Who really broke the Charlie Weis news? Besides @kuathletics, that is

Who broke the news that Charlie Weis would be named head coach of the Kansas football program? I mean, who really broke it (not withstanding KU Athletics’ tweeting the news in the 4 p.m. hour Thursday)? And in this age of lightning-fast Twitter reporting, blogs and anonymity, how do we classify actual reporting?

I’ll stay away from the last question, because it’s a bigger question that smarter people than I can – and have  – attempt(ed) to tackle.

BottomLine Communications – an informative blog that is certainly a source of information for this little experiment – credits TheShiver.com, a site that covers KU sports, for breaking the Weis news hours before an official announcement came from KU.

The Web site TheShiver.com was the first to break the news that Charlie Weis would be taking over as the new head football coach at the University of Kansas.
Virtually no one else in the sporting world had even speculated that the often-traveled Weis would ever take the KU job. Except folks at The Shiver.

TheShiver is “not some random blogger,” writes BLC. The site, according to the BLC post, gets between two and eight million visits a month (neither Alexa nor Quantcast, two leaders in traffic statistics, have data on TheShiver’s traffic. Compete, another source of traffic stats says TheShiver tops out at about 12,000 unique hits a month).

Regardless of the stats, I’m not here to rag on a site that I know nothing about and appears to have been around since 2008. The biggest sticking point for me here is the assertion that no other media outlets were speculating that Weis was a possibility.

At 10:47 Thursday, TheShiver’s Matt Scott wrote on a message board, “So FWIW but (the headline calling Weis the next coach) appears to be pretty spot on – Two independent sources have told TheShiver.com that an announcement could come as early as today with a press conference coming on Friday afternoon (1 central is specific time given) that current Florida Offensive Coordinator Charlie Weis will be the next Head Coach at Kansas.” He said a third source confirmed the same thing.

At 1:43 a.m. Thursday, Matt Tait, KU football writer for the Lawrence Journal-World (my paper) and KUSports.com, wrote: “Now, sources have told the Journal-World that Weis has talked with Zenger in recent days. Whether that was as an actual candidate for the job or more of a consultant remains to be revealed.”

(Interesting to note that in Weis’ presser yesterday, when he was introduced as head coach, he said he and Zenger first starting talking Thursday morning at 7 a.m. And KU’s athletic director Sheahon Zenger said he first initiated contact at 2 a.m. Thursday.)

Later, at 10:42 a.m., Tait wrote: “Spent most of the morning trying to track down this Charlie Weis situation and information is tough to come by. A few different sources have said that Weis is absolutely a legit candidate for Kansas, but whether he’s the guy KU is going to hire or not remains up in the air.”

I’m not sure what to make of this, and I think that stems from my unfamiliarity with TheShiver, which has no information about its writers on its site, and my hesitation to give a message board credence when it comes to reporting. And it would be hypocritical of me to think that a small website looking to provide information while making a name for itself might not be credible simply because it hasn’t been around for a while and has a small readership; when I worked at the Chi-Town Daily News, covering public health in Chicago, we were hampered by a silly name, little visibility and the fact that people generally think online news organizations – which they often called blogs in a condescending tone – have less credibility than newspapers. But we covered the hell out Chicago with just four reporters, and eventually readers and our bigger competitors noticed. I digress. So, if indeed TheShiver broke the news on a message board after working sources, kudos to those guys.

But to think TheShiver was the only outlet writing or thinking about Charlie Weis is incorrect. To chastise other media outlets for not giving credit to an unverified, unattributed entry on a message board with 6,796 registered users that may or may not include sports writers in the area is an unfair expectation. Nevertheless, keep it up, TheShiver.


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