John Smallwood, not a journalist who you might immediately relate to new media, gave perhaps the most fair and accurate opinion on what happened yesterday with the John Gruden rumors.
The story went from former Eagle Kyle Eckel's Facebook page, to a small TV station in Missouri (the reporter is from the Philly area), to Bleacher Report, to other Eagles blogs, and then had to be checked on by beat writers, who ultimately disproved the story before the Eagles issued their statement, which firmly denied the report.
Instead of taking to Twitter and his column to bash social media, blogs, and Twitter, the way so many other journalists will do today, Smallwood acknowledged the advantages of what we and so many others do. But he also pointed out the one area that has yet to be defined: What sorts of checks and balances are in place to deter folks in their basement, me, from spreading rumors based on little fact? [Philly.com]
But understand that traditional journalists have rules to follow, and there are penalties for breaking them.
A libel or slander suit is a powerful incentive for news organization to do their due diligence to confirm and reconfirm their facts.
But a loss of credibility with the people who trust us to deliver factual information is the greatest check and balance.
What are the rules for blogs or social networking?
I hate to get all smart and shit, but there was a concept during the Cold War called M.A.D., Mutual Assured Destruction, which basically deterred both the United States and the Soviet Union from launching nuclear attacks, simply because both sides could absorb the blow and retaliate.
The same principle applies here.
A journalist can't be completely reckless in reporting because, lawsuits aside, credibility is a difficult thing to regain once it's lost. Someone in my position, who isn't close to that level but does do this for a living, still has a lot to lose by being completely reckless- like, my job. Albeit one which I don't wear pants to.
But what is the drawback for someone with a hobby blog, popular Facebook page, or a Bleacher Report account? There is none. At least, not yet. And that sucks.
Now back to your regularly sheduled snark and pictures of Jeff Carter staring at blonde puck bunnies.