Accountability Before Respect

The recent Internet rumor of an alleged affair between Jeff Carter of the Philadelphia Flyers and teammate Scott Hartnell’s wife was harmful in a few ways.

The emotional strain for those involved in the steamy allegation has to be heavy. The way this story was brought to light could have some effect on those who regularly blog on the Internet.

Like it or not there is a stigma attached to the term blogger.

The line between actual news and rumors, or reporting and speculation is often blurred. That isn’t going to change overnight but rather is a function of the increasing accessibility of the Internet and the lack of accountability of some bloggers.

Those which report and write for newspapers or other traditional publications can have a built in contempt for those who have the freedom of blogging on the Internet.

With the ability to write on the Internet almost whatever one wishes a degree of accountability is still needed.  Although how much responsibility the blogger should bear is up for debate.

Many things which are written in a blog format would not be allowed in a newspaper or magazine. Not to say everything which is printed in old guard print medium is true. But many readers still attach more credibility to newspaper and magazine articles.

The primary way news will be disseminated in the future will be over the Internet, although today being a blogger doesn’t carry a great deal of journalistic integrity.

There are reasons, mostly because the Internet media world is still evolving. It certainly doesn’t help when those who write on the net play fast and lose with little regard for the consequences of what they have posted.

A few years ago after their Stanley Cup appearance when the Ottawa Senators were starting to decline, a similar sexually charged rumor was brought to my attention. As the story went, an Ottawa player was sleeping with a teammates’ wife.  I never wrote a blog about it because there was no proof it was true, to be honest it didn’t matter very much to me.

In my own blogging rulebook, allegations about the personal lives of players are almost always off limits. I have only mentioned the Senator rumor to a couple of people who would never write about the possible immoral act. It was sort of uncomfortable to even repeat the sordid tale.

Seldom are similar stories ever written about by team beat writers. They would have to have proof; the contentions would have to be from verified credible sources. To even acknowledge the existence of such a rumor by questioning a player is unlikely.

Sometimes what is whispered can be true but writing about rumors and calling it “reporting” can be sketchy.

Repeating an allegation without completely verifying the story is not my idea of reporting. There is a big difference between writing opinions and reporting stories from “credible” sources.

The Internet is a fantastic way to gather information.

Although in today’s environment it will be difficult for the blogging community to be truly appreciated and for credible Internet writers to gain the respectability they deserve. It will take time.

The Temple University student who is getting most of the credit, or disdain for the Carter-Hartnell story seemingly didn’t understand why the supposed revelation was such a big deal.

The quotes below from the Temple University blogger appeared on the website.

“Someone I know works for the Flyers, and I wrote it as a rumor,” he said earlier this week. “I didn’t write it as a fact in case the guy was wrong. I didn’t want to be unfair because I didn’t witness it.”

According to…. He said it was a “credible source” who “works close to the players.”  Also… “I didn’t make it up.”

I take the student blogger’s remarks to mean he felt his liability was limited by writing the story as a rumor. That would be the first problem, his assessment of his responsibility.

Another quandary is seemingly he is the lone judge for the credibility of his source.

The Temple University senior further defended his actions.

“I didn’t know anyone read my Web site. I didn’t do it to make a name for myself. I did it to practice writing and reporting.”

He continues down a slippery slope by calling what he did reporting.

As problematic as writing this type of rumor can be, it only scratches the surface of what could be posted on the Internet about a player.

What if a “credible source” comes forward with unproven allegations that a player is using drugs?

An unproven story could surface on the internet that player X is a wife beater.

Maybe a credible source could come forward with an allegation concerning a player being a pedophile.

Possibly a reliable source close to a team could blabber to a blogger about a player with an alcohol or gambling addiction.

All of the above “rumors” could easily be written without any actual proof.

The fallout from rumor writing isn’t limited to the sexual allegations in the Carter-Hartnell saga.

Nope, this will be a rocky ride for all those who write credible opinions on the Internet.

Sometimes I prefer being called an Internet writer rather than a blogger. But that isn’t enough to separate myself and others from those who use the shield of rumor blogging as if it was a constitutional right to say anything about anyone.

We seem to swing these days from too little regulation to being strangled with legal restrictions. Maybe in the end the new wave of Internet writing will cause more laws to be put in place. Or possibly the laws already on the books will have to be expanded to focus on today’s Internet blogging.

That also may not be good, but unfortunately everyone has a different standard for credibility.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BDGallof, Ladyneat. Ladyneat said: rt @BDGallof: Plz rt – Al Cimaglia with a terrific piece on bloggers and internet rumors. Essential reading #nhl [...]

  2. Buddy Oakes says:

    Great article. I am of the belief that in a perfect world a blog,  long term, will be judged by its readership and that if you constantly spew a bunch of crap people will stop reading. Unfortunately, in our society, there is a large element of folks that love rumor an innuendo so this stuff lives on.

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by BDGallof: Plz rt – Al Cimaglia with a terrific piece on bloggers and internet rumors. Essential reading #nhl…

  4. tkc says:

    Al, great job!

  5. Al Cimaglia says:

    Thanks…Are you the TK from HB?

  6. MJS says:

    Buddy is correct is saying that readership will determine  how bloggers or “internet writers” will be judged. If it is all crap people won’t read. Look at Eklund as an example. No matter how large his readership, more and more the prevailing wisdom about HockeyBuzz is that all the rumors there are crap.
    That being said, that kid who “broke” the story about the affair has the same limited liability as you and every other blogger does. Most bloggers are not affiliated with any major organization and are not recognized as doing any actual reporting and so they cannot incur liability for things like constitutional defamation like newspapers can. Furthermore, so long as he said, “I heard a rumor that so and so is having an affair…” he couldn’t incur liability for defamation as it would be applied to people that are not journalists. The bottom line is that reporting and the law around it is the way it is because there are strict controls about what can and cannot be said. Because of this, there is a presumption that what is reported by a newspaper, magazine, etc. is true. This presumption offsets the liability that reporters can get stuck with. There is no such presumption for bloggers and there is no such liability either. And, by the way, reporters can be wrong about what they report, and still not be liable. The bottom line is, unless bloggers become willing to take accountability for their words, they will never be treated as credible sources of information or as journalistic no matter who they know and no matter what their sources. Not to mention that on this and many other sites, the bloggers refuse to even proofread or do any of the simple “journalistic” things. Your points are well taken, eventually there will be a change in the way information disseminated over the internet is viewed, but until everyone that does the writing is willing to take full responsibility for their work, they can never be viewed as 100% credible. So no matter what it looks like now, that kid from Philly probably won’t see too many negative repercussions of his “reporting” just because in the eyes of the law he is an average joe and not a journalist. Feel free to flame him on his blog, though.

  7. Matt says:

    You just wasted my time by saying one thing (that we should take information from the internet with a grain of salt) and then repeated in different format over and over again. Then, to top it off, you say how you wouldn’t write about a Sens rumour but in doing so wrote about it.  You are a complete hypocrite.

  8. Al Cimaglia says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with everything you said. …unfortunately you wasted your own time.

    I didn’t imply or write,  everything on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt….if I thought that way I wouldn’t have written close to 1000 blogs.

    As far as the Sens rumor….no specifics and no names mentioned….just an example.

    I appreciate the comments although you are really very far away from understanding what was intended.

    Please,  if you choose to comment again… big boys don’t name call. 

  9. Al Cimaglia says:

    Well said… I had written at the end of November on  a similar theme that the reader is responsible for understanding fact from fiction.

    What is most disturbing is apparently the collge kid doesn’t realize the harm that could be caused by not substantiating personal stories. Repeating stories shouldn’t be passed off as reporting news.

  10. Fauxrumors says:

    1)  It was rumour whores like Eklund which inspired our blog name.  However, bloggers didn’t create the concept of published ‘gossip’, as this story certainly should be classified.  We can recall a relatively recent story written by a NY Rangers beat writer about Sean Avery where the writer (before learning the facts) about Avery’s hospitalization inferred very thinly that his personal life was the cause.
    2) Also, if you think that this story is bad, you should go to some of the nutty political blogs. We recall a story this past summer where a left leaning blogger wrote a story that Fox News commentator Glenn Beck had raped and murdered a girl 20 years ago.    No need to cite facts, etc
    3) We agree that a blogger needs to be rated upon their credibility, but we do NOT want to see an infringement of the free flow of information with a government ‘filter of facts’. Too many pit falls with that. So we are left to the warts of the current system.  Be wary of what you read, but feel free to express your opinion! 

  11. Al Cimaglia says:

    The lines are blurred an unfortunately there is a compulsion, even at the  big name websites to be the first to break a story…details and facts can be added later…
    I wrote for HB for quite awhile and seldom if ever did I see the players personal lives tied into rumors.
    Now, unless I fully know that  something about a person is not true there would be little liability on my end for “reporting” whatever.
    So with that freedom comes a price…. but I do agree less government is better.
    This stuff goes far beyond a Kopitar for Khabibulin trade rumor…

  12. BDGallof says:

    The reality of the issues affected the Flyers is a kids vs vets mentality where the younger players go out and live it up, and the vets have been more focused on ice. This is perhaps a strong reason to why Chris Pronger was brought in, except there is still that schism in the lockerroom. Notice how far after Pronger finally alluded to issues, the coach was fired. Stevens was on thin ice last year. This year it was just a matter of time.


    So going back to the rumor du jour for the Flyers possibly infidelity, Al is dead on that the whole thing was hearsay and questionable from the start, and the best way to go about it is to write it…as a blogger…stating it as such and then being in the know enough to provide the tapestry/background of some hard partying players causing a bit of a ruckus to internal chemistry. Then it would have been actually seeped with some reality.


    Rumors eschewed as hearsay, without first hand knowledge or corroborating evidence or sources, is the real issue here. It is why some blogs are just not looked at with respect or by peers as factual or as an authority.


    Yes, Faux, gossip sites have been spewing pedantic incorrect or just gutter tripe for years and years. But those sites don’t ask for press credentials or access to those they focus on. They paparazzi them instead.


    The sports world, despite the gossip pages and those who espouse hearsay, is a different…just as politics sites who actually have credentialed bloggers also are far different from the ilk of NewsMax or DailyKos or other fringe sites of those who don’t bother to prove, corroborate, etc.


    Al hits on a nerve, because the NHL is still not quite comfortable with bloggers. Those blogs that carried on with the Flyers rumor as fact…might need to look at themselves in the mirror…because when you looked more deeply, there was a lot to question.


    However, many still mention Pronger, the newscaster and his wife from the EDM story, or other never-quite-proved situations as fact still.


    There is much that goes on beneath the vaneer, and blogging does a good job seeping beneath that…and the success of many blogs and readership proves that success. However, there is a line that can go past that point into also providing flase, rumor and innuendo…and when it has damaging potential, bloggers better be careful. For the NHL still doesn’t quite trust the blogosphere and every misstep is magnified. And those blogs and bloggers who depend on access from teams or the NHL, there are a different set of rules and responsbility than those who are gossip hounds.


    Just my thoughts on the subject.

  13. lymphoma says:

    Having beat non-hodgkins, this was good to see. Thanks for this.

  14. Al Cimaglia says:

    Good health and Happy New Year

  15. I like this nearly much, this is the calling where i can sound smth from me, a sustain of talk this is what i like.