The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK


May 4, 2014

COLUMN: 'Mr. Unreliable' had right answer

Much was revealed in the The Oklahoman’s rushed mea culpa over its provocative “Mr. Unreliable” headline it ran Thursday regarding Kevin Durant. The biggest of which may be that OKC fans and media need to put on their big-boy pants if they want to be considered big league.

Sure, the 100-point, bold headline that accompanied the story by one of the paper’s columnists prior to Game 6 of the NBA playoff series between the Thunder and the Grizzlies may have been a bit over the top, but it was not something worthy of the apoplexy that followed. In fact, the headline made perfect sense in the context of the column, which opined Durant, in the face of his struggles against the Grizzlies through Game 5, once considered “Mr. Automatic,” was now “unreliable.”

It wasn’t a personal attack, yet the reaction wasn’t surprising. Sports fans are passionate about their teams and some (most?) only saw the headline and went off on deep tangents. It caught the attention of the national media as well and there were a lot of raised eyebrows. But again, that is not a bad thing. 

A headline needs to draw attention to a story, but of course must remain accurate and not simply sensational. Did The Oklahoman’s headline cross that line? Not really, but it could have used a clarifying subhead to put it into context.

Many fans in the online comments section — you know that wonderful space of the Internet where people can hide behind keyboards under aliases — threatened boycotts of the paper and basically accused it of being lower than the lowest form of vermin.

Reeling from the bad press, the paper issued an online apology stating, “The words were overstated and unduly harsh. The headline and presentation left the impression that we were commenting on Durant’s season, career or even character. We were not. We were referring only to the Memphis series. The fact the headline and presentation left that impression with so many readers is proof that we failed.”

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