A Daily Babble Production
A new chapter of the occasional battle between bloggers and the mainstream media came to pass last week. Or perhaps it was a new chapter of conflict between athletes and the media. Or bloggers and bloggers. The roles seem to blur these days.
Access was no issue for the particular blogger in question. In fact, he might have even had more of that than the beat writer of the team he supports. Make that "the team that employs him." Because the blogger in question was Jamal Crawford, also known as the starting off-guard for the New York Knicks.
Brief recap thus far: As we detailed on the NBA page on Saturday, the New York Post's Marc Berman reported that Stephon Marbury had an unpleasant exchange with a reporter at his locker last Wednesday, and Jamal Crawford waved over other members of the media to check out the scene. Berman followed up the anecdote with a comment implying that Crawford wanted Marbury out of town.
As we discussed in the interest of fairness on Sunday, Crawford came back a day later on his own blog that he is maintaining for Post rival Newsday. The guard not only denied Berman's report but stated that he had spoken to both Marbury and Berman since the original story had run. According to Crawford, the finer points of the discussion with the latter included an apology from Berman along with the comment that the writer hadn't actually seen the incident but had been told what had happened. While Crawford wasn't thrilled with this explanation, he ended the blog post with what seemed to be a good-natured , "So I said, 'Well, now I'm going to have to write about you on my blog.' So there it is! Haaa...!"
Case closed. No cause for any further commentary from the your humble Babbler on the matter. Or so I thought.
But the plot doth thicken, and it does so in a way that leaves me frustrated.
Berman's Saturday piece on his Post-hosted blog for the team featured a concluding rebuttal that took a couple of shots at Crawford's on-court conduct (i.e. "I wish he attacked the man he was guarding with the same ferocity he attacked me in his 'blog'"), denied the occurrence of any apology and included the key phrase "The person who relayed the info is trustworthy and had no reason to make it up."
That's all the short-short version, and I would advise clicking the above links if you have some further interest in the drama in New York. The goings-on of the Knicks' locker room certainly take up far too much word-space in this here Daily Babble on a regular basis, so no one's blaming you if don't.
But that rehashing wasn't for no reason. I don't know, nor do I profess to know the truth about the stories told by Crawford and Berman. I possess no desire to play blog police on assessing winner and loser in their back-and-forth. That's below the scope of interest of this readership.
What I do know is this much (soapbox alert): It's disturbing to see this sort of conduct from the media, particularly from a beat writer whom I've long held in high regard.
When a writer with access to a team mentions an "observation" without qualifier, that refers to something he saw with his own eyes. By virtue of Crawford's story and Berman's own implicit admission in his rebuttal, that wasn't the case here. He didn't see the Marbury incident. Or Crawford waving the media over. Or any of it. So he misled his readers by labeling it an observation.
He also never attributed it at any point until Crawford prompted him to by outing him in the blog post. Not to an anonymous source, not to anyone. Now, he won't tell us who the source was or even which members of the media were involved. Not particularly encouraging.
Perhaps some of you will tell me I'm obsessing over semantics here, but as someone with at least a modicum of traditional training in the field (whatever that means), I can tell you that journalism is a profession steeped in semantics. It is first and foremost a profession of truth-telling. Which means that when a writer uses the term "observation," he needs to be referring to something that he actually, you know, observed. And when he gets a story secondhand, he needs to attribute it. Or fact-check it. Or, best of all, both. Or risk losing credibility with his readers (check out the comments section of Berman's rebuttal post for more on that).
I link to Marc Berman on here all the time because he generally does a comprehensive job of reporting and blogging the hated rivals from my hometown. I don't necessarily plan to stop doing that, but I do intend to scrutinize his articles more carefully and do what I can to make sure his reports are corroborated by other sources before citing them to you, the reader.
Whether Jamal Crawford was blameless in all this remains to be seen. But this incident only seems to make it more refreshing to see that some athletes are choosing to initiate direct contact with the public through blogging. The candid speech of the likes of Crawford and Gil Arenas will continue to earn them readers, and their successes in that realm will likely help continue the increasing trends of athletes blogging. Just how that affects those who traditionally cover these athletes should be a story worth following.
Okay, soapbox put back in storage. We return to your regularly scheduled Babble programming tomorrow. Promise.