7 min read

A lesson I learned long ago...

A lesson I learned long ago...

Story time: Did you know that I was once the featured BYU basketball reporter for Bleacher Report? Yup. Me. The anti-basketball guy was the guy "covering" basketball. (I actually like basketball, folks. I hate refs, but I like basketball. If I actually felt like I was watching basketball and not watching ref-it-ball, I would probably enjoy the Cougar Cagers a lot more than I do.)

I was an aspiring journalist who was fresh off a mission and enrolled at Salt Lake Community College to start an English/Communications degree. I had just turned down an internship at 1320 KFAN because I couldn't afford to not be paid (that should be obvious based on the fact that I was enrolled at SLCC).  I wanted the inside scoops and news before anyone. I was driven to get it.

I was the original reporter to break THIS STORY on Bleacher Report (shoutout to the KSL tweet that I saw first, you are the real journalists here). Yup. The outlet that wrote absurd pieces like this and like this learned that the story happened because of me (maybe they learned somewhere else but I'm going for dramatic effect and I was the first on the network with the story).

You will notice a couple of things in my story that are different from other stories that came out on a multitude of outlets that day. I never mentioned the words sex, girlfriend, or anything else like that.

Did I know that Brandon Davies had been suspended because of sex stuff? Yes, I was pretty sure of it. Multiple people had told me that was the case.

Could I infer based on the public facts and the magnitude of this event that sex was the cause? Of course I could have. I had been a BYU fan long enough to know that he was not getting kicked off the team in that moment of that year for anything less than someone being pregnant.

But I didn't include that in my story.


Because I didn't ACTUALLY know. I just knew.

More stories: I met a friend who helped introduce me to the internet blog world. Thomas Karren, who some of you may remember from the old Twitter days, was covering Utah for whatever Utah's Scout.com site was called back in the day. He wasn't the main guy or even a main-ish guy. But he was a guy and I thought that was cool.

Tom and I worked together in our real jobs and I envied him every time he'd leave work to go cover practice at Utah and I would leave work to go sit on my butt at home. It was really cool.

Tom and I became good friends. He covered Utah, but at the time, Utah and BYU were much more closely tied than they are today. Invariably, he would hear BYU nuggets here and there and he would feed them to me.

I wanted to be a journalist. I knew what to do with nuggets.

One day, he told me something that I knew would help me build a following.

I was right. Hundreds of followers came in that day. I picked up follows from media legends and people that I had followed for years hoping to learn of BYU news quickly. I had blogged about stories like Brandon Davies, but this was REAL inside information.

There were people who had been talking about Langi prior to my tweet that day, but nothing concrete. Nobody spoke definitely about it until I did.

And I was proud of myself. (In fact, that was my 24th birthday, my pride was my birthday present to myself that day.)

But here is the thing: I had NO idea if it was true.

I mean, I kinda knew that it was true. Tom and I were close and he had told me things that had been right in the past. I trusted Tom and I knew that Tom wouldn't lie to me about it. So I was pretty confident that I was right. Er, that he was right.

Tom saw the tweet. He congratulated me on the new followers as we were walking to his car to go to lunch. Once we got in the car, he called me a dumb ass and told me that I was an idiot.

Whoa. I just broke news. Why am I an idiot?

"You can't break news that you don't actually know, dumb ass. Harvey IS transferring to BYU, but he still has a year on his mission. You don't KNOW anything. I know," he said. "But you don't know. And I only know through one backchannel source. And I won't KNOW until I hear it from at least one more. If I was sure about this and wanted it on the internet, I would have told the internet myself. Congrats on the followers and you'll probably be right when Harvey does transfer. But you're a dumb ass."

He was right and I knew it.

I had learned in my high school journalism class not to be reckless with stories and information. I had learned the same thing at SLCC. (I eventually realized that I also wanted money in my life and so post-SLCC I decided journalism was a hobby and my real job would be just about anything else.) Places like Bleacher Report taught me the same thing with their editorial standards that I had to go through each time I posted an article. And Tom had told me the same thing a million times.

But when the inside information came, I couldn't get to Twitter fast enough.

Back to today: I wish there was a way to quantify how many things I hear about recruits or about BYU football in a given day. Sure, some days it's nothing, but I am hearing from someone about something just about every day. I get a couple dozen DMs from people I don't know every week, asking me if I have heard about such and such or so and so. I can't count the number of messages from people I do know that ask me the same questions.

Any rumor that ends up on CougarBoard also ends up in my inbox.

People message me on 247. High school coaches and recruit's parents will text me or send me messages somehow.

I hear so much stuff all the time. Most of it ends up being nothing. A lot of it gets ignored completely. And sometimes it's true.

I don't share this to say, "Look at me! I'm SUCH an insider!"

I'm not. I know people who are. That's it. I'm just a fan like everyone else.

But over the course of my time on the internet I've learned that I am a fan who has a little bit of responsibility. I have to be accurate. And I have to be sure. Because if I'm not, all hell breaks loose.

Within minutes of me changing my 247Sports Crystal Ball prediction for Collin Chandler to BYU, there were screenshots of the new prediction and it was the news story of the day.

Have you ever searched "Jeff Hansen" on CougarBoard? You don't find my stupid TikTok videos or my funny tweets. You find people linking articles with inside information or tweets that might be informative.

It's crazy!

So my vault is pretty locked down. I've learned the hard way. Just because you might know something, don't be a dumb ass. It isn't worth it.

I'm thankful to Tom for sharing that with me all those years ago.

Looking To The Future: We have a responsibility, fans. Information is everywhere. At GEHB, we share what we can share and it officially enters the cosmos. The burden of being right and sure lies with Garrett and I. But, we all share some responsibility.

Utah journalists have the same responsibility. There are lives at stake! If some reporter says something about Zach Wilson  being drunk with Neil Pau'u but the cops looked away, the ramifications could be ENORMOUS! You're not just saying things about Wilson or saying things that BYU fans won't like, you're accusing police officers (whose names aren't going to be hard to find) of prioritizing football over the law. I don't care what source told you that or how sure you might be that they are trustworthy, you better be absolutely 100% damn sure that's true and have the proof to back it up.

Those are 'nuggets' that ruin people. It isn't worth it.

Remember #SockGate? I was told by people that I trusted and who had given me reliable information before that Taysom Hill was given car stereos and had his tires replaced by Duane Busby. I was told that before that story broke. And it was from someone who I knew well.

It would have been a huge story. But it would have ruined a life - and maybe multiple lives.

I could have ran with it. I would have felt pretty good about it. I was really confident that I knew it was true.

"You're a dumb ass, Jeff."

I made an extra phone call. I was told that the story was complete BS.

That doesn't mean that it was BS. But I now had a reliable sources tell me it was true and a reliable source telling me it was false. I no longer knew. I thought I knew before, but I didn't know.

Someone else broke the news and it went wild. It turned out that it was not true - at least not to the levels that I had initially heard and that had initially gone public.

I didn't immediately refute it because I didn't know that it wasn't true.

I didn't immediately confirm it because I didn't know that it was true.

I didn't know and I didn't want to be a dumb ass again.

And I'm glad that I had learned that lesson. It's a lesson that all of us - journalists or not - need to make sure we're implementing in our day-to-day lives.