There was a tweet yesterday that sparked some interest among baseball fans. That tweet read:
Anonymous Source: Cano, Granderson, A-Rod and Braun will all be suspended for failing PED test this season.
— Joe Bisceglie (@joebisceglie) March 4, 2013
Among the people it interested: us. That’s why this post appeared on our site last evening. Full disclosure: the original title did potentially make it seem a bit like the rumor originated with us – which, as you can tell by the above tweet, it did not – so we later added “Report:” to the beginning of the headline. The post, however, made it entirely clear that we were writing about something someone else said – and doing so because last summer, this same person, Joe Bisceglie, reported that Melky Cabrera would be suspended for PEDs way before anyone else did.
However: it’s still an anonymously-sourced story, which is why our post said:
You’d be inclined to be skeptical, and for fair reason — Bisceglie doesn’t name his source. This kind of story is explosive, and deserves tender care before people start going on witch hunts and throwing names out there with no rationale.
Hell, Bisceglie urged everyone to “take all of this with a grain of salt” himself. OK then. We’ve got our salt shaker in hand. However, grain of salt or no, as our post noted, “This kind of story is explosive,” and that meant when people saw it, they were going to take an interest. They did. And one person who caught wind of the rumor via our site called Mike Francesa about it today. And that led to this:
A few things to note here: first, the hilarity of the caller seemingly trying to torment Francesa by repeatedly saying he saw it “on the internet” as Francesa, with increasing exasperation, demands a specific source. (In a way, we guess we can’t blame the guy; we can only imagine how Francesa would have reacted to “it was a report on Twitter.”) Second, this exchange:
Caller: Joe Bisceglie [ed. note: this was not how he pronounced it]. Italian guy.
Francesa: Uh, uh, I don’t care what his nationality is.
And, of course (WARNING: things get a bit self-indulgent/inside-basebally here, so if that doesn’t sound good to you, turn away), the mention of our site. We were not surprised to learn that Mike Francesa, despite our fondness for writing about him, is unfamiliar with our operation. In fact, we’d have been shocked if he had been. So what we were surprised by is that the site got mentioned on his show at all. (We weren’t listening in at first; rather, we were notified by tweets like this one.) Seeing which of our posts were blowing up traffic-wise, it wasn’t difficult to tell what he was talking about.
And then, we got a little worried, essentially thinking, “Oh great, Mike Francesa, the world’s least tech-savvy person, misinterpreted the post, thinks the rumor started with us, and now we’re about to get mistakenly hammered by him and whoever’s listening.” Thankfully, that’s not how things wound up played out, but it did make us pause to consider the way information moves online, and the sort of inverse-Telephone game it can create: the messenger is what can get lost in translation, rather than the message itself. And while we avoided such a misinterpretation, if we hadn’t, it would’ve been at least a little bit on us, because of the potentially-confusing original post title we mentioned earlier.
The lesson in all this, then? One, be really sure that, if you are writing about a report/rumor/idea/etc. that didn’t begin with you, you make clear everywhere possible that the story indeed did not originate with you. Otherwise you’ll attract attention for all the wrong reasons. Two, if you are writing about a story that should be taken with a grain of salt, mention that it should be taken with a grain of salt. Three, don’t dismiss Twitter as a destination for breaking news – it’s the best such destination there is. And lastly: well, here were are, Mike. You know where to find us.