USC reporter Adam Maya apologizes to Clay Helton for getting story wrong
USC reporter Adam Maya has finally addressed the pretty big matzah ball he left hanging out there this week.
On Sunday, Maya reported that USC would fire Clay Helton and target Urban Meyer for the job. Maya covers USC for Maven, a publishing company that now has rights to the SI name thanks to a licensing deal. Maya’s report was quickly disputed by many national college football reporters, including SI’s Pat Forde, which led to SI writing a story about one of their reporters disputing the information for another one of their reporters.
SI let Maya’s story remain on the site all the way until Wednesday without an update or note to address the conflicting (and ultimately incorrect) information. Finally, several hours after USC announced that Helton would return as head coach, Maya wrote an apology note in place of where his original Helton article stood.
The new headline on the old url says: “Why I Was Wrong on the Clay Helton Story” and includes the following note in italics: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Clay Helton would be dismissed by USC. Below is a retraction from the author.”
In the article, Maya said he apologized to Helton for getting his report wrong. Maya explained what led to him getting the report wrong, saying it was due to his sources misinterpreting information:
“I know many are wondering how I came to write my initial story Sunday that Helton would be dismissed. If you’ve followed my work, you know it’s a situation I’ve been tracking the entire season. Fast forward to this past weekend and I was told by multiple sources that USC had decided to make a coaching change. These same sources had alerted me to three developments in the past — athletic director Mike Bohn’s hiring, Bru McCoy’s transfer back to USC, and Graham Harrell becoming the offensive coordinator.
“I’m not going to out my sources — this is my sword to fall on — but essentially there was a misunderstanding on their end as it pertained to Helton’s status. They confused certain actions by Bohn and their superiors at USC, particularly in the previous week or so, to mean Helton was definitely being fired, when in actuality keeping him was still under consideration.
“As a result, a coaching change was inaccurately characterized to me as being a formality rather than, as was later explained to me, conditional. If I had known the latter, I would not have filed my report in such terms.”
Maya has had good information concerning USC in the past. We cited him for his reports about JT Daniels’ knee injury, Bru McCoy’s transfer and Graham Harrell’s hiring. Though each of those scoops were important, they had nowhere near the significance and ramifications as being the first to report a coach would be fired when the opposite happened. For that level of a scoop, you better have much more certainty and sourcing, which Maya clearly did not.
Getting this wrong is a poor reflection upon Maya as a reporter and the new editorial standards of SI under The Maven.