THE BLOG

Accountability Before Respect

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The recent Internet rumor of an alleged affair between Jeff Carter of the Philadelphia Flyers and teammate Scott Hartnell's wife was harmful in a few ways.

The emotional strain for those involved in the steamy allegation has to be heavy. The way this story was brought to light could have some effect on those who regularly blog on the Internet.

Like it or not there is a stigma attached to the term blogger.

The line between actual news and rumors, or reporting and speculation is often blurred. That isn't going to change overnight but rather is a function of the increasing accessibility of the Internet and the lack of accountability of some bloggers.

Those which report and write for newspapers or other traditional publications can have a built in contempt for those who have the freedom of blogging on the Internet.

With the ability to write on the Internet almost whatever one wishes a degree of accountability is still needed. Although how much responsibility the blogger should bear is up for debate.

Many things which are written in a blog format would not be allowed in a newspaper or magazine. Not to say everything which is printed in old guard print medium is true. But many readers still attach more credibility to newspaper and magazine articles.

The primary way news will be disseminated in the future will be over the Internet, although today being a blogger doesn't carry a great deal of journalistic integrity.

There are reasons, mostly because the Internet media world is still evolving. It certainly doesn't help when those who write on the net play fast and lose with little regard for the consequences of what they have posted.

A few years ago after their Stanley Cup appearance when the Ottawa Senators were starting to decline, a similar sexually charged rumor was brought to my attention. As the story went, an Ottawa player was sleeping with a teammates' wife. I never wrote a blog about it because there was no proof it was true, to be honest it didn't matter very much to me.

In my own blogging rulebook, allegations about the personal lives of players are almost always off limits. I have only mentioned the Senator rumor to a couple of people who would never write about the possible immoral act. It was sort of uncomfortable to even repeat the sordid tale.

Seldom are similar stories ever written about by team beat writers. They would have to have proof; the contentions would have to be from verified credible sources. To even acknowledge the existence of such a rumor by questioning a player is unlikely.

Sometimes what is whispered can be true but writing about rumors and calling it "reporting" can be sketchy.

Repeating an allegation without completely verifying the story is not my idea of reporting. There is a big difference between writing opinions and reporting stories from "credible" sources.

The Internet is a fantastic way to gather information.

Although in today's environment it will be difficult for the blogging community to be truly appreciated and for credible Internet writers to gain the respectability they deserve. It will take time.

The Temple University student who is getting most of the credit, or disdain for the Carter-Hartnell story seemingly didn't understand why the supposed revelation was such a big deal.

The quotes below from the Temple University blogger appeared on the Phillyfour.com website.

"Someone I know works for the Flyers, and I wrote it as a rumor," he said earlier this week. "I didn't write it as a fact in case the guy was wrong. I didn't want to be unfair because I didn't witness it."

According to Phillyfour.com.... He said it was a "credible source" who "works close to the players." Also... "I didn't make it up."

I take the student blogger's remarks to mean he felt his liability was limited by writing the story as a rumor. That would be the first problem, his assessment of his responsibility.

Another quandary is seemingly he is the lone judge for the credibility of his source.

The Temple University senior further defended his actions.

"I didn't know anyone read my Web site. I didn't do it to make a name for myself. I did it to practice writing and reporting."

He continues down a slippery slope by calling what he did reporting.

As problematic as writing this type of rumor can be, it only scratches the surface of what could be posted on the Internet about a player.

What if a "credible source" comes forward with unproven allegations that a player is using drugs?

An unproven story could surface on the internet that player X is a wife beater.

Maybe a credible source could come forward with an allegation concerning a player being a pedophile.

Possibly a reliable source close to a team could blabber to a blogger about a player with an alcohol or gambling addiction.

All of the above "rumors" could easily be written without any actual proof.

The fallout from rumor writing isn't limited to the sexual allegations in the Carter-Hartnell saga.

Nope, this will be a rocky ride for all those who write credible opinions on the Internet.

Sometimes I prefer being called an Internet writer rather than a blogger. But that isn't enough to separate myself and others from those who use the shield of rumor blogging as if it was a constitutional right to say anything about anyone.

We seem to swing these days from too little regulation to being strangled with legal restrictions. Maybe in the end the new wave of Internet writing will cause more laws to be put in place. Or possibly the laws already on the books will have to be expanded to focus on today's Internet blogging.

That also may not be good, but unfortunately everyone has a different standard for credibility.


Additional blogs by Al Cimaglia about the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL can be found on HockeyIndependent.com.