Thursday, January 24, 2008

Blogger Ethics 2: The Other Side

When I started writing yesterday's post about the Leitch-Cuban saga, I was not exactly sure whose side I would end up on in the end. Though it may seem like I am villainizing Leitch, and I admit I may have been harsh, in reality I was torn about the issue and looking for views nd feedback from the community. And oh did I get it. While J-Red's comment in support of Leitch is the only one available to the public at this point, I did get some views on both sides in private (the anonymity of which will not be compromised).

To show that I really am not sure of my opinion on the matter, I will write a similarly scathing post for the other side of the discussion, in true debater form.

In terms of journalistic integrity, I would agree wholeheartedly with J-Red. I remember reading someting Rick Reilly wrote maybe a year ago when he said, "If somebody says, 'This is off the record, not even without attribution,' then I usually say, 'Then don't tell me. Because I might get it later from somebody else and you'll think I ratfinked on you.' That makes life simpler."

In essence this is J-Red's point exactly. If you say something to a reporter, you should expect it to be published.

There is no reason why this shouldn't be the same for a blogger, and rather possibly should be more of the case. Nothing is off the record for us because blogs, often defined as public conversations or diaries, are often just musings.

For argument's sake, let's consider Will Leitch, the GQ columnist, and Will Leitch, the blogger, as separate people. The GQ columnist was sent on an assignment to conduct a face-to-face interview with Mark Cuban. He completes his assignment completely professionally and even tells Cuban about his alter-ego, the blogger, the existence of which did not stop Cuban from giving the interview. Meanwhile, the blogger is listening to the interview, picking up on interesting tidbits to include in his blog.

The post in question does not contain any information that would be only available to the GQ reporter, only a quote from Cuban that was published in the article. Otherwise, it seemed to be just another opinion piece about Cuban that happened to be written by someone who interviewed him a while earlier. If the post were written by someone else, taking away the lead-in, which only serves to introduce the subject, there would be no discussion. So what is the problem here exactly? In other words, what does Mark Cuban want the statute of limitations for this to be (how long before Will Leitch is allowed to blog anything about Cuban again)? One month? Six months? Forever?

Cuban's attempted purchase of the Cubs is a major issue in sports right now (well, maybe it's just a little more than an afterthought), and Leitch's interview with him provided an appropriate stimulus for a post. Not making that post would be ignoring his duty as a blogger, which is to imbibe us, the readership, with all the information and analysis that he has, which the MSM either does not want to or just does not give us. This is not a question of ethics, simply of responsibility.