Noonan: Wentz Hit Job Displays ‘Cowardly Journalism’

You’ve probably already heard about the latest controversy surrounding the Eagles, as a reporter for a local newspaper/website called PhillyVoice claims that many Eagles players and “other sources close to the team” have negative opinions about quarterback Carson Wentz.

The writer of the piece, Joe Santoliquito, says that Wentz is difficult to deal with unless he gets his own way and he deliberately ignores his coaches at times and does what he wants on the football field. He quotes Eagles players – all unnamed, or course – as saying that Wentz’s ego gets in the way of the team’s success and he can be selfish.

I have no idea how many of Santoliquito’s claims are true, and some of them probably are. You’re always going to have disgruntled people, especially in a large group. After all, even Jesus Christ was betrayed by a member of his posse.

And I don’t care much whether the allegations are true, although the way so many of Wentz’s teammates jumped to his defense – and they all used their names and didn’t hide behind anonymity – makes you believe that the vast majority of the Eagles are solidly behind their franchise quarterback.

What irks me the most is the sloppy and slanted reporting done by Santoliquito. (By the way, I sat next to Joe in the Eagles’ press box for several years, and he’s a nice guy). For one thing, all of his sources are anonymous, and any reporter loses credibility if he can’t get anyone to comment on the record.

And he even though he spent two months working on the article, he made little or no effort to get comments from Wentz or coach Doug Pederson or general manager Howie Roseman. And he made no effort to get contrasting points of view from other Eagles players. No, Santoliquito had an agenda and he stuck to it.

 

But what really bothers me is the way he uses his unnamed sources. They should only be used for information purposes, not to slander somebody. If a reporter cites an unnamed source who says that the Phillies are about to sign Manny Machado, then that’s legitimate. But for people to take anonymous shots at a person’s personality, that’s just cowardly.

It reminds me of something a Philadelphia paper did many years ago, when Rick Kotite was coach of the Eagles and Randall Cunningham was their quarterback. Just about all of the defensive players, who were drafted or signed by former coach Buddy Ryan, despised Kotite, who was viewed by them as a lackey for owner Norman Braman, who had fired their beloved Ryan. Cunningham and Kotite were close, and one day a reporter – who was known to support Kotite and dislike Ryan – wrote an article where he quoted an anonymous player as saying that Cunningham was a “cancer’’ in the locker room.

The newspaper went big with the story and that became the talk of the town for a long time – and we can only imagine the reaction if there had been social media back then. Like the PhillyVoice article, an unnamed source was used to rip a teammate, not provide basic news-related information. That is rumor-mongering, not journalism.

Something else Santoliquito did that was unsavory was his use of action words, or what I like to call heightened reality. An example of heightened reality in the media is when somebody is surprised by something and the reporter says that they’re flabbergasted or dumbfounded or astonished. That reporter didn’t lie, but he did exaggerate.

In the PhillyVoice article, Santoliquito says that Wentz “bullied’’ offensive coordinator Mike Groh, and to me that is heightened reality. Maybe Wentz made his opinion known, and made it known strongly, over an issue with his coach. But the word “bullied’’ draws a mental picture in the readers’ minds that just isn’t true.

There are doubtlessly some elements of the PhillyVoice article that are true. But the way those elements were presented and the conclusions that were drawn from them is journalism at its worst. And this story isn’t over yet. As soon as the Eagles get together again, the PhillyVoice article will resurface and players – including Wentz – will be asked about it.

The guess here is that the negative article will have a positive effect, as the Eagles rally around their franchise quarterback. And he won’t have to bully them to get that support.


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About the Contributor

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan

Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.