13 September 2013

A Useful Lesson from Jay P. Mercado

Basketball Blog Writing
I am not a journalist. I am not a writer. I strive to be one, but the obvious mistakes are still there.

I strive to be objective. As much as possible, I try not to let opinions or those of the sources get in the way of a straight, objective story. I try to keep in mind that the main obligation is to the reader of this blog, who wants the unvarnished truth.

I write what the reader wants to know, which is not necessarily what the source wants to say. I learn this from a person I haven’t met, but I respect very much, Jay P. Mercado.

Everyone probably knew him already as a Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) historian and a basketball follower, who also moderates the discussions the PBA Forum of pinoyexchange.com.

His latest post in the public forum is something of an eye-opener for those who blogs and writes online a lot about the PBA. His profound explanation on how writers are supposed to treat rumors is something that should be emulated by basketball bloggers who wants to be respected by their readers, not for the number of sources that they have, but for the objective articles that they write.

Here's a copy of Mercado's post:
Trade rumors happen because there are reporters who would come out with an article right away without verifying this news from multiple sources. Badua is one of them – he obviously has a source within the SMC camp which made it possible for him to be ahead of everyone else when it comes to news scoops. The problem is that he releases this information even prior to the consummation of any deal - thereby pre-empting things and making the other party consider changing its mind.

But there are cases when Badua is set up to make a mistake. His source would give him false news and once he picks this up and releases this, he'd become the laughing stock of everyone in the press row. The inevitable "kuryente" happens and Badua ends up licking his wounds and pride.

These have happened to him several times and yet, he hasn't learned. In his personal desire to out-scoop everyone, he's no different from the showbiz reporter who would simply write something without the journalistic responsibility of verifying, validating and cross-validating whatever information comes out. He resorts to blind items of course, to avoid any trouble, but Badua practically gives away the names when he gives easy clues for anyone to guess. Doing blind items also allows him not to validate his information anymore - simplifying his task as a "writer."
On the insinuation that some PBA teams are floating rumors around to try and vet to the fans their next move, Mercado has this to say:
Yes, that's correct. Team officials normally make use of writers / reporters to determine the pulse of the fans - spreading information through the grapevine to allow the teams to determine how fans will react accordingly. This practice is not without precedent – it has been done before but it's not as rampant as it is today.

It's an effective tool on the part of teams to determine if a trade arrangement will be pushed or not. This is most especially applicable among the SMC teams - since the top 3 teams in terms of popularity come from their camp. If Petron wants to find out how fans will react if they opt to remove Olsen Racela as head coach, they send out signals via the grapevine courtesy of willing reporters like Badua. It's really up to the writer (and his publication or website) if trade rumor news (is) best fit seen on their page.

I've no problem with blind items. It does spice up the PBA and creates heightened interest to future deals in the works. I'm not a journalist (contrary to what Badua may have thought – which is why I don't understand where the "ethics" issue came from) – and I don't harbor to be one – but I have an adversity of having rumors or blind items being churned out as news. A writer can always claim he never mentioned any names but that's a copout to a writer lazy enough to verify his facts. A writer may lay claim that he got his information from a high-ranking team official – let us say a Robert Non - so in his twisted mind, there's no need to validate this information anymore.

Wrong. To make a story news-worthy, it must hold a semblance of factuality and accuracy. If writers fall prey to the team officials' motive of sending out a trial balloon, then only the said writer (and his publisher / editor) should be blamed for such. But then, in the cutthroat world of sports news reportage, other writers simply cut corners, disregard journalistic decorum - all in the vain effort to be the first one to release the information - "kuryente" or not.

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