Butch Jones-to-CU report botched by Denver Post based on single source
Update: Yesterday, we reported that Cincinnati coach Butch Jones had turned down the CU Buffs football coach job, despite the Denver Post reporting that he'd accepted it the day before; see our previous coverage below. Now, we know more about what led the Post to ballyhoo this erroneous information -- trust in a single source that turned out to be flat wrong.
Jones confirmed his rejection of CU's $13.5 million offer yesterday morning, with initial reports stating that he had chosen to remain in Cincinnati. But that assertion didn't hold for long. He subsequently resigned in order to take the head coaching job with the Tennessee Volunteers.
Before the Vols move, Post news director Kevin Dale tweeted the following:
Re: Butch Jones - We believed the story we published online yesterday was accurate. Obviously, the outcome is different. (1/2)— Kevin Dale (@Kdaledp) December 6, 2012
He followed with this addendum:
We pride ourselves on being accurate and regret any misinformation. (2/2)— Kevin Dale (@Kdaledp) December 6, 2012
Not long thereafter, media watcher Jim Romenesko featured Dale's tweets in an item headlined "It's Those Single-Source Stories That Always Get You in Trouble."
Did the Post take the plunge based on the say-so of only one individual? I posed that question, among others, to Dale in an e-mail sent yesterday. In his reply, he didn't answer directly. He wrote:
Clearly we were confident in our sourcing or we wouldn't have pushed the button. As to what happened next, we are fully reporting the story and will publish what we find. If that reporting includes The Post in any way, we'll be transparent about that.The presumptive example of the latter appears in the story "Colorado football moves to Plan B after Butch Jones backs out," whose headline implies that Jones had indeed accepted the job -- although CU athletic director Mike Bohn doesn't say that in comments to the paper. "It was so extremely close," Bohn is quoted as saying. "We thought we were really in good position in getting the deal done until early (Wednesday) night. Then there was a whole new development" -- Jones's head being turned by an offer from Tennessee, presumably.
The article also states: "Late Wednesday afternoon, a source with knowledge of the situation had told The Denver Post that Jones would come to Colorado and only the final details needed to be worked out. Soon after, Jones denied he had agreed to come to Colorado."
In our previous coverage, on view below, we defended the Post, despite the paper getting a big story wrong in an embarrassing way. The blame, we suggested, should be placed on the source, who for whatever reason spoke prematurely, with the result being public denials that gave Tennessee the chance to swoop in.
Of course, there's also the possibility that Jones cynically used CU to pump up offers at schools he preferred -- and it's a realistic one. But the bottom line is, the Post's trust in its source was misplaced, and it's now left looking oafish on a slew of different levels.
Romenesko was right: It is those single source stories that get you in trouble....
Continue for our previous coverage of the Butch Jones-CU debacle.