Blogs: You Gotta Be Kidding Me Edition

I started writing this post almost exactly two years ago and then I never hit the post button. I guess writing was enough to get it out of my system. But I am once again watching a situation where a blogger reported something with no support, no access to facts, no grasp of facts and only a fleeting, tangential connection to the plane of reality we all inhabit, and it is being reported as fact. Needless to say, it pissed me off all over again. Fortunately, except for the updated parts in the middle, I already had a bunch of words written down.

A couple of years ago John Stewart famously attacked Tucker Carlson on Crossfire. Stewart's satirizes the news, CNN purports to be journalist. Stewart tells you not to trust what he is saying. He is not reporting or being objective. CNN and Tucker Carlson on the other hand, say they are news. He called them on it. It's time to do the same thing with bloggers, and I'll give it a shot.

My blog is kind of like The Daily Show - without the John Stewart, cameras, basic cable or humor. I don't report news. I don't pretend to be objective, and I don't hold myself out as a journalist. It is pure opinion. My very large ego compels me to memorialize my thoughts. When I do report facts, I link to the source so any reader can see the source and determine the appropriate weight on their own. I am not a journalist and don't pretend to be. However, there are some "journalists" out there who feel the word "blog" liberates them from the archaic confines of integrity. Blogs are given authority simply because the words are written down. Nobody really gives a shit about my name as a credible news source and I don't expect to be referenced as one. If you do, feel free to sit down and we can talk about it, I promise you will quickly change my mind. When someone is on the hunt for web traffic, it is very easy to confuse - or refuse to acknowledge - an unedited, unreviewed blog post, for a news story. It sounds even more real when the post is picked up by credible news sources. These bloggers post a giant, steaming turd on their site and like a group of dung beetles, the media start to roll pieces of the turd all over the web and into credible news sources, often losing sight of the lack of credibility of the originator.

Whether it is a blog like Engadget mistakenly posting about an iPhone delay and knocking off 4 billion in market value, a journalist/blog hybrid like gamespot and their mistakenly posted, and later corrected coverage of my "announcement" of a Juno game - the very reason I launched this blog- words I actually did say taken grossly out of context or entertainment reporters who choose to cover industry issues and reviews in a manner which would never be allowed to be printed in the magazines which employ them, it is happening all over the place. Even the New York Times is running blogs posted by its writers and The Huffington Post is nothing but bloggers.

Our little microcosm of the world was impacted, and continues to be impacted by the West and Zampella affair. The only things we know for sure come from Activision's press release and the unanswered complaint filed by West and Zampella - put more simply, not much. This does not stop the bloggers from creating facts to make the story more interesting, not the least of which is West and Zampella's discussions with EA. Fascinating, if true, but wholly manufactured in a blog. G4TVspeculated the guys were talking to EA based on an internal memo. The wrote "The memo seems to indicate that Activision may have suspected West and Zampella were looking outside the company." The memo does not indicate that at all. The memo indicates Activision is going to ask for everything under the sun. It is a discovery outline. Nothing more, nothing less. But this one erroneous post on line became truth and turned into "Rumor: Infinity Ward Had Been Courting EA, Other Publishers." , "Rumor: Activision internal memo claims West and Zampella were talking to EA"
and others across the web when the memo said nothing like that. I hope you got the hits you were looking for Mr. Blogger, but you are messing with people's lives here. Think I am melodramatic, try being them.

Worse yet, the story does not stop there. As the feeding frenzy dies down, the analysis commences. But the analysis is based on a set of facts manufactured by bloggers. Mona Ibrahim took it upon herself to write a gamasutra article entitled: Analysis: Can West and
Zampella Win
The article would appear to be premature considering only one side has filed a complaint, but not to Ms. Ibrahim. She has a world of Interblogfacts at her disposal. She acknowledges she does not have the facts. The problem is she keeps writing and gives credence to rumors which do not exist.

We can’t see the contract and no one knows all of the facts, so confirming this allegation will be impossible until March 31, when the payment is due; and for all we know West and Zampella really were engaged in talks with EA as some of the rumors suggest.

In case that is not bad enough, she actually gives provides an opinion on how they should handle the case "WITHOUT KNOWING ANY FACTS"

Unfortunately, showing wrongful termination in a case like this will be difficult. With hope West and Zampella will settle this matter quickly and be fairly compensated so they can move on with their lives and careers; unfortunately, it is just as likely that Activision will be forced to fight if only to defend itself in the court of public opinion.

. . .and other sites are linking to this article.

You are about to point out, correctly, that just two posts ago I wrote about West, Zampella and Activision. I did and my post was very much like hers - in the sense that it was made of words. It was completely different in the sense that, I did not make any judgments about the case. I merely pointed out similarities to a prior developer action and addressed both sides of the argument. I am in no position to assess the merits of the case or the claims and did not try.

Blog posts are easy to make. Too easy. They can be written on the fly and posted in a hurry. For many of the "news" blogs the pressure of the 24/7 news cycle and the desire for the next making scoop drives writers to post quickly. Too quickly. Once a post is made, if there is a sexy keyword, it will immediately spread across the blogosphere and into the mainstream media. Corrections never get that far. Moreover, blogs are more permanent than newspapers. Newspapers and news stories go away after a few days. Blogs stick to google search results likes ticks to your calves.

This subject came up in a panel discussion where Carl Bernstein addressed the impact of blogs on the press. As a bit of a Watergate junkie I was especially interested in his Watergate discussion. This story is arguably the single most significant story of the last century. He talked about the arguments among editors and attorneys about what could be printed and what couldn't. He was sent back out into the field to get more support for statements and to make sure everything was verified. The process must have been frustrating and it would have made me wish I could just post a story and not be subject to review and verification by a bunch of editors and lawyers. Afterward I asked him if the story would have been different if he had a blog. "Absolutely. It would not have been as good."


Simon Carless said…
I don't see a lot of difference between your post and Mona's, Keith - both are smart and interesting pontification with no snap judgments on who will win out. But I may be biased!

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