Brian Cook of MGoBlog and The Sporting Blog was on a panel at Blogs with Balls in Chicago. It was not the panel on ethics, but if you watch the video, his voice makes a cameo somewhere after Spencer Hall got into a little blog tete-a-tete with The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre. That’s at the 24:00 mark (or thereabouts).
Seriously, watch the exchange between Jason and Spencer, which spills into the rest of the panel and includes others in the crowd (including Cook). It will give you some context. Or, go to MGoBlog as Cook transcribed the entire thing.
Look, ethics are somewhat of a sliding scale, depending on the site, right? See, there are different kind of ethics. Spencer challenged McIntyre for his lack of ethics in checking sources and running a story based on a made up email and a cursory Google search on April Fool’s Day. Spencer claims that illustrates The Big Lead’s lack of ethics in checking sources and being a responsible journalist, making the case that other sites — like SB Nation — suffer when bigger blogs act so irresponsibly.
Cook and I discuss the flip side, as well. I got an email (from someone in the industry) asking me if I thought what SPENCER did was ethical at all? He made up a story and sent it to a rival site in hopes that story would be run, then used the ruse to prove his point that the site was unethical.
So, as was posed to me, Cook and I discuss which was the less ethical act. And is it that easy?
Much of our conversation branches off of Alana G’s comment on the panel that blogs should be able to write whatever they want as long as they explain it could, in actuality, be a made up story. Whatever gets you pageviews, she explained.
That. Is. Insane.
She told Josh Zerkle that if he thought it would drive traffic he should have run a story about an NFL player’s personal life that was sent in, but he didn’t have time to check the source or do his own follow-up. All he had to do was explain it could be made up, she offered. As Cook points out, that’s about as unethical as you can come off on a panel about blog ethics.
To be fair, Alana has written a recap of her comments and some clarifications. Please read them on here site, by clicking here.
Again, it all goes back to what your audience expects and what you feel your responsibility is. Does Gawker care if Deadspin posts a story that is factually inaccurate or just care that it collected a million eyeballs? Is it okay that TBL decided a gossipy story about Mark Sanchez and who he was dating was worth posting based on an email and no fact checking because, as he put it, it was a Tuesday (note: it was actually a Thursday)? Is it okay that Sports By Brooks posted countless images of Steve McNair’s scantily-clad mistress AFTER the murder-suicide?
We also talk about the responsibility of writing about an internet rumor that’s not true, even if you write “this is not true.” It’s one thing in the case of LeBron James’s mom and Delonte West, but when Deadspin wrote about the rumor going around Villanova’s basketball team that had similar implications, wasn’t the sheer act of debunking it actually spreading the rumor to far more eyes than would have ever seen it in the first place? To some, the “this isn’t true” is muted by the “hey look at this.”
It’s not just those sites, but an argument that Spencer used against TBL and Cook explained on this show is that the bigger houses DO affect the property value for the rest of the neighborhood. If people don’t trust or respect the biggest blogs around, how will the average person be expected to trust what the smaller ones write?
Ultimately, Cook’s point — and the genesis of him coming on the show — is simple: athletes are people, so no matter what the story is, you might want to make sure it’s true before you go and ruin their lives. That, on its base, seems pretty ethical.
As always, there’s more to this show. You’ll have to listen to hear it all.
One quick five minute rant about how Stephen A. Smith is so out of touch it’s mind-boggling to imagine he has as many jobs as he does. He Tweeted today that his show on Fox Sports Radio would touch on Bryce Harper getting drafted. This is what SAS wrote:
I’m up starting my day everyone. Raring to go. Heading to Boston for Game 3 of the NBA Finals today. Not before the Stephen A. Smith Show though. On the docket: NBA Finals. Strasburg debuts for the Nationals. And this kid Bryce Harper. Draft No. 1 in MLB Draft. Skipped 2 yrs of H.S. to get his GED so he could ultimately play college and pro ball earlier and NO ONE SAYS ANYTHING??? What the Hell is that??? about 2 hours ago via web
I replied, as did others, that EVERYONE was talking about that when it happened. It was, in fact, a HUGE STORY. Every sports pundit in America had an opinion on what this meant for the future of college sports and high school sports and, heck, down to the pee wee leagues. This was THE story for a while.
Of course, SAS backed off, suggesting that he knew it was a big story, he was just debating whether or not it was HOTLY DEBATED. Guess what, Stephen A? It was. If you think otherwise, you weren’t paying attention.
Oh, that’s right…you weren’t paying attention. Of course his plan is to use the fact, in his mind, that nobody was talking about it (when everyone was) to claim that if it were a black kid (which it wasn’t) everyone would have been talking about it (which they were, but he wasn’t paying attention). And, as he writes, “Of course, I’ll get accused of being the race-baiter instead of pointing out something so flagrantly obvious.” (Which he is.)
I’ll tell you what..something about this is flagrantly obvious, that’s for sure.
Thanks for listening.