Editor's note: Given the news of the day that the NHL lockout had ended, this column was substantially revised. Still, the message that facts, not fiction, drive the news holds true.
As a professional journalist, not some wannabe with a blog, I learned a very long time ago to be cautious and accurate reporting the news. Mistakes kill credibility. Falsehoods bring trouble. It's foolish if you're first, but your facts are wrong.
When it comes to reporting, you have to know and trust your sources. Are they credible? Do they have an agenda? Are they protecting themselves? Do they like to hear themselves speak?
Over the past week, in matters concerning the NHL lockout, I've seen glaring examples of people, including some real journalists, jumping the gun with "news" that the league and players have reached a deal. In every instance, at least through late Saturday night, each and every one, posted from Facebook to Twitter, was wrong.
That all changed around 4:45 a.m. today, though, when news, and not opinion or wishful thinking, broke that the owners and players reached a tentative agreement. There will be a 48- to 50-game season, beginning Jan. 19 at the latest, once the deal is ratified by owners and players.
Still, in the premature announcements that preceded the official news, it was easy to understand people wanting to be first. It's normal. You don't have to be a journalist to want to score a scoop. Imagine the thunder, if you will, if a layman, so to speak, and not someone with a ringside seat to the negotiations broke the news? That, my friends, would have been a major score.
Just because you want something, and you might want it really, really bad, that doesn't make it real. We needed to be patient. We'll all learned earlier today that a deal had been reached. The announcement, too, was based on facts, not wishful thinking nor opinion. That's why it's called news, not commentary.
Now, if you want to comment on this situation -- and this is the time to do so -- that's all well and good. As hockey fans, we're entitled to it. It stinks that we haven't been able to watch our favorite sport, in an NHL arena or on TV. For those willing to forgive, the wait won't last much longer.
Having said that, here's my two cents:
It was my opinion, and it was based solely on a gut feeling, was there would be a deal. Team owners are in the business of making money. They haven't made much, if any, since October. Some revenue, in the form of fannies filling seats and overpriced snacks and souvenirs, is better than no revenue.
Going forward, too, I wouldn't be surprised if NHL commissioner Gary Bettman loses his job. Maybe not this week, but soon enough.
Between the nearly two lost seasons on his watch, team owners have undoubtedly lost billions. If the NHL was a corporate entity (and, really, it is), the board of directors, answering to shareholders, have no other choice. He simply lacks the vision and humility to keep the league, which faces a huge public-relations effort, back on solid ground with fans and, in time, moving forward.
Again, these are my opinions, not news. There's no room for any you-heard-it-here-first chest-thumping. Would I like to be correct? Certainly. What happens if I'm wrong? Nothing. Opinions aren't based solely on fact.
In stories like this, people should let the professionals -- those who are paid to deliver this specfiic information -- do their job. When there's news -- and that news is based on facts -- they'll be the first ones to tell us.
When it comes to news, my advice is to take anything you read, hear or see from someone not directly involved with the specific situation with a grain of salt. I would, however, keep a close eye on Twitter. As a journalist, I know that's where any news will break.