At around 6:15 Monday morning, during the first commerical break in #TWOS, I first saw the "news" that Ryan Mathews had been arrested. Of course, we now know that it wasn't news, after police corroborated Ryan's claim that he wasn't involved in any way in an altercation at a Gaslamp nightclub.
The story came to me from several places at once on Twitter...a link to the original post on Examiner.com, a link to another article written on 10news.com (my other employer), and a re-tweet from another local TV station.
When we came back on the air a few seconds later, I let the audience know what was being tweeted...there's a report that Ryan Mathews has been arrested, and we'll try to find more details. Still on the air, I quickly called up the article from Examiner.com. I wasn't too familiar with the website (it looked pretty legitimate), so I did a quick check...it's a local news/blog site with over 40,000 Twitter followers that's been around for nearly 20 years. OK, this seems more credible than a post on a private blog or message board. I gave the name of the author, credited Examiner.com again, and read the article on the air.
Should I have waited for more confirmation before reading the story on the air? I don't think so. It was available to see for anyone with an internet connection. Had someone called me with a tip about Ryan Mathews getting arrested, I would have waited for the SDPD to call back with confirmation before reporting the story on TV or radio, but in this case, the genie was already out of the bottle.
As a talk show host, it's my job to react to the sports stories of the day...and this certainly seemed to qualify. The first order of business was judging how credible the report seemed. Unlike some internet reports, which are no more than half-baked fan gossip and rumors, this story had a direct quote from a named eyewitness, who claimed to see Ryan Mathews both "knocking a guy out cold" and being taken away by the police in handcuffs. This now seems like a credible-sounding report. At that point, we decided to discuss the story further, and the possible implications for Ryan Mathews and the Chargers if it turned out to be true.
We tried to get a hold of the author to see if he would come on the air, and were also unable to reach the Chargers for comment. Callers started to chime in with their opinions, and we moderated a discussion on the topic, until the police announced shortly after 8 o'clock that Mathews had not, in fact, been arrested.
Looking back, I'm not sure what I would have done differently. Many different local and national outlets, from the U-T to Sports Illustrated ran headlines about the report of Ryan Mathews being arrested. To simply not talk about the story because it hadn't been 100% confirmed would have been negligent on my part. I didn't condemn Mathews, other than to say that he's the last player who can afford to get mixed up in off-the-field problems at this point in his tenuous career (which is still true).
Moving forward, I think we'll all be skeptical about anything published on Examiner.com--which is how the media industry polices itself. Make a big mistake, lose credibility in the future.
Many have suggested that we were in the wrong for passing along the story and commenting on it. You have a right to that opinion, and are probably unhappy with a lot of media outlets today. I left the radio station yesterday feeling a little dirty, myself. But I'm still now sure what, if anything, I would have done differently if I could go back and change things. Not acknowledging what was shaping up as a huge Chargers story was simply not an option.