“Insider Dope” and NBA Trade Coverage: A Case Study on Unnamed Sourcing in Sport Journalism

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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Past research has examined the use of anonymous sources in news content and its impact on perceived credibility. Studies applying these theories in the context of sport media consumption, however, are scant and outdated. This matters because sport media is consumed for different reasons from news and has a historically symbiotic relationship with the people and events it covers. The current case study explores sources in National Basketball Association (NBA) trade stories in both national news and sport-specific publications. The study found that about 82% of trade speculation was not credited to a source. Unnamed and named sources’ trade predictions were cross-referenced with the NBA transaction log to determine if the trades actually manifested before the trade deadline. Neither sources predicted trades well: Of the 95 unsourced, speculated trades, 14 actually took place. Of the 20 sourced speculations, four took place. There was no statistically significant difference between how well named and unnamed sources predicted trades.

Reed is with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ. Harrison is with the Dept. of Communication, Youngstown State University, Youngstown, OH.

Reed (Sada.Reed@asu.edu) is corresponding author.
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