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Citing Internet posters?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Moland Spring, Mar 26, 2007.

  1. Moland Spring

    Moland Spring Member

    Wow. First, a disclaimer: John Henderson is tremendous. One of the best features writers around. But this is too much.
    In an article from San Antonio, he cites a Kentucky Internet poster as a source for his story. Ouch:


    Prominent names in line for UK job
    By John Henderson
    Denver Post College Basketball Beat Reporter
    Article Last Updated: 03/24/2007 11:29:46 PM MDT

    San Antonio - (edited out the top part)


    Also, (Donovan) may already be halfway there. I normally ignore fan postings on the Internet, but a Kentucky insider calling himself Realfeal wrote weeks ago that Tubby Smith would not coach Kentucky next year. Then earlier this month he wrote that Smith already had another job lined up. On Friday, Smith was introduced as Minnesota's coach.

    On the website dynastydefenders.com, Realfeal has written that Kentucky's deal with Donovan is already done. Take that for what it's worth, but only about 500 Florida fans traveled to New Orleans for the Gators' first two NCAA Tournament games. When Kentucky is having a good year, it usually brings between 10,000-20,000 fans.
  2. Rockbottom

    Rockbottom Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I just saw the same thing. That is taking it TOO far, IMHO.

  3. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    I know nothing about the story, but does Henderson know more than he's saying?

    Consider this, completely unrelated to that story, and just for the sake of discussion:

    Not too long ago, there was a rip-roaring thread here, opinions and information flying everywhere, and it became pretty clear that one of the contributors--a new member, just for that thread--was exceedingly knowledgeable. Insight and knowledge of the subject that only a couple of people would have.

    Now: let's say you did a little investigating, and determined that this was a VIP on the subject, which you cover the subject for your paper. You can't quote the guy, except as a message board poster. You can't validate his identity to your boss/editor without outing yourself as someone who posts here.

    Do you let it go? Write about the mysterious message board poster? Use it as background and try to report around it? (Yes, I know, you report around it, it was a fake question.) Is it worth reporting that a well-known character is lurking and posting about himself on anonymous message boards?
  4. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    How can you do what the last sentence of your fifth paragraph suggests if the last two sentences of the fourth paragraph are true?
  5. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    If a train leaves the station at 2 pm, carrying 34 Asian wives...I'm sorry, Johnny, I'm no good at these word problems.

    I think the answer to your question is, you can't, but it would make you crazy trying to figure out how you can. Maybe, eventually, you just quote the anonymous poster, knowing it looks shaky and peopke will talk about you on SportsJournalists.com?
  6. KnuteRockne

    KnuteRockne Member

    This was a big deal with all the Redskins b.s., right? A team executive posting on fan boards?
  7. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    I've always wanted to interview KnuteRockne.
  8. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    I don't know, I seem to be finding myself increasingly on a side of the argument I wouldn't have been on a couple of years ago.

    Henderson gave you all the information you needed to take this with a grain of salt. You know exactly where that stuff is coming from.

    To me, it's an interesting little tidbit, cited absolutely accurately, and I don't have any big problem with it.
  9. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    I spent five minutes trying to come up with essentially what SF just said.
  10. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Having pretty well figured out who that VIP poster is, wouldn't one have to approach him/her in the real world and ask him/her to go on the record? And having done so successfully, wouldn't the hypothetical reporter then be able to say to the hypothetical bosses, "I was reading SportsJournalists.com - which I often do to keep my thumb on the pulse of the sports world - and came across this really interesting thread. I pursued it as a lead and did some digging and have brought back on-the-record revelations from VIP X"?
  11. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I agree that's the key. He also gave instances in which that poster was on the money.

    Here's my problem: Why doesn't he say if he tried to contact the poster by PM to expand on his comments just for this story. The site appears to have a PM function. I have a bit of a problem with just citing a message-board post without saying if you made an attempt to contact the poster. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't.

    Does it bother anyone else that the writer cites unnamed "sources" (plural) and the only one quoted even as a paraphrase is the message board savant? It makes me believe that he has only the one source. Why couldn't one of the other "sources" say, yeah, the message-board guy has it right?

    So I don't have a problem citing the poster as much as I have a problem with what appears to be a lack of legwork.

    Edit: I see that jgmacg beat me to it on this point.
  12. joe king

    joe king Active Member

    Even if he contacts the poster and gets him/her to confirm what he/she knows off the record, the reporter can then go to his boss and say here's what I know, and my source is so-and-so. That seems to be a much stronger position than guessing at the identity of an anonymous poster.
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