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Today I learned a hard, valuable lesson about what I do here at Bleacher Nation. I know some of you will think that I’m being dramatic or too hard on myself, but I’m not. I screwed up today, and I have some explaining and apologizing to do.

For those who missed it, I wrote today about an alleged conversation that a BN’er overheard in his apartment building. The conversation involved Carlos Marmol and his agents, and the possibility of him being traded from the Cubs. The BN’er tweeted the information, and after considering its newsworthiness, I ran with it. As I do with that kind of thing, I threw up the usual caveats: I can’t verify this. I wasn’t there. The BN’er may have misheard. Etc., etc. Given the seriousness of the quotes involved, that’s when my red flag should have gone up.

To my mind, what I was writing about was the simple fact that someone out there in the Twitterverse says he heard these things. I was not writing about the fact that Marmol definitely did say them. It was like writing that someone says he saw Theo Epstein in a Starbucks, even if I can’t verify that he was actually there. The mere fact that someone is saying it is interesting and newsworthy.

But that was completely unfair of me. When I write something like that, I have to understand that it will be read as “Marmol did say these things, because I’m a professional writer and I wouldn’t write it if he didn’t say it.” It was read that way by many people, in large part because, after weighing the evidence, I said I had no reason to doubt that Marmol had actually said these things or had this meeting. The truth, of course, is that I don’t *really* know it, and I said as much. I know only that someone Tweeted it. And shouldn’t I hold myself to a higher standard than that?

Here’s the bottom line:

It is unfair for me to hide behind “well, I was simply writing about what someone else said, not claiming that the person actually said it,” and then simultaneously ask to be treated as a professional. I can have one or the other, but not both. This dichotomy didn’t occur to me until I was getting blasted for what I’d done, and that is my biggest failing: I just didn’t get it. We learn from our mistakes, and I’m learning. But this is a lesson I probably should have already understood. I should have been the second guy, not the first guy. For that, I apologize to Carlos Marmol, to the Cubs, and to you. I will do better next time.

The truth is, navigating this new media landscape is really freaking hard.

I started this site more than four years ago, when I was an anonymous lawyer in Ohio just having some fun in his spare time. You write from a very, very different perspective when that’s the case. And that lasted for several years. I grew up as a blogger in a world where I was divorced, by one layer, from the people/stories/rumors/whatever that I was writing about. I didn’t have, and couldn’t have, access, and that informed the way I wrote. If something was out there to be discussed, well, damnit, I was going to discuss it. This is the Internet, right? The Cubs didn’t have a clue who I was or care a lick about what I said, so I could write whatever and however I wanted. I think I was always fair, but I probably wasn’t always thoughtful. I had that freedom.

It can be hard to unlearn your previous process, especially when the “learning” is so very public.

Bleacher Nation has grown very large. It is widely read, both in the volume of Cubs fans, and the types of people who read it. I wouldn’t say that I sometimes forget that fact, but sometimes I don’t consider the implications of that fact when I write. As I swiftly move to cover something breaking or fresh, I often reside inside my “blogger” helmet, where I’m just writing for a concentrated contingent of hardcore fans who understand that I’m just shooting from the hip, because that’s what “bloggers” do.

I can’t keep doing that. Sure, I can – and will – still write “differently” about the Cubs than traditional media, but I’ve got to stop thinking of myself as operating in an insular bubble. When I write something – especially something about a player allegedly saying he wants out of town – I have to realize that it’s going to spread widely. That means I have certain responsibilities, whether I choose them or not. The greatest responsibility I have is to be fair in everything I write. That’s a responsibility I failed today, and I’m getting slapped with a hard lesson as a result.

If I had an opportunity to do today all over, I would have figured out a way to get in contact with someone, anyone about the alleged meeting, and I would have asked some questions. The fact that I’m not entirely sure who I would have contacted – I don’t have a lengthy rolodex of numbers, but I’m sure I could have figured something out – is just an excuse, and I’m not going to make it. In my do-over, I would have found someone at the Cubs to offer a comment, or someone at Marmol’s agency. Yes, they would have likely denied the story and suggested that there was no meat there to write about. They might have been right, and the story might never have been written. But at least then, if I chose to write the story anyway, it would have been fair. What I wrote today was not fair to Carlos Marmol, the Cubs, or to you.

For that, I am sorry. I’m always learning and trying to do my best.

  • 70’scub

    No big deal, your reporting clean as clean gets. The Marmol thing in my opinion is he has had a very good run with the Cubs. He is just slowing down (3-5 mph) it is called age work load ect. He might improve his chances switching to the American league as he really has one swing and miss pitch.

  • http://www.cubbiescrib.com Andrew Denny

    Don’t sweat it bud. Mistakes happen, and you still do a phenomenal job. I’ll continue to be a reader even if the occasional (emphasis on occasional) mix-up occurs.

  • Bea Arthur’s husband.

    Brett,

    Brave, bold, and honorable. This is something I’ve never seen the main stream media never does. You work among “professional” people who make more mistakes in much lengthier careers as yours.

    You wouldn’t take this tack, so I will. I feel like Dave Kaplan and Patrick Mooney would be stand up guys. And, Kap has proven he is several times. And Bruce miles, classy.

    I’m leaving Sully out this given your recent April exchanges with him.

    Gordon Wittenmyer makes many verifiable errors. He confused the third base coach and the bench coach earlier this year. When asked about it, he brushed it off. His endless pounding of the them and their finances are hit jobs. He might well have some or mostly accurate info, but he refuses to even simply say, signing Rizzo was good. At best, he is competent. At worst, a bizarrely angry man who loses complete objectivity because of a personal grudge. But, I can’t confirm that. Doesn’t stop him.

    Jesse Rogers? A hockey guy. Nice fellow. Not a real clue about baseball.
    Mistakes.

    Does Al Yellon, the cubs favorite blogger admit errors? Not sure, I don’t read him.

    Bruce. Oh Bruce. Old, crotchety Bruce. You faithly recount his chats and leads. Quietly questioning an idea or two. Bruce simply makes stuff up. It is that simple. He often denies having reported it after the fact. It is egregious thar ESPN runs him out there and Rogers, but it is ESPN, not one to admit errors. I know Greenberg is there, but I don’t know his work well.

    My point, I guess, is I hold you on par with these guys. The arrogance of some beat guys and columnists (probably driven by fears of losing readers to you) is remarkable. Your mea culpa is the right thing to do. Thank you. I read you daily and include me in the hardcore.

    I’ve found success in my career because of forgiveness of error by my bosses. Your bosses, the readers, will support you.

    Conversely, remarkable how this one story blew up. It shows your large number of readers and that the media and fans take your work seriously.

    Finally, who heck was that guy who tweeted? Was he maybe trying for some publicity? He reminds of a drunk guy sitting behind me at a game cursing Marmol despite the cubs losing 16-2. The kind of guy who swears in front of kids. Just curious.

    Keep fighting the good thought.

    Bea’s Husband

    It’s 1am. All errors here typos etc are
    Mine.

  • Die hard

    Mike and Mike haven’t mentioned this tempest in a teapot story yet as far as I can tell— still time tho

    • fromthemitten

      Even if what Marmol said was true I don’t think it would merit national attention

  • RoughRiider

    Marmol and his agents having a discussion like that in public sounds a little beyond belief. I can believe Marmol would or could be that ignorant (not saying he is) but it’s doubtful that his agents are. I can see where Brett might regret reporting it on this blog but I think he’s being too hard on himself.
    Brett:
    It’s not as if you reported “Dewey defeats Truman”.

    • bbmoney

      or even…..”water is in the NYSE” as reported by several agencies when Sandy hit NYC this fall. Or CNN reporting suspects were identified 2 hours after the Boston bombings…..only to re-report later that their ‘source’ was wrong……the twitter age makes things even crazier.

  • Jim

    We still <3 you.

  • 80 meets 90

    I wouldn’t be worried in the least. I seriously doubt that anyone in the Cubs front office has Bleacher Nation bookmarked on their PC.
    You’re a blogger, not a writer at USA Today.
    “Professional writer”, because you sell ad space for your website, not because your work is in great demand.
    I think you can sleep just fine. I doubt anyone important noticed a thing.

    • hansman1982

      Wow, that wasn’t a passive agressive asshole comment.

      “Don’t worry about it, Bertty, noone was reading it anyway…”

      • 80meets90

        Not at all. Just pointing out that this isn’t exactly “Meet the Press”.
        No need to get all mellow dramatic.
        This is a good website. I visit it, often. I just don’t agree with a need to apologize. As was mentioned, Brett didn’t even get a press release, concerning the Rizzo signing. Why? He’s not press.
        The front office might take issue with an ESPN report. It may get all bent out of shape if a national newspaper errors. But, a blog? Unlikely.

        • King Jeff

          “your work is not in demand”
          “I doubt anyone important noticed a thing”

          Yeah, nothing negative or underhanded here.

          • 80meets90

            I probably could have worded my response a little better. You are right. I, also, don’t see the need for such a long diatribe, on a subject that, most likely, NONE of the possible offended parties, even noticed. This is a blog. It is a good blog. But, there are many. That’s my point.
            No offense.

            • King Jeff

              It seems that Carlos Marmol definitely noticed.

              • DarthHater

                Pffffft! Some washed up, has-been relief pitcher… :-P

            • DarthHater

              No worries, man. It’s been a slow asshole day at BN, so us self-righteous folk are just itching for any excuse to take offense. ;-)

        • DarthHater

          Boys and girls, your oxymoron of the day is: mellow dramatic.

    • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

      Ooh! Someone’s jealousy and inferiority complex is showing!

      • Cubbie Blues

        Great, now I have to go listen to French again. Not that it’s a bad thing at all.

        • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

          Hahahaha!!!!

          I’m actually recording bass for the new album in a few minutes…..

          • Cubbie Blues

            I still really enjoy EV85

            • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

              Thanks CB! No one is ever very specific about what songs they like and it’s encouraging to hear! That song is about me trying to survive in the East Village (NYC) as a teenage punk rocker being chased by skinheads all the time…

    • RoughRiider

      I was in the lobby of my Condo Bldg and overheard someone who says he knows Epstein. He said, he overheard that “Bleacher Nation is the first thing he looks at every day.”

      • DarthHater

        There you go, Bert! Run with that story! :-P

  • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

    It takes courage and strength to be as honest as you are, Brett. It’s a big reason I turn to you for information on the Cubs.

    This all reminds me of the time I’d heard that my friend’s boyfriend was cheating on her (from several sources) and I decided to be the stand-up honest friend who told her the truth about what was going on. She has never forgiven me.

    Anyway, we all got your back Brett.
    Thank god you’re a human being.

  • MichiganGoat

    Brett you the man the next beer is on me… and I promise you a sixer of Huma Lupa Licious will cure all that ales (puns are fun) you.

  • Tom A.

    Does anyone know if Marmol actually did meet with an agent and say such things ?

    • Cubbie Blues

      All that we *know* is that he met with his agent and that they denied saying that he wanted out of Chicago.

      • Tom A.

        Thanks.

  • http://bleachernation Bsteady

    well put Brett

  • Katie

    Well done, Brett.

  • Brad

    Dude nice but I doubt anyone is hung on and has the incredible website centered around their lives. You didn’t make anyone jump off a skyscraper, in a Marmol jersey, promise. Well put.

  • http://www.cwsnaturally.com Evolution

    I’ve changed my mind…this is the most horrible thing I’ve ever encountered, and is clearly rooted in a blind pursuit of global megalocitude, with an obvious undercurrent of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, dengue fever, French bad boy Gerard Depardieu, Adderall withdrawal, basil pesto, cannibalistic rage, Vijay Armitraj, undiscovered genitalia, eau de toilette, diarrhea of the mouth, and Jerry Mathers as “The Beaver”.

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