For the past week, I’ve been chewed up and spit out by both the media, and especially fans of the Buffalo Bills. As agonizing as it is to confess— much, far too much of it is well deserved.
I published a report late last week, citing a source that Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman was detained at the border by United States Customs and busted with having steroids in his possession.
My report, and specifically my choice of words — was inaccurate.
For that alone, I must man up with some apologies, and it begins with Merriman personally. While I did initially report Merriman was never charged and arrested for the incident, that’s not good enough.
He was not caught with steroids on him, yet that’s what I wrote. The article was atrociously worded. Upon reflection, it ranged from amateurish to flat-out irresponsible.
However, before going any further if for no other reason than my sanity—– what I published was NOT completely untrue. Though my erroneous coining of the word “steroids” is emphatically wrong, this was more than just the “routine” border incident most of us have experienced ourselves.
I know there’s a large smattering of people waiting to see what I’m going to write next. Will I provide new information, a much better effort than the initial story, as to what fully went down at the border in order to save my own backside.
It’s not happening, folks.
For the past week, I’ve wrestled daily, almost hourly over further exploiting what actually happened. At the end of the day, however, does it really matter? Merriman wasn’t arrested and re-hashing things now would be beneficial to absolutely no one. Not Merriman, not the organization, not my (shot) credibility…. no one.
Here’s the bottom line and after taking a long look in the mirror, I’m not ashamed to admit this— I’m not an investigative reporter and had no right to imitate one. Truthfully, I’ve never broke this kind of story before, as anyone who read can easily attest. Although I did speak to multiple people regarding the incident, I failed to use it in my report, mainly out of fear that I’d give a source clue away.
As a critic correctly identified, it was the classic case of “Hack Journalism.”
I learned through this. I learned that I don’t have the conscious to potentially bring someone down who doesn’t wholeheartedly deserve it. I don’t have the stomach nor conscious to deal with what comes after you break something of this nature and frankly, don’t have the necessary talent to articulate an investigative article the way it needs to be properly written.
I promise in the future this type of reporting will be left to the real pros who do ground-breaking, investigative work for a living. It won’t come from me, that’s for sure.
Over the past two years at Buffalo Sports Daily, I’ve accumulated a growing number of supporters and naturally what comes with it… more than my fair share of critics.
But love or hate anything I’ve produced, to a man anyone would say this isn’t the type of story I indulge in.
I first learned of the incident three weeks before reporting it. Honestly, I went back and forth at least once per day on if I should publish a story. I weighed the pros and cons and always concluded it was something to stay away from. Truth be told, last Thursday I got a tip that another site was in the process of running the story after learning of similar details.
Regrettably, I rushed to judgment, decided that since I knew about the incident before anyone else and discussed it with trusted media colleagues weeks ago,no one was going to take “my” story away from me.
So I hit the “post” button on a story that was cued up for almost three weeks.
Along the way, I forgot the primary rule of being a good writer, which is “It’s always better to be right than first.”
When I say I rushed to judgment, I mean I really did. I knew without question Merriman was going to deny the allegations, because I knew there was no arrest. I was certain no one from Customs would comment on the record to acknowledge such an incident without an arrest. They couldn’t if they wanted to– not without losing their job anyway.
And with no proof, I recognized a strong majority of fans and media would react with haste towards me.
Trust me— you didn’t disappoint.
As I stated earlier, I don’t have the stomach to potentially ruin someone’s life whether they’re guilty or not and therefore, had no business being in that line of reporting.
To prove at this point my story was accurate other than the using the word “steroids”, I’d essentially have to compromise and potentially even “out” my sources. If there’s one journalistic item I’ll continue to do right by it’s that I’ll never under any circumstance turn on a source.
The story was written poorly and irresponsibly by me, therefore I refuse to bring anyone else down or cause grief to cover my tracks and prove myself (mostly) right.
Though there’s sure to be plenty of naysayers, I’ve built up a nice little following over the past few years. Let this serve as a lesson to any young aspiring writer/blogger out there— It takes a long time to build support, and just one stupid mistake to lose it.
From this point forward, I’m going back to what I take pleasure in exclusively. I love covering and blogging about sports… not being a tabloid style life-changer. I enjoy breaking down games and players, doing interviews, expressing opinions and reporting on actual sports news— such as signings, trades and team beats.
For the most part sans this idiotic blunder of epic proportions, most say I’ve done a decent job at it.
I understand I’ve had skeptics before this who’ve never enjoyed a thing I’ve produced. There’s now more, perhaps plenty that will never move past this erroneous mistake I put squarely on myself.
That’s just the way it goes.
Regardless of anything else, I’m sorry to Merriman for causing him unnecessary grief, forcing major media outlets to investigate him further and causing anyone to question his character due to an inaccurate report. He’s worked hard to get ready for this season and deserves the unwavering support of all Bills fans.
For what it’s worth, I also apologize to the Buffalo fans. There’s already plenty of negativity flowing with Bills nationwide and my article, accurate or not, only piled on to the pessimism. As someone who’s actually been a long-time fan of the Bills, I know how frustrating it can be when the rest of the nation dumps on your team, much less than when it comes from your own backyard.
Even if Merriman did get busted with actual steroids at the border, to the extent needles were sticking from his arms and neck veins as he was being pulled over— and had an “I love steroids” bumper sticker, I regret reporting it and if I had to do it over again— would not.
Seriously, I’m more disturbed at myself for publishing the report than it not being completely accurate. The best investigative reporters in the business put the story as their priority and whoever goes down with it, goes down.
Within minutes of publishing, I felt awful about the possibility of changing someone’s life for the worse, whether he deserved it or not. I’m not comfortable being the judge, jury and executioner and by putting out what I did, that’s what I instantly became.
Lastly and most importantly to me, I want to apologize to media members and some Bills players themselves that I know were let down. Trust me, they definitely know who they are.
Many understandably are disappointed at how poorly I presented my report to the reading public, and surely lost some respect along the way.
Hopefully over time, I’ll earn some of that respect back.
Regardless, I’m moving on from this for good— starting right now.