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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: A note on Kansas basketball, snow and other competitions

By Tom Warhover
March 25, 2011 | 1:52 p.m. CDT

I need serious help.

I dread more snow and detest the thought of the Jayhawks winning yet another NCAA tournament.

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Yet here I sit Friday, wishing for white stuff and four KU wins.

Thus is my (our?) obsession with competition.

With 4.2 inches of snow, we would be able to say we survived the snowiest season in the recorded history of mid-Missouri.

Let me repeat: The all-time snowiest. In history. As we all know, history is a long time.

Bragging rights somehow makes the misery more bearable.

When KU wins, my bracket stays alive. In my pool my competitors include “Stefani’s cat.” I’m sure Stefani has one of the most brilliant cats on the planet. I see the cat in Vegas some day.

Still, the ego bruises when you’re battling someone who coughs up hairballs.

*****

This week’s biggest Mizzou news was about its men’s basketball head coach. The drive to be first led to some journalistic shortcuts.

It was the second will-it-or-won’t-it moment for MU athletics in as many years. (Remember the speculation over the Big Ten invitation that wasn’t?)

This year:  Will MU be able to keep Mike Anderson? It wasn’t.

Then and now, the dilemma has been when and how to report what other news organizations say, especially when everything comes by way of the most slippery of sources, anonymous sources.

To recap, according to a source that shall remain nameless (the online site Hog Database, “Mike Anderson to Arkansas Rumor, Twitter Edition,”):

Saturday night, Tulsa, Okla., television sports director Chris Lincoln tweeted this: “Reports out of Arkansas say Mizzou coach Mike Anderson to be introduced tomorrow in Fayetteville as Razorbacks new head basketball coach.”

CBS Sports then ran with a tweet and a story. “If reports are true” was how the second paragraph began. The story then quoted the tweet from Lincoln and added some skepticism based on reporting by one of its senior writers, Gary Parrish. His sources said Anderson was close to an agreement "in principle" but that no coming out party was planned for Sunday.

The flood of tweets and retweets followed.

Missourian beat reporters Ben Frederickson and Nick Forrester were on the way home from Washington. They had reported the MU loss Thursday night, toured D.C. on Friday and hit the road Saturday.

They pulled off the interstate “somewhere in Illinois,” Ben said, and called former Arkansas coach and Anderson mentor Nolan Richardson. The resulting piece ran on the Missourian sports blog.

For the next three days, the blog was the place where Ben and Nick described what others were reporting. A story on columbiamissourian.com didn’t run until the University of Arkansas confirmed Anderson’s exit Wednesday night.

It seemed like the right call.

Still, the ego and our website traffic took a beating when all those other sites had stories.

One lesson for next time: The Missourian should have done a better job directing you to the blog.

Whether there should have been more on the main site and in print is still a matter of some debate.

Perhaps Ben and Nick should have written this for the print and online Missourian editions:

“We know you know about what all these other news sites are saying. We can’t verify any of it, as it’s all based on anonymous sources and the reporting of other news sites’ reports. So we’ll use our site tigersports.columbimissourian.com as Rumor Central and aggregate every scrap that’s out there. We won’t publish anything on the main site until we can verify the news independently.”

Or perhaps they could have handicapped the reporters. So Vahe Gregorian of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch might get four stars in the "trusted reporter" category when he wrote about MU's offer of a $500,000 raise for Anderson.

I know this much: I followed every scrap of news and near-news wherever it ran. I knew better than to believe everything. My appetite was still insatiable.

*****

It’s almost noon Friday now. Gray skies look full of promise and depression for snow.

KU, the sports talk people tell me, could be “tight” tonight playing Richmond. That would be good for the Spiders and bad for the Jayhawks.

Good for my sporting allegiances, and bad for my brackets.

Bless me, Norm Stewart, for I am about to sin:

Go Kansas.