Meta: The Ethos of Rumor Mongering

Social Navigation

Meta: The Ethos of Rumor Mongering

Chicago Cubs

As you may have noticed over the past few weeks, we’ve started sourcing our own rumors here at Bleacher Nation. It’s a relatively infrequent thing, but from time to time, we’ll have rumors to report that come from our own sources, rather than from other members of the blogging world or the mainstream media.

I recognize that this kind of development is typically met with skepticism. On the anonymous wires of the Internet, it’s very easy to concoct rumors out of whole cloth, and then hide behind that anonymity when, inevitably, nothing happens (or to claim soothsaying ability in the unlikely event that the prediction comes true). I know this, and I accept that many of our rumors will be met with incredulity by other bloggers or reporters or message board posters, if they hear of the rumors at all.

But I want you to know that, even as a mere blogger, I take my rumor reporting seriously. You don’t write for two years, multiple posts a day, and build up a readership in the thousands, just to blow your credibility on a rumor about Chris Davis.

I’ve always had an ethos for passing along rumors here: if it comes from a mainstream media source, another credible Cubs blog, or a credible source in the social sphere, I pass the rumor along with my own thoughts and comments, and an estimation of the veracity. As the site grew, however, I started to get contacted – both via email and the comments – by folks who claimed to have inside information. For the most part, I met these kinds of rumors with skepticism, asked follow-up information, didn’t get much, and I moved on without posting.

In time, I started to get more reliable information, but still, I resisted. Putting yourself out there as having “sources,” and then seeing a rumor flop can be poison to a developing blog. Also, I know how folks’ eyes glaze when they see “according to sources” (even though that’s how information is passed along, even for the big boys). Ultimately, I could have had a nice little scoop or two, but I blinked. Credibility is difficult to win and easy to lose.

But now, we’ve passed the threshold, and we’re reporting rumors we receive via tips. What I want the readers to know is that the rumors will still have to have some baseline level of veracity before I will post them here. Does that mean the rumor is necessarily true? No. It means that, in my estimation, the “source” is as credible as most of the anonymous sources cited in the mainstream media or on other blogs. I evaluate the identity of the source and the plausibility of the rumor, look for independent verification of the rumor and a history of accuracy for the source. And I will always protect the identity of the source (I recognize they take a risk by talking to me, and it’s in neither of our interests for sources to be outed).

This is all to say that, as Bleacher Nation moves into more regularly providing our own rumors, I want you to know that there is at least some measure of control in place so that I’m not just regurgitating completely made up garbage. Might that still happen from time to time? Sure. But as Walter Sobchak said, “At least it’s an ethos.”

And, for what it’s worth, late last night, Bruce Levine reported that, “according to a Major League source,” the Cubs spoke to the Padres about Gonzalez after the Red Sox deal initially fell through – something we sourced and reported hours before Levine. Do I feel vindicated? Nah; I’m not about all that. Do I feel like the greatest person in the history of the world? Yes.

Latest from Bleacher Nation:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.