“If you ain’t first, your last.”
It looks like Ricky Bobby was right, or that’s what I’ve learned in my short time in the world of sports journalism.
Everyone wants the scoop.
Everyone wants to be first, but at what cost?
I’ve been very fortunate to scoop a few stories in my short time in the business due in large part to several trusted allies/sources, which I will be forever grateful of.
Nevertheless, this one was very different.
You see no one believed me. Sure there was some definite buzz around my initial tweet, but that was it.
Here’s the back story behind the the Greg Gilbert scoop.
On June 16th I received a text message at 8:30 am.
“Heard SJ will be announcing a coach soon. A former NHL player, but I don’t know who?”
That was enough to fuel my fire and intrigue.
Over the next hour and half I worked the phones, between finalizing a few things at work.
I called several sources over that time frame.
Ironically, one source reached out directly to another while we were on the phone via text message.
“Eags has already spoken to me the source said.”
We had quite a good laugh over that one.
Those sources gave me one tidbit of information that I also ran with.
“All, I’m hearing is their guy is out of Ontario.”
By the fourth phone call things weren’t going well.
I hadn’t got anywhere on the Sea Dogs Head Coaching front, but boy we had some great conversations about the game of hockey.
The sixth phone call of the day was a game changer.
One of my sources gave me the name, but clearly it wasn’t a done deal, if it was the Sea Dogs would have ran with it.
“I might just sit on it,” I told the source.
“I wouldn’t Eags, you had Cameron and MacTavish, write something hinting towards Gilbert,” they said.
Within an hour and half I had the framework of a pretty significant scoop.
That only meant one thing, a speculation piece.
I’ve written a few speculation pieces over the last year or so, so that part was pretty routine.
I fell asleep that night pretty early, actually I fell asleep on my couch and was awoken by our five year old daughter around 3am.
She has nightmares from time to time so I spent the rest of the night sleeping on her floor.
When I woke that morning I saw a message from another source that read, “Greg Gilbert is the new coach in Saint John.”
So at 6:45 am on June 18th I had quite a dilemma.
Scoop the story, sit on it or announce the hiring in an article.
I was close to writing a speculation article on the Wildcats re-signing Dan Lacroix so my initial thought was to hide the Gilbert news within that article and tag both teams in the tweet.
I had about 150 words finished on the article when I decided to text my writing mentor.
“It’s Gilbert, what should I do?”
“Should I write an article or just tweet the fucker out?” I texted.
“Tweet it out,” he replied.
“Save the story for when you talk to him,” he said.
You see by that time the adrenaline is flowing.
The clock is ticking.
We shared a few ideas for the proper wording on the tweet.
Flashback to two QMJHL Trade Period’s ago, I swore to myself that I would never break a trade again, but this was different.
I had the Dave Cameron scoop, that he was in talks with Georgie, thanks to amazing sources, I had three sources citing Craig MacTavish’s name which I sat on, so it was go time.
But, in that moment there was still a massive amount of self doubt.
I didn’t doubt my sources for one second, they’re air tight, I doubted myself and my platform.
Would I be taken seriously?
Would anyone pay attention?
The fight for credibility is always going to fuel the fire.
What if something happens last minute and the two parties go the other way?
I weighed all those options for what seemed to be an eternity.
As Woody Harrelson’s character “Tallahassee” would say on Zombieland, “It’s time to nut up or shut up.”
10:21am on June 18, 2020 was my time to nut up.
A few lines, an amazing picture and a push of the button, that’s all took.
I forgot to credit the photographer so for that I’m really sorry, whoever takes photos for OHL Images, they are remarkable.
There’s one backstory to all this that I can’t share and will probably never share, but before I tweeted it out I reached back out to one of my sources.
“Do you know when they are going to announce it,?” I asked.
He didn’t reply until about an hour after the tweet.
“Call me,” he said.
In that moment I thought I was screwed, my heart started racing.
That conversation is definitely off the record.
For the next 24 hours, I went through every emotion imaginable, the “what if” scenarios that ran through my mind we’re endless, but I was confident, my sources were never wrong.
By June 19th, several colleagues at school knew I was playing the waiting game.
It was clear that several people on social media didn’t necessarily believe me.
Question marks seemed to be appearing at an alarming rate.
“If this report turns out to be accurate.”
No, I just tweet make belief shit out.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve fought and will continue to fight for credibility, in this business, I welcome it.
To be honest, I’m perfectly fine with that, I’ve been around the game long enough, I realize it’s earned.
So there I am at Day 2 of our graduation doing my Grad Duty, when I checked my phone between graduate intervals.
Mikael Lalalcette’s retweet, meant a lot to me and I let him know that.
“On me confirme que c’est chose faite. Greg Gilbert est le nouvel entraîneur-chef des Sea Dogs.”
I guess it was graduation day for me as well, when it came to scooping the story.
Maybe more people will believe me next time I tweet some news out, oh and by the way, don’t worry I checked my sources.
The fight for creditability continues.
That’s the story behind the story of the Greg Gilbert scoop.