Reader Beware

The Internet is a wonderful place to gather information and to express opinions. Fortunately anyone can post their thoughts by writing blogs. Unfortunately, there is no code of honor or ethical standards in place for Internet writers who are not affiliated with a major website. Even with major website affiliation the credibility of the writer shouldn’t be completely assumed. 

When someone surfs the net they must realize it is a bit like the Wild Wild West except there is no sheriff in town to shoot the bad guys. Any policing of credibility has to be done by the person writing the blog and those reading it. Rules are not even loosely written, there are none. 

It is not necessary to know the writer/blogger personally because an accountability scorecard can still be kept. Over time a reader can connect the dots and realize the worthiness of what is being written.

Every writer has to enforce their own code of honor. The definition of what is derived from truth rather than baseless fact, what is rumored from a justifiable source or purely made up depends upon the writer more often than not. 

Everyone enjoys writing to a large audience and sometimes that is paramount. On my own list of priorities having a large readership is high up. But what is at the top of my list is credibility. It is not my place to say my standards are better than other Internet hockey writers. But my own self imposed rule book is not the same as guidelines followed by other writers. 

Most important my opinions follow the rule book I choose as it is not my intent to cast aspersions on those which seek a different path. But it is important for readers to understand there are often no rules in place for legitimacy. 

For some having a “source” is a way to have a straw man premise. It is a way to justify an opinion they believe in. If proven wrong, citing a source is a handy way to save embarrassment. The writer wasn’t wrong but the source was incorrect. When you read…. my source has been dead on in the past but this time…. 

Let’s just say anyone can cite a source but the reader has to discern if the writer should be believed. 

I suppose being believable is more important to me than having a ton of page views. In time credibility does matter and an audience will follow. 

When the first local article about the “big three” being re-signed came out in the Chicago Tribune my thoughts were— this is a done deal. I know the reporter, Chris Kuc, his primary intent is not to gain page views or to increase readership but rather to be a good journalist. His sources are real and he spends long days researching stories before writing. Obviously writing about contract signings can be tricky as nothing is etched in stone until everyone signs off.  Although the re-signings of Kane, Keith and Toews could still not happen, my opinion considering the writer of the story is they will get done. 

Chris is a full time beat writer who is almost constantly around the Blackhawks. Like everyone else he would like to be the first to break a story, but Chris won’t sacrifice his own integrity to make a headline splash. 

Tim Sassone from the Daily Herald is another fine Blackhawk beat writer who considers his credibility more important than page views for his blog. When Sassone writes he has heard from a source… The reader should realize there actually is someone credible, close to the situation providing him information. The story may not come to pass, but I never question Tim’s legitimacy. 

It would be nice when someone breaks a story, rumor, or new thesis if they could be cited  for the originality. Regrettably, often those who write a new angle on a topic are never given credited.  Their thoughts are then recycled all over the hockey blogosphere with no mention as to where they started.  It comes with the territory and hopefully readers differentiate between reliable, original thinkers and those who jump on board later. 

The Internet is wonderful as is the hockey blogosphere, but readers beware.   

Al’s Shots 

On Monday… more on this weekend’s Hawk games and the pending extensions for Kane, Keith and Toews.

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  1. Dave Morris says:

    Al, you have said what needs to be said. Bravo.

    There is far, far too much conjecture being passed off as ’inside info’ nowadays, and the rumor mill has become a monster.

    Claiming ‘sources say’ has become a smokescreen for hearsay and even fabrication.

    Thanks for your honest and objective view.

  2. John Jaeckel says:

    Nice blog, Al.
    I agree with everything you say, but I also must observe that the lines between the “journalist” media and blogosphere become more blurred every day. That is to say, while I specifically greatly respect the two beat writers you mention, there are those whose sole job it is to cover hockey, have press credentials, etc, who, through the unwitting improper use of diction, can make a conjecture by a blogger sound like  a “hot ” rumor. Happened in just the past week. Specifically the “Hawks are dealing Sopel” rumor, which quite honestly has no validity that anyone actually knows of beyond conjecture by journalists/bloggers.
    Conversely, I think it’s a bit over-generalizing to say that a blogger’s report of a rumor, without naming his sources, is always wrong or irresponsible. As you’re probably aware, I was taken to task recently for essentially that. So I went back and checked my source (again). One part of the rumor I will stand by. One part might have been more of a reach. But I will always place the confidentiality of my sources above feeling the need to prove their validity to someone. I will also say that in the case I mention, I received messages of support from high profile members of the Chicago media for how I handled the issue.
    Again, I think it’s all in how it’s presented. For myself, on the few occasions when I report a “rumor,” I will ALWAYS qualify it that this is “what I am hearing and nothing more.”  That might seem like a hedge or a dodge. It’s not. It’s rather to let the reader know that it needs to be taken as such. To your point, let the reader beware.

  3. Al cimaglia says:

    If it came across like sources should be identified that wasn’t my intent as I don’t agree with that at all.

    Beat writers might not have to identify sources but they are responsible  to an editor for their validity. …Same when I wrote for Espn…now it is all about my own standards, which was a main point and the fact that  readers have to keep a score card for  themselves.

    When I say I am “hearing” such an such… that is me referencing something from a “source”… someone I consider worthy of that reference.

    In the end readers have to decide who is worthy to write about credible sources.

  4. Al cimaglia says:

    You’re welcome.

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