I didn't get to attend the Blogs With Balls conference in Chicago last weekend, but thanks to the wonders of digital media the panel discussions were available for viewing, and the conversation continues to echo across a number of different sites around the issue of ethics in sports blogging.
Put simply, what burden does a blogger have to ensure that "news" being broken is accurate, compared to the opportunity to draw traffic with sensational headlines? The recent rumor about the mother of LeBron James dating a teammate of his was the starting point for the discussion, as it came from a blogger without any outside confirmation. You can catch the video of the panel session, or read a transcript of the meaty portion of it courtesy of MGoBlog. There's also a good followup conversation on Dan Levy's latest podcast that clarifies the arguments somewhat. From the hockey perspective, Defending Big D hosted an insightful discussion on the topic last summer.
For me, there were two major highlights:
1. Spencer Hall of Every Day Should Be Saturday engaged in a shameful "gotcha" of Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead, announcing that he had intentionally spoofed McIntyre with a fake rumor via email which McIntyre ran with. His point was to expose (albeit two months late) McIntyre's lack of ethics for not verifying the story before running with it, but is McIntyre's laziness worse than Hall's intentionally trying to dupe a rival sports blog? I don't think so.***
2. AlanaG of Yardbarker pretty much carried the torch for the "whatever draws clicks is OK" mindset, which to me is pretty horrible. She does state in theory that she would question running something "if a thinly-verified story could do real injury to someone," but her judgment about whether a story qualifies along those lines appears pretty sketchy.
My stance? I try to stay out of the "breaking news" business, mostly because I'd want to be sure about the accuracy of a scoop, and I just don't have the time or energy for that. I'd rather provide a detailed analysis on how the Nashville Predators centers perform on the faceoff dot, based on the size and shooting hand of their opponents (coming soon), for example. Providing the latest news around the Preds is an important aspect of this site, however, so my standard in doing that is to be clear about where information is coming from, with direct links to the reference whenever possible.
There's merit to the notion that over time, credibility wins out and the frauds fade away. But as John Maynard Keynes famously said, "in the long run, we're all dead." HockeybuzzHogwash has gone dormant, but HockeyBuzz drones on. One of the big problems is that for the sites that do operate credibly and are trying to make inroads with the NHL or their particular team, a site with a larger reputation and looser standards can ruin the opportunity for everybody.
What I'd like to get is your opinion - how do we create an environment where there's more differentiation between the New York Times of the blogosphere, as opposed to the National Enquirers? There should be room for both to operate, but what we need is greater clarity for the general reader as to the standards of each.
***UPDATE: I thought it would be useful to highlight another way of exposing a blogger's shoddy standards, rather than pass along a false report.
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