Credible Blogging begins with Leg Work

 

I remember back during my Mass Communication class in High School when my school newspaper advisor told us during a class lecture that at some time in our writing future, the subject of naming or not naming your “sources” for stories would turn our journalistic integrity into a slippery slope towards the negative, and the background work of our judgments to name or not name a source would play directly on our credibility as writers. Journalist have gone to prison and even been banished as if they had the Black Plague for misinformation and dishonesty in their writings.

And that simple premise of “watching your back” seems to make a lot of sense in today’s fast paced, electronic world of libel and slander where even a tongue-in-cheek reference can land you deep within a mountain of litigation, and then quickly, you and your writing integrity  could be sent sliding down the dark side like a mudslide even if you are totally right. Because that is essence of the culture today.  Injury someone emotionally or physically and some of the first words out of the mouth of the general public is “I will sue you!”. 

So dotting your “i’s” and crossing your “t’s” takes on a bigger role in the 5-second media world we have today. This weekend I was reading a very sordid and tangled web of “sources” and “unnamed sources” in a small series of blog postings by the New York Baseball Digest blog posting by Mike Silva. And while I was reading this account out of the New York area, that class discussion over 32 years ago  about sources came quickly to mind.

I was brought up on the old A P style book of journalism. Heck, back then it was the bible every Evening Independent Sports Correspondent and staffers used as a foundation for our story stylings.  And it suddenly came to my mind the old teaching of where if you make a statement associated with a source without credible sources or information, your stories foundation might crumble and not withstand a storm of controversy. 

One of the first thing I remember being taught was the fact that when you name sources or people with knowledge of an event, it is in your best interest to have two solid forms of evidence or information before even quoting one of them in your story. The reasoning for this method is to give your information a solid foundation so if you are questioned or receive a nice little legal writ, you have a secondary source that adds to your credibility on the subject matter.

Accuracy and credibility are the two of the founding cornerstones of retaining a loyal band of readers online. If they can get a sense of trusting your writings as the truth, then you gain readers and hopefully more web views of your postings. And maybe that is why it is so upsetting when I see a blog with half-baked writing principles and mis-guided information you know are half-truths at best.

Most of this simple misguided energy can be corrected with a simple credible source for your information. Some guy named “Joe Schmoe” who tended bar in such and such a club and overheard a conversation by player “A” and “B” about an event or something in regards to the Rays is considered “hearsay” at best unless you have a second person who heard or saw the same event.


RRCollections   Joe Nelson2009


An great example of the right way to document and solidify your sources was with the rumor I heard from a Rays player about the Tampa Bay Rays using their old 1998-99 Devilrays multi-colored logo jerseys during the Sunday July 12th afternoon game against the Oakland Athletics. I first heard a hint of this rumor back in late May 2009 by a player after a game, and I decided to dig a bit deeper into it before bringing it out into the light. Just because I now had one source doesn’t make the rumor a “truth” yet.

I first got a confirmation from a member of the Rays  field staff and another player as an additional source, but decided it might not be good to use them as my source. I do not like to use players as sources of information because they could decide to “clam up” and I might not ever hear another good morsel of information to track down. So I contacted someone within the Rays front office who deals directly with marketing and promotions and asked them to simply confirm or deny the spreading rumor. As soon as he  got back to me, that rumor quickly transformed into a fact, and I posted a Tweet about the upcoming event.


RRCollections

And because I had more than two sources to verify the possibility of the old “Rainbow Devilrays” uniforms were going to make an appearance again in that July contest. This in-depth  fact checking into the rumor gave me credibility about the event. And that is the one thing most people forget when they write online. Sure I can say almost anything about anyone on the team and maybe no one will call BS on me, but that is not the issue. Staying within the truths and admonishing the lies is the job of publications like the National Enquirer or Star Magazine, not the general blogging public.

If NYBD want to idolize those publications and style themselves in that realm of journalism, then go for it. But they have to be reminded that there are hundreds of websites like that all jockeying for the same morsels of media fodder. With every slight of hand missed fact and negative comment posted, the negative mountain is building around them. I know I would rather be the guy who will give his honest opinion and facts about an event, and I do shy from some of the “hot topic” stories around the league at time because I do not want to be 1 of the 2,000 people writing about the same thing day in, and day out.

We hear almost daily about some blogger somewhere who has given “fake” or mis-guided information and it in turn tends to affect all of our credibilities. But that doesn’t mean the “mainstream media” always follows the Golden Rule either. With the advent of sites like Twitter and the other social networks, fans can get  a snippet of information in the flash of a camera bulb and minutes before the “paid” media.

And that can be a slap in their faces at times. I posted a Twitpic of Pat Burrell’s new 70’s butch mustache during the 2009 season and also few “first” pictures of new Rays reliever, Jeff Bennett before the local media even reported it online. Here I am an unpaid and unsolicited fan got the scoop.


RRCollections

NYBD  made some critical errors when they did not get secondary sources checks on their quotes and information before posting it. Sometimes it is difficult to get that information, but if you can not prove it is 100
% true
, then it is a rumor. Blogs take a beating every day from the Media sources throughout the country as being slanderous and libel within an inch of their collective lives. For us to gain the credibility and the trust of the readers, we sometimes have to take it a notch above and sweat a little more for our information.
Anyone can write a rumor.

Anyone can create a mis-truth and start to perpetuate a lie. But if you really want to be known for your writings, do the leg work, strain the eyes to see beyond the words and ask the simple questions. Some times, the answers you get from a source can make your day. Other times it can disappoint and frustrate you. But every once in a while you get a tasty morsel and you do the work and build it into a credible masterpiece and then you can bask in the limelight and know you did it right……..the first time.

12 Comments

You’re very diligent about your blogging, and I think it’s why your blog has such credibility. I know that if I read something here, it must be true!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
That comment coming from you is why I write on MLBlogs.
I loved writing for the newspaper, and that medium is disappearing faster than rainwater in a desert.
I have always tried to write the truth, and if there is an error, I can humbly correct it and admit my mistake.
That is the problem with blogs like NYBD to me.
Instead of just knowing a mistake was made, they blasted Rays fans as feeling “inferior” and they blasted their own fans for not defending their site.
Only one person should defend you, and that is yourself.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Well said, well articulated, RaysRenegade. Having worked in non-journalistic research fields, I was always checking and double-checking any sources I consulted. It is a practice that seems to be going by the wayside, and I hope more people like you give the same warnings to any journalist or blogger wanting to be worth his/her salt. We need that warning in this day of 24-hour news and 5-minute attention spans. Thanks!

My sources said I should stop by and see what RR is up to… said sources begged for anonymity… they’re weak. They live in my head too, of course. And the Ramos vids always make me smile btw.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Jeff,
He is a great guy to chat with before a game. Always in a good mood and wanting to join the party. Bobby Ramos has to be one of my favorite Rays of all time.
I am glad your source had the chance to come by before beer-thirty before the rest of the voices come out to play.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Greg,
Thank you for that.
I want to thank my Dixie Hollins HS “Rebel Rouser” advisor and my mentor at the “Evening Independent” Sportwriter extrordinaire Bob Chick for the fact checking being pounded into my brain.
I agree.
In this 24/7/365 era, even a slight miscalculation can render your reputation nothing more than fish wrapping.
It is becoming a lost art form, but one worth re-instituting daily.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

We’re having that problem with my favorite club right now. Word got out we were getting ready for a fire sale, and now we are finding out that wasn’t even close to true.

Cob
http://cobf.mlblogs.com

I worked on my high school newspaper and I thought I was going to be a journalist when I grew up. But the legal logistics of it all was ultimately not for me. However, one of the things that I like about writing my blog is that I get to say what I want, and unlike you, I don’t have access to super, awesome secret stuff! I understand the need for credibility because, well, it’s what makes a journalist a journalist and it’s why people kind of hate bloggers. But now that I’m thinking of it, perhaps the need for a credible source is necessary in anyone’s writing, including bloggers. That’s why I love your posts, Cliff. You do your research and your hard work, never take the short cuts.
Emily
http://deconstructingthoughts.mlblogs.com/

Cob,
I have been checking out a bit of the thrills and chills coming out of the Three Rivers area, and I have heard my buddy Jonny Gomes might be a candidate for arbitration after all.
Small market teams have a definite situation, but the Reds have done amazing considering the limitations set on the payroll.
Hopefully the next few weeks will show more good than bad, and maybe a trade or two ( weird hunch here).

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Emily,
The last time I took a short cut coming home from North Carolina I ended up in a alfalfa field at 2 am wondering where the highway ended (lol).
I just think in order for us to change the staus quo we need to get people to abide to certain levels of credibility before blogging becomes a joke to most people.
But in the end it is about expressing and providing a source for your outlet of frustrations, fears and joys, so whatever will be………will be.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cliff,

You inspire us all with your accurate and fair blogging!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Julia,
I really did not expect a Kumbuya moment, but thank you.
As the old sherriff used to say in the Old West after a dramtic situation….
(tipping 10-gallon hat) Just doing my job.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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