Dan Sileo's Buccaneers sale blunder shows risks of passing along unconfirmed news -- again
WDAE-AM morning host Dan Sileo sounded confident as he announced the news Thursday: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be sold at the beginning of 2010 due to the owners' mounting debt and $475-million in losses from involvement with disgraced financier Bernard Madoff.
His report was so explosive, it was repeated across several news outlets, including WFLA-AM, the St. Petersburg Times' Web site, the sports blog Deadspin and WTSP-Ch. 10. And there was only one problem: It wasn't true.
By the day's end, WDAE had disavowed the story and Sileo was suspended, following a scathing denial from Joel Glazer, a member of the family which owns the football team, calling the report "100 percent false...baseless, irresponsible and slanderous."
The station posted a statement on its Web site calling Sileo's report "factually incorrect...We sincerely apologize for those statements and hereby issue a full retraction."
Unfortunately, something like this has happened before. Back in March, when former football player Nick Schuyler was pulled from a boat in the Gulf after he and three friends were lost for a weekend, WDAE host Steve Duemig mistakenly reported another person had been safely found -- citing an anonymous source in the same way Sileo did Thursday.
Acting on information from a different source, WTSP issued the same report, which was repeated on several sports blogs and sports radio anchor J.P. Peterson's show for WQYK-AM. As it turns out, Schuyler's three other friends all died on the boat while they were waiting for rescue.
At the time, talk circulated about the dangers of airing unconfirmed reports and the risks of sports radio personalities playing journalist and placing too much trust in anonymous sources.
But for all the talk of lessons learned then, it appears some important elements were forgotten.