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Baseless speculation only bad when bloggers do it

Jun 11, 2009, 11:17 AM EST

Yesterday Aaron wrote about Raul Ibanez
taking on the blogger who speculated that he may be on steroids. Since
then, the blogger went on TV with Ken Rosenthal to defend his claims,
such as they were, and the issue still continues to rattle around the
Internet, as these things tend to do. I don’t really have any opinion
about the whole Ibanez affair and nothing I’m about to write is
specific to the claims made about him. Rather, it’s about the curious
reaction to the claims. Or at least one curious reaction.

This morning the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker writes about the Ibanez thing,
and in doing so, he has offered one of the more self-aggrandizing posts
I’ve seen from a member of the mainstream media in some time. By all
means read it all for yourself, but the short version is this: “sports
writing is deadly serious business and I, Geoff Baker, am personally
responsible for the ruined lives and careers of many a man. There are
dead bodies and broken dreams left in my horrible tracks. If you’re
gonna shoot the devil in the back, baby, you had better not miss, and
unlike the bloggers of the world, I don’t freakin’ miss, punks.” At
least that’s the effect he’s obviously going for.

Of course, just because he’s being dramatic doesn’t mean that he’s wrong. You do
have to have the goods if you’re going to accuse someone of something,
and that goes for bloggers and traditional reporters alike. Blogging is
just a medium, not a whole new realm of existence, and to think that
you’re subject to a lower standard just because you’re a blogger is
silliness. Credibility is bestowed on you by the readers, and the
readers don’t care what club you like to think you belong to. Which
makes this passage from Baker so curious:

But when you go
all-in, you’ve got to go all in. He didn’t do that. When you write
about topics like killers, or Hell’s Angels, or major leaguers and
steroids, you can’t pussy foot around. You’ve got to go at it hard,
directly, with no b.s. and be able to defend yourself afterwards. This
blogger couldn’t because in went in only halfway. He tried to raise the
“steroids issue” then claimed he really wasn’t pointing a finger at
Ibanez . . . I taught journalism at Concordia University in Montreal
from 1996 through 1998, before things like blogs were even envisioned.
Much of what I see written in the blogosphere today would have failed
my very rigid course.

Just in the past few months I have read
dozens if not scores of articles from honest to goodness newspaper
writers trafficking in steroid speculation and ending with words like
“I hate to make such broad statements, but unfortunately, that’s the
world in which we live.” I don’t recall Baker or anyone else for that
matter taking any of those guys to task. Likewise, I don’t see anyone
taking issue with the countless articles that have lumped Sammy Sosa in
with confirmed steroids users. The Sammy Sosa who, no matter what you
think of him, has never had a credible fact-based allegation hurled at
him. The Sammy Sosa who, in all likelihood, won’t get into the Hall of
Fame precisely because of this evidence-free speculation in which Baker
and his mainstream journalist brethren have so readily engaged.

So
yes, it’s fair to excoriate a blogger who hurls evidence-free
accusations. But please, mainstream media, do not pretend that you
don’t do the very same thing, and do not pretend that your vitriol for
this blogger has nothing to do with his medium as opposed to his
message.

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