Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Journalism" in the Internet age

Perusing Twitter this morning, I came across a story written by Mario Langlois on msn.ca about Sergei Kostitsyn, and how he had gotten into a physical altercation of some sort with Scott Gomez just before being cut. The story said, in no uncertain terms, that the fight, or shoving match, or whatever, was the reason Kostitsyn did not accompany the team to Caledon, Ont., for the team bonding session just before the start of the season.

After reading it, I wrestled with the idea of whether or not I should write about it here, and finally decided against it because, frankly, the story had no source and seemed a little fishy.

I did, however, post it on Twitter at about 12:30 today and it received a fair amount of response.

So imagine my shock when, sometime just after 1 p.m., the TSN website had the story as the lead item on its website. I couldn't believe that a reputable news organization would run with a story that I wouldn't even post on my personal blog.

This, unfortunately, is the nature of journalism today. TSN surely wanted a juicy story for its website, particularly on a day they would be broadcasting a Habs game. This just fell in their laps.

But to each their own, I told myself, and went on with my day.

Just about an hour later, I check back on the TSN website and the story is no longer the lead item. In fact, the headline can't even be found on the main page. Instead, the story is buried into another story about Kostitsyn returning to the Bulldogs after having a meeting in Montreal with Bob Gainey yesterday. It adds that RDS had confirmed that the fight story was not true, except there was no mention of it on the RDS website. Instead, RDS had this far more interesting story on how Kostitsyn had been assured by Gainey that he will either be traded or called up to the Habs in the coming weeks.

Out of curiosity, I decided to check back for the original Langlois story on msn.ca at around 3:00 p.m. and, surprise, surprise, the story had been removed. It was replaced by this story on how Kostitsyn is not a lost cause, comparing his case to that of Mike Ribeiro. If you check the archives of the Langlois columns, there is no link to the original story about the fight between Gomez and Kostitsyn.

Luckily for you, the good people at msn.ca did not kill the direct link to that story, which can be read here, unless they have caught the slip up by the time you read this.

I would have to imagine the Canadiens caught wind of this and asked msn.ca to take the story down, or threatened Langlois that his accreditation would be revoked, because normally a reporter who was confident enough to write a story would be confident enough to defend it when the backlash hit. Evidently, Langlois wasn't that confident in his story, or at least msn.ca lacked confidence in their columnist.

I originally gave the story a tiny little bit of credence simply because Langlois is not some media nobody. He is an accredited journalist whom I've seen many times at the Bell Centre, though I've never said a word to him.

But reading his bio at MSN.ca, you learn that he's worked for just about every major media outlet in the city, from CKAC to RDS to Radio-Canada, and here he is writing an obscure column at msn.ca. Just like you start to wonder when a player like, I don't know, Jaroslav Spacek bounces around from team to team, you also have to wonder when a reporter is unable to hold down a steady job.

In the span of a few hours, this "journalist" was the source of a potentially huge controversy that died before it ever had a chance to gather significant steam. In the old days, before the Internet, perhaps something like this would have been said on the radio, but it never would have had the impact it did online, where word of the lurid tale spread like wild fire.

I don't know if this is of interest to any of you, but as a working journalist I found it quite amusing, and at the same time depressing. It's situations like these that give the media, particularly here in Montreal, a very bad reputation. I guess I'm writing about it to send the message that if you read something, even if it's written by a "reputable journalist," use your own common sense before deciding whether or not it is true.

Because, as they say, you can't believe everything you read in the papers. Or in this case, on the Internet.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

i still can't believe that article is getting so much attention. i might as well watch gossip girl.

thanks arp. great article. insightful as always.

nk

Luke said...

Interesting to see how the industry works. Thanks for the great insight!

Matabis said...

The new story still refers to a fight with his "host"...didnt completely back down from his story...

Arpon Basu said...

Matabis: True enough. But considering it's been buried at the bottom of the story and had Gomez's name taken out, it is a significant concession to pressure. Or at least it seems to be. The question is, if he wasn't sure it was Gomez, why name him to begin with? And further to that, if he's not sure about Gomez, is he sure about the story at all?

T man said...

Wow! I'm soooo happy you wrote this. I was thinking the EXACT same thing you were when I first had that Langlois article forwarded to me yesterday afternoon. I looked at the webpage msn.ca (somewhat of a brand name, but not really a news site). I looked at the journalist and as you mentioned, someone who's bounced around a bit and I can't help but feel that some of these guys are so desperate to create a name for themselves, that true journalism gets thrown out of the water. You take that stuff with a grain of salt when read it on sites like that (although I sometimes worry that some of the average joes will think highly of msn.ca).

Then comes today, Team990's Tony Marinaro addressed the story, gave his version of it. Again, if you've listened to Tony enough, you know he has some contacts/friends on the team that feed him stories. So, we could determine that a party probably occurred and something probably happened at that party. More than that, come on! We weren't there, I'm positive Langlois wasn't there and neither was Tony.

Fast forward to this afternoon, and TSN (a reputable media outfit - as you mentioned) picks up the story and puts it as their headline story on their website. I remember the day, when journalism meant, you verified the accuracy of a story independently using TWO (count'em 2 sources). Now, somehow we allow a story to run with one source and today, TSN reported gossip from a reporter that verified nothing from anyone...pathetic!

Thanks for your article, it really opened the eyes of some friends who believe everything they see in print.

Kevin aka "yathehabsrule" said...

Great article!

Between this and the Bleacher Report plagiarism fiasco, it's a bad day for journalism at any level.

MathMan said...

There's a lesson in this for people who believe everything they read, for people who'd rather watch the Habs as a soap opera than a hockey team, or for people who think every move the Habs make must have some nefarious off-ice reason and can't possibly be primarily motivated by hockey...

...but I'm not hopeful it will take. In fact, I think that people will still reference the Gomez-Kostitsyn fistfight six months from now as an accepted fact.

Andy Froncioni said...

It's hard to tell what the truth is. Is the story true and the Habs threatened to kill Mario Langlois' sports journalism career in Montreal? Or is the story a pure fabrication?

More interestingly, is Arpon Basu disappointed that a journalist can be brow-beaten into retracting his story? Or were his disparaging insinuations about Mario Langlois' career due to his lack of respect for Mario's integrity?

Matabis said...

While I agree the name is not shown anymore, to me it looks like the pressure was on Mario Langlois to expand following the success of his 1st article, and that the name disappeared...maybe that part wasn't certain but nonetheless, the story behind his return to Hamilton is valid, the 2nd involved player isn't 100%.

Listen here:
http://www.corussports.com/hockey/nouvelles/l-origine-du-renvoi-du-chamaillage-1798971.html

Also, renowned journalist Réjean Tremblay confirmed the report on CKAC at 16h45 today, but not the name of the 2nd player.

I

Anonymous said...

man, you love to read way more into things than you can prove. you have no proof that the habs made a call or at least you have not attributed any of your ideas based on an actual source. the truth is interesting enough without your "if then than that" theories.

Topham said...

Well worked Arpon. And well ignored in the first place. That's why I know that I can always always trust a story from you, and that's saying something in this world of blogs.

jkr said...

Off topic here but a bit of an unfair shot at Spacek. In the days of UFAs, a lot of players go from team to team. Doesn't mean they can't play. And before he came to Montreal, Spacek spent the previous 3 seasons with one team in Buffalo.

Sliver24 said...

I somehow missed this until just now. Frankly I'm tired of hearing about Sergei and the constant soap opera that surrounds him.

And you have a valid point about the source, Arp. Really, who even reads MSN's coverage of the Habs? That's kind of like reading TSN as your main source for international political news.

On another note, Anonymous @ 5:32pm, you're giving me a rash. At least man up (woman up?) and use a consistent handle so we can take your history of beligerence and ignorance into account when we read your ever-so-insightful contributions.

V said...

It's not just journalism. I think we're witnessing a wider shift towards a more "oral" culture. The "written word" is not "sacrosanct" as it once was when only a minority of people had access to a printing press to get their messages out. As everyone begins writing (blogs are a great example), the power dynamic shifts away from the written word. So some things, repeated often enough, will last over time, while a vast multitude will be forgotten.

I'm not sure this change is for the worse. Some of the worst human rights abuses in history occurred more easily because the power of the "written word" word was available to only a small number of people.

pmk said...

Who new glenn metropolit was the linchpin of our O?! I kid but man this guy continues to impress me. He does everything - pk/ pp/ faceoffs/ and does it well. I feel like He'll be a key player to our team this year- much like Mark Striet was two yrs ago.
Lappierre on wing? It worked but it was one game against the Islanders- I'm still not convinced. Nice to see him drive the net though. Personally I still like to see sergi up and put all this bs behind him. It would be a shame to lose another talented player for nothing.
The team is looking good. Generating a lot of shots and scoring chances while keeping the oppositions shots/ chances down. It has been against some pretty terrible teams though so my optimism is tempered. It will be interesting to see what they can do against better teams starting with the rangers on saturday. (with halak in nets...)

subdoxastic said...

V: Interesting set of discussion issues surrounding literacy, blogs and information sharing. Could you clarify your point a little further though?

SRS said...

By writing about choosing to not run with the story are you not in fact propagating that very same story? I hadn't heard of this (Gots me a new job)but now I have, and I have only 3 questions. Who won the fight? Which of the two punched more like a girl? Why is everyone so jealous of how pretty Sergei is?
SRS

Anonymous said...

dear mr. silver (from anon 5:32pm)
so sorry i disagree with Apron. I guess we are not allowed to disagree or call people out on what they say. Man up? Woman up? Come on man. Relax, have a discussion without anger. I love opinion, but am I not allowed to question the rationale of a thought. jeeze relax, i like debate, its nothing personal. from no on i'll sign off...jfd

Sliver24 said...

jfd, you can disagree with whomever you want; people do it here all the time. Maybe you should re-read your post though, because you didn't really disagree with anything anyway. All you did was disrespect someone, and what's the point of that?

The fact is you could have made the same point in a respectful way that could have potentially led to further discussion (see SRS's post for an example).

Anonymous said...

Silver
MY TONE MAY HAVE BEEN ANNOYED BUT DISRESPECTFUL?!? DON'T AGREE. I QUESTION THE VALIDITY OF HIS ASSERTION THAT THE HABS MADE A CALL OR SOMETHING TO THE EFFECT TO HAVE A SILLY STORY REMOVED FROM MSN. AN OPINION APRON SEEMS TO HAVE, NO? HE SITES NO PROOF THAT THIS IS LIKELY OR WAS DONE IN THE PAST. JUST SPECULATION ON HIS PART. THE MSN ARTICLE, THOUGH SILLY, MAY BE BASED ON AN ACTUAL SOURCE (A BAD SOURCE BUT ONE NONE THE LESS)
JFD
P.S. MAN UP? WOMAN UP? I COULD SAY THAT IS DISRESPECTFUL MAYBE EVEN SEXIST DEPENDING ON YOUR INTENT, BUT I'D GIVE YOU THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

Sliver24 said...

Don't feed the trolls.

Arpon Basu said...

SRS: you're point is a fair one, but I just wanted to point out how quickly things change online. For instance, if I write something on my blog that offends someone, or that is flat out wrong, I can easily edit my post to remove the objectionable or inaccurate comment and re-post my story without anyone ever knowing the original mistake was there. My main beef was actually with TSN for running with the story, and then in the span of a couple of hours, quickly backed off it.
JFD: You're point is also fair, but if you see what I wrote you'll notice that I am very far from making an "assertion," I'm expressing an opinion. Yes, it is speculation, but it's labeled as such. Seeing as this blog is essentially a platform for me to spout off my opinion, giving my opinion on what I think might have led to Langlois softening his story was pretty appropriate. At least I think so. If you don't, that's your right, but I'm wondering why you would be reading this blog if you don't want to know what my opinion is?

Anonymous said...

when i read your piece i felt it was unfair to suggest the habs would actively try and affect a story or a journalists opinion. that was your take if i am not mistaken. i think that the journalist in question has a solid rep and most likely changed his story based on the fact that he learned he got it wrong. that makes the most sense. your opinion kinda seemed conspiracy-like on the habs part.
just cause i disagree with your opinion doesn't mean i don't want to read it. i'll stop if you prefer. i write to many journalists in the gazette when i have a beef with what they say. most respond and tell me in a nice way that i'm full of it or just plain wrong. fair. but never have they suggested i shouldn't read them. maybe i'm wrong but you seem to be suggesting that or that i don't comment when i disagree. i have been reading your blog since maybe around late june. commented maybe 3 times since now. i think your response to me is kinda harsh but whatever...its your blog...
jfd