990. In terms of total viewers, the game’s audience of 9.88 million ranks second in network history, trailing only a 2009 matchup between Southern Cal and Ohio State that averaged 10.58 million viewers. Both games drew a 7.3 rating . . . The football version of the T.O. and Ochocinco show is coming to Gillette Stadium Sunday when chatty wide receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco lead the Bengals against the Patriots. If you can’t get enough of them Sunday — or on their own reality programs on VH1 — then Versus believes it has just the show for you. Take it away, Versus press release (minus your preferred all-caps style): Superstars on the field, T.O. and Ochocinco are teaming up to bring their trash-talking larger-than-life personalities to Versus for the “T.Ocho’’ show! I’ll watch out of professional obligation. If you have your own reasons for watching — maybe the clever title hooked you? — we’ll try not to judge and just inform you that it will air at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday nights beginning Oct. 12.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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