The Dez Bryant video has gone viral.
Well, actually, it hasn’t – mainly because we don’t know if it actually exists.
But let’s put that aside for a second. Let’s not debate whether the video is really out there or what Dez Bryant may or may not have done on camera. How has this saga been handled from a media standpoint?
In a word, poorly. In another word, unprofessionally.
“It never should have gotten out,” Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “You either have a story, or you don’t have a story. There might be a video (or there might not be). And some of the speculation – the first time I heard about it, I was like, ‘Oh, is this going to beak imminently? Are they shopping it around? (Did) TMZ just (buy) it?’ And then (you hear), ‘Oh, it’s five times worse than (the) Ray Rice (incident).’ I don’t mean to make light or joke about the Ray Rice (incident), but what is five times worse (than that)? Ray Rice knocked a woman flat out. I was like, ‘What is this? There’s a video of something five times worse, and it’s not a felony? Who’s been holding on to the video?’
“I don’t think there is a video,” Wetzel continued. “It just became this entire smear campaign probably orchestrated by somebody. But whatever it is, you can’t talk about what might be out there – let alone (the fact that) no one even saw it. Just journalistically, it’s pretty poor. But honestly, you can make money now just throwing it out there, getting the clicks and (saying) later, ‘Oh, there was no story.’ Not only one site, but all the sites. Things just go viral with nothing there. So I don’t know what’s up with Dez Bryant, but right now, he didn’t do anything.”
Indeed, this saga is a detriment to true journalists everywhere. Wetzel isn’t offended by how this report – if you can call it that – has been handled, but he is frustrated by it.
“Yeah, I don’t take it as a personal hurt,” Wetzel said, “but obviously I do think the public ends up thinking, ‘Oh, it’s just click-bait. You’re just trying to do this or that (to get clicks).’ It’s not pretty when you’ve got that many organizations (focusing on this). I mean, ESPN (said), ‘Well, we’ve been looking into this thing.’ I think guys got caught up talking about stuff, but I’ve worked on really big stories. You don’t even tell all the people in your company. You tell as few people as possible what you’re working on. But you never speak to it publicly – because it gets in the way of your chances of getting it, it kicks off the competition and it’s completely and utterly unfair.”
As Wetzel explained, even if someone approached a journalist and claimed to have a video of Dez Bryant – or any NFL player – doing something illegal or controversial on camera, that journalist would have to both see the video and confirm that it was actually the alleged player before issuing a report.
That’s called fact-checking. In other words, Journalism 101.
“No one’s even gotten that far with it,” Wetzel said. “It was just like, boom, there you go. Someone’s just saying something’s out there. Yeah, not a good day for sports journalism or journalism at all, but that’s the reality at this point, unfortunately.”