The Absence of Standards
“Every news organization has only its credibility and reputation to rely on.”
– Tony Burman, ex-editor-in-chief of CBC News
I apologize in advance if this column seems to talk more about myself than it does about professional wrestling. However, I feel that there is a topic that needs to be addressed that does affect this industry. It is the lack of a code that I was taught in college in regards to journalism and reporting.
While attending college at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, I became editor of the Opinion/Editorial section of The University Times after 3 years of writing opinion columns on all topics. These would range from national topics of debate and politics to on-campus issues and student life.
It was here that I took journalism, reporting, and column-writing very seriously. Learning how to write in Associated Press format was one thing, but it was entirely different when it came to learning about the journalistic code of ethics.
Accuracy and standards of factual reporting, slander and libel considerations, the ‘Harm Limitation’ principle; all of these are fundamental values in regards to journalism.
When you are given a piece of information or news, how far should one go to verify it before reporting it to the reading/viewing/listening public as reliable news or information?
Reporting the truth is never libel, this makes accuracy tremendously important. This may be the reason why the number of bloggers vastly outnumbers ‘tangible media’ columnists; you cannot be sued for libel or slander distributing on a medium that is not regulated.
If libel/slander laws were enforced in regards to the internet (pro wrestling news websites in particular), Matt Hardy would have a very legitimate case on his hands. Various websites including our own, Pro Wrestling Torch, and The Wrestling Observer were eager to report that Matt Hardy had been sent home early Sunday from WWE’s recent tour of the United Kingdom.
This report was quickly refuted within hours by none other than Matt Hardy himself via video recording, showing shots of the hotel he was staying in and the driving tendencies of Europe (left-side instead of right-side in U.S.).
What makes this more of an indictment on professional wrestling ‘news’ websites for lacking ethical practices in journalism is not for reporting false information, it is very difficult to do so in an industry that prefers to keep tight-lipped as to not reveal its seedy underbelly. The indictment comes from not admitting its mistakes or retracting its false reports.
You did not see such a retraction on Wrestleview.com because we did not initiate or birth the report. What was reported here was merely reported on other various ‘news’ websites. Just as information was brought concerning Aloisia’s ‘firing’ from NXT and WWE earlier in the week and refuted by the talent herself, retractions and admissions were nonexistent.
What has been occurring within the ‘wrestling media’ is not foreign to the mainstream media by any stretch of the imagination. Rushes to judgment solely based on video clips or recorded statements taken out of context or cut into bit-sized portions of sensationalism is nothing new in today’s American journalism. Priority is placed on getting the public’s attention rather than informing the public.
The snowball that is reported as fact by these websites without the proper verification quickly turns into an avalanche of horrendous public relations material. Due to this irresponsible reporting, many talents may not be able to find work. Their reputations tarnished from something a website regarded as ‘news’ only to become noticed, to be ‘the first’ or ‘the reliable source’.
It has become more and more difficult for websites like our own to sift through this creek to find the shiny bits of actual news or information. What some deem as a reliable source others brand as a disgruntled former employee. Who many claim to be an ‘insider’ others may label as ‘Who?’
Over the past week, I’ve been seriously asking what I got myself into in January 2009. This was when I received the infamous phone call from Hunter Golden (Managing Editor of Wrestleview.com) welcoming me as one of the website’s new columnists. I took this opportunity given to me very personally and very seriously; I had been given a medium to voice my opinions on a form of entertainment that I had been enjoying nearly all of my life.
I knew nothing of an ‘internet wrestling community’. I knew nothing of a ‘wrestling media’. Names like Dave Meltzer and Brian Alvarez were foreign to me. I never treaded onto professional wrestling websites on a daily basis. I never participated in any message boards or forums regarding professional wrestling. I never scoured YouTube for videos of professional wrestling. I’ve never had an ‘insider’ to the industry.
This all changed in January 2009. Through association, I have now become part of a ‘media’ without a code and a community without any standards.
I am in no way trying to put on a superhero’s costume and say that I am fighting the evils of libel, slander, and false reporting on professional wrestling news websites; there is no way one can do such a thing.
What I can do though is put said websites in their place through my column, just as I have put performers in theirs with their outlandish comments or even more so performances.
There is a major difference between my claims and the false reports made by Pro Wrestling Torch and The Wrestling Observer: my sources are public for those to peruse and verify for themselves.
There is also a major difference between Wrestleview.com and many others: We have standards.
Until next time, mouth-breathers!
Annoy me with your assumptions and affronts… adore me with your adulation’s and acknowledgments: firstname.lastname@example.org
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