Do We Have another Epidemic Surfacing?
I wrote an MLBlogs.com piece not long ago where I used some “Old School” journalism to gather and decifer information on what locale relief pitcher Jason Grilli (Grillcheese49) was going to call home for the 2010 season. In a really intelligent gesture,Grilli used a well known social network to send out a few 140-character clues and photos into cyberspace to give us “laptop journalists”, a chance to join in on the circling whirlpool of information to conclude where he was going to be hanging his New Era cap and glove in 2010.
Grilli is defintely one of those tech savy athletes that truly “gets” this new era of networking and media interaction. He is using the availiable media tools like the social networking sites to get his message out there, and is using the network in a positive way to his advantage. And that system of giving information,or citing personal opinions might be the downfall in the current direction that media information gathering is heading towards right now.
I read recently that there were less than 20 Twitter verified baseball writers posting updates and relevations last season from the Major League Baseball 2008 Winter Meetings. In comparision, so far this year, it seems that everyone/anyone with a web-based device is in the hotel’s hallways, lobby and their rooms throwing across bytes of information onto the web for the baseball world to digest.
Technology savy baseball followers can now get information from one place to the hungry masses in a nano second, and then the real work begins. At this point it will be up to us to chip away at the garbage and keep the good information as a precious jewel. I can see soon an ever increasing wave of savy athletes, agents and hidden sources throwing out byte-size morsels of info to all us media mongrels. But they also could be able to get the upper hand on us by lacing messages with mis-information.
Athletes like Grilli knows that there are bleary and red-eyed souls lying in wait on the Internet trying to turn any tidbit of information into financial fodder for the hungry media parasites to devour to fill their deep hungry for an edge in information. I have to admit, when Grilli first posted those “hint” photos, it sent me on a fact-finding dance through all 30 Major League Baseball front office rosters looking for that unique job title and a certain flair in their signature. But then again, that is “old school” flair I was taught long ago.
We all want to find that sparkling gem of hidden information amongst the rubble sent out in cyberspace every day. We all want to be able to thrust up that gem of info towards the heavens to show we have the right stuff and be recognized for our efforts. But in that rubble, we will have to hone our own sense of truth to smell out the rotten misguided bytes and pull out all the good information.
Back in college, my Professor was pretty adamant about his personal ”First Rule of Journalism”. He stated the simple fact that “Acuracy, Acuracy, Acuracy” had to be the first foundation thought in our mind when dealing with info before writing or submitting a story to our editors. And with the advent of instant media, this rule seems a bit lost in the translation as tidbits of info come onto the web as fast as we think it in our brains, and type it on our keypads.
How many times in the last few months have we seen blogs posted, then pull down on trades and even player’s futures after they are deemed useless by us doing the legwork and seeing the errant flaws in the post like a nugget of fools gold in a miner’s pan. It has been happening at an increasing and alarming rate, and even happened recently with my own Major League team.
On Monday, a Philly blog( Phillyblurbs.com) posted a blog entry that described the Tampa Bay Rays trading Rays whipping boy Pat Burrell to the New York Mets in a late morning trade. The posting was that was quickly denied by Rays sources, then eventaully pulled from the Philly blog site like it never existed. The funny part of it all was that the guy with the tigger to pull off that deal, Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, was actually on an Air Tran flight with the rest of the Rays contingency and Friedman would of had to make the trade work via an in-flight WIFI connection at 30,000 feet.
This is just another example of the increasing “instant coffee” mentality held firmly by some people on the Internet. Another example of this increasing problem also features the Rays in a trade during 2009. National media members were falling all over themselves during the speculation of a possible trade in late July 2009 concerning Rays starter Scott Kazmir being sent to the Los Angeles Angels. While most of the media mongels were trying to figure out what was credible and what is garbage, other members of their field posted ” on the fly” postings tossing 140-character messages across cyberspace.
During this “He said, She said” source war of the Rays potential trade of Kazmir, most of us sat waiting on Twitter for media gems about the possible trade. I personally only read the postings of one media source, Marc Topkins of the St. Petersburg Times because I trust he does the legwork before throwing out information. What ended up happening during those few hours was the reality that Twitter followers were being bombarded by direct hits of garbage and half-truths and we ended up having to be the ones who searched through the rubble to find the right information.
Even people from such media giants as ”Sports Illustrated” and “ESPN” had their mis-information army at full force with their sources throwing out half-truths and misguided verbage, and they quickly saw their sources digressed within seconds of spouting to the heavens their revelations. I still remember reading a few posts from respected journalists, that some how instantly disappeared without warning or a blurp of apology and we all were left hanging in the balance until after that night’s Rays contest in Detroit.
I do not have the answer to all of this here. I am one of those guys who looks between every letter on postings seeking a clue or another possible direction to find great additional information. I really wish I had the answer to this increasing illness that will plague us for a long time until someone with more media power speaks up and demands a change. It is not me, I am a blogger who can not even demand attention from my own German Sheperd.
But the stark reality of this epidemic is that some people in the instant media world will mak a mistake on almost every story written until things are changed. I am not talking libel or slander laws either, but the advent of solid facts before typing our gathered information for immediate consumption by the masses. I did get Grilli’s 2010 destination right, and I am proud of that because I did not use any misinformation or blog postings except for the ones provided by the athlete himself. I went further than just the words to find the answers I was seeking with clarity and conviction.
All we can do as bloggers is strive to be as accurate and fact-based as we can and hopefully the ”accuracy” bug will rise from our low level back up to the National Media folks. Then again we can believe everything we see posted, and believe that things are heading in a positive direction within the media. But right now, it is all “Reader Beware”, and that is not the way news should be…..We should be able to trust it, and know they have our best interests at heart.