Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Did The Binghamton Senators Beat Reporter Fabricate Quotes For His Story? It Sure Looks That Way

The sports media landscape has been under heavy scrutiny the past few years. Whether it was the recent Manti Te'o hoax that had the mainstream media duped due to lack of research, or Sarah Phillips pulling the wool over the eyes of ESPN, or even Jayson Blair fooling the prestigious New York Times, journalists everywhere have been under attack, and many rightfully so. The internet allowed your average sports fan to due their homework and find out inaccuracies after a just few clicks of the mouse.

In some ways it's annoying for a writer, even I've had people nitpicking over the smallest of details, but it also held writers to a higher standard, which is always a good thing. It seems the latest to fabricate some of his work may have a Senators twist. Matt Weinstein, the beat writer for the Binghamton Senators, who's employed by Press and Sun Bulletin, has been accused by another beat writer of not only lying, but completely fabricating some of his work, and the evidence is pretty compelling.

The whole incident started after the B-Sens 3-0 shutout win against the Adirondack Phantoms on February 6th in Glenn Falls, NY. It was stellar win for the B-Sens, but nothing out of the ordinary happened, just another minor league game in the books. All the drama to come happened in the post game interviews. This is what we know to be true. After the game Weinstein went to the Binghamton locker room to get the standard quotes for his story, all parties agree on this part.

Where it gets weird is the quotes in his game story attributed to Adirondack's head coach Terry Murray and their goalie Brian Boucher, both of whom should be familiar to you if you're a hockey fan. Terry Murray is of course Senators GM Bryan Murray's brother. In the post game story, Weinstein had quotes from both Murray and Boucher included, nothing weird about that right? Except the small detail that Murray refused to talk to the media after the game and Boucher denies speaking to any reporter from Binghamton. Going as far as to say "Whatever quote they made was made up".

Adirondack Phantoms beat writer Michael Cignoli, who I should mention is the one who brought this story to light, has done an excellent job at exposing the fabrication. He digs deep and I encourage you all to read all of his posts for a longer, more detailed version of the events that transpired.

One thing's for sure, through Cignoli's detective work neither Boucher or Murray ever said those quote's from Weinstein's story. In fact, the general consensus is that Weinstein never even spoke to either of them that night. Pretty shady right?

The story got some minor attention, but enough that Weinstein was forced to at least issue a statement in his defence that went as follows:

"I would never purposely hurt the integrity of the Press and Sun Bulletin or myself by faking anything. I especially wouldn't drive six hours round trip to do that either," Weinstein's statement reads in part. "Actions will speak louder than words and I hope my continuing coverage will show that I take pride in accuracy and getting the story right." 

It seems kind of foolish to lie in your statement about lying after you've been proven to be a liar doesn't it? Especially the part about actions speak louder than words when you were exposed by a coach and player who have nothing to gain by mentioning it. And yet that's what he did.

He then went on to try and explain more saying:

"I just wanted to say how truly embarrassed I am by the mistakes I made last night," Weinstein's statement reads in part. "I've spent 13 years covering amateur and professional sports and have never had anything like this happen to me. I would never attempt to fake a quote or put words into someone's mouth they didn't say and my work over the last decade shows that. When I prepare for a game, especially on the road, I copy all my previous stories and game notes into a text file so I have easy reference as I put my story together. I have talked to Murray earlier this season in Binghamton whether he remembers or not. It was a 5-2 game in Binghamton on Nov. 16."

Even if, and that's a big IF this was true, what's that matter? Taking a quote out of context from another time period is just as ingenious as making one up all together. Maybe worse. And had this happened to you? Listen Matt, nothing HAPPENED to you. A car accident is something happens to you, or getting cancer happens. What he did was willingly and knowingly make something up. Time to give up and admit you're at fault at least right? Nope.

Remember how Brian Boucher said he never spoke to any reporter from Binghamton? He're Weinstein's attempt to explain that nonsense.

"As far as Boucher, as soon as I finished talking to the B-Sens players and coach, I raced around to the other side and asked a man wearing a hat if he could grab Boucher," it reads in part. "Two minutes later a guy who looked to have just played a game emerged into the hall. I said "Brian?," and he replied yeah. I asked two quick questions, he wasn't very talkative, then I went up to write my story."

As Cignoli points out in his story, there are no players named Brian or Ryan on Adirondack or Binghamton, other than Boucher, so it seems pretty unlikely that some random person came out and talked to him pretending to be Boucher, since he said he never spoke to Weinstein. The hole keeps getting deeper doesn't it. There's really only two plausable scenarios as to what happened in this case and which you believe is up to you, but neither are flattering.

Either Matt Weinstein simply fabricated the quotes from Boucher as Cignoli believes, or Weinstein was duped by someone with an agenda to screw over an AHL beat reporter for some inexplicable reason, and that Weinstein wasn't even aware what Boucher looks like, which makes him horrible at his job. For someone who claims to keep all these files and research materials around in his computer at a moments notice, shouldn't one of the easiest things you do is knowing what the player you're interviewing looks like so you get the right guy? Seems like a common sense thing to me. If you're a thorough researcher as Weinstein claims he is, he may have heard of this little tool called Google, where he could have found out what he looked like in 2 seconds. Which of course leads us to the inevitable conclusion that Weinstein is clearly lying and got busted for it but won't admit it.

So we all but know that Weinstein lied at this point, so I'm sure there would be some satisfaction that his employer would take him to task. In the information business, your credibility is all you really have, so I was sure that The Press and Sun Bulletin was going to let him have have it. This was an egregious offence, and one that simply didn't have to made. If the result was termination of employment so be it. You simply can't do things like this anymore. Someone will catch you.

So what did The Press and Sun Bulletin have to say? You can read their entire statement here but here's the last passage from it:

The Press & Sun-Bulletin takes seriously the accuracy and credibility of its reporting. Inaccurate quotes or faulty identifications do not meet our standards. We will continue to monitor our coverage to ensure such incidents are not repeated.

In theory that sounds nice I guess. It comes off more like a carefully drafted letter from a lawyer more than a heartfelt real apology, which is what was needed in this case. They also fail to mention if Weinstein will be suspended, terminated or reprimanded in any type of way.

Maybe Weinstein and The Press Sun and Bulletin deserve each other.

Thanks for reading. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @SensTown and give the reporter who cracked this story a follow too @MCSaratogian

1 comment:

Lindsey said...

Actually, it was Post-Star reporter Diana C. Nearhos who really broke this story. You can read her original blog post, detailing her tweets with Weinstein when she first realized what was going on.
Read it here: