Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Consider the "news' in "online news" lightly

Judge, jury, executioner.

As Barry Bonds finally reached his ultimate goal (no, not a World Series title, dummy) it was time for all the sports information disseminators to finally put into action the dreaded endpoint to the saga of Bonds and his home run chase.

As the disseminators of sports information, these outlets have choices to make concerning how to present the information at hand. Do you take the role of objective third-party observer? Do you try to provide more perspective to your readers? Or do you make up their minds for them, approaching subjects as if you are the end-all-be-all of information?

Three out of the four main online sports information sites decided to choose the third option. CBS Sportsline, SI and Yahoo all decided to haul out the asterisk as the story. No dust had settled, the story was not presented for what it was. They skipped the information-providing step completely by jumping straight to question-of-validity mode. Is this wrong? It depends on your goal as an information provider.

Interestingly enough, ESPN is the fence sitter on this one. They provided the story straight up. Instead of asterisking it up like the other three, they decided to present the story as it happened: a baseball player broke a baseball record. One of the biggest head scratchers of the evening was how Yahoo treated it. You'll notice the link I provided earlier had no asterisk on it. The version earlier in the night was the exact same as the one you see from that image link except there was a big fat asterisk next to the "756". Having been a decision they likely discussed for some time before Bonds broke the record, it's really striking that they would decide to pull the asterisk after a short time. Cold feet?

Ultimately, the court of public opinion will decide the perception of Barry Bonds. Let the public think what they will, but don't get preachy with your news. Put it out there for people to know, provide some perspective and let them decide for themselves. Most people already believe Bonds' record is tainted, they don't need any help along the way.

Reasonably yours,

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