Written by | Posted November 13, 2014 – 12:30 pm A Girl and her Dog

The morning of the all hands summon to the Blasted Lands, Aely went for a walk. The late fall air was clear and cool, and leaves crunched under their feet in the less-traveled parts of the streets. She and Roger took the long way around Old Town, south through Tanner Circle and down Bulwarks, across […]

filed under Ask Anna, Feature, Other stuff
Sources, Belief, and Credibility
comment 11 Written by on August 13, 2009 – 1:38 pm

So there has been some “leaked” information from “reliable sources close to the subject” running around the WoW community lately.  Matticus has an excellent post on why it is that sometimes you just can’t name your source – whether that’s because they will lose their job if it gets back to them or because they’ve simply asked you not to squawk.

extra-warmth-by-somadjinn

Heck, I follow the same guidelines here, more or less.  If you email me with a question, and ask me not to mention your name and server – I won’t.  You’ve asked, and your privacy as a gamer is important to me.

Of course, it’s a little different when you’re dealing with news and not Ask Anna’s Advice Column, but hey – the basic premise is the same.

That said, regardless of the ethics of preserving source confidentiality – nobody is /required/ to buy in to what is posted until it is posted with a defined source. Nor is a blogger /required/ to post that information until it can be decidedly sourced.

Now, I know that things are different for those folks that actually try to break the news.  I don’t (and that’s no surprise to those of you that’ve stuck with me for… what, nearly a year and a half now? eesh…) and so I don’t run into this problem very often. If the Warcraft Head Developer were to email me this week and say “Anna, in the next expansion, Paladins are going to have summonable angel pets as their form of raid healing, but you’re not allowed to use my name or credentials at this time” I’d do a tiny little happydance… and shut up about it.  It’s not my blog’s business to break news.

However – it /is/ the business of other sites to break news.

And if they so choose, they have – like every other journalistic source – the right to publish news with unnamed sources.  It’s a standard practice in journalism.

I, as Jane Peon the Site Visitor, have a different right.  And it’s a right I exercise on major world news sources, gaming news sources, craft news sources, and whatever other sites I frequent.  And that is what I call the Right of Disbelief.

The Right of Disbelief doesn’t entitle me to bash, hate on, flame, or otherwise be an asshat to the person that posted the potentially un-believable subject matter. What it entitles me to is simply this – I can choose to say “that’s nice, and I’ll wait to form an opinion on the subject until we have a qualified source close to the subject that’s willing to pony up the accountability for this”.

Why?

Well it’s simple. If the Blizzard lead developer sends me that email about Angel Aoe Pets, and then sometime between now and whatever the heck the next expansion is the entire Dev team shoots that developer down, and the plan changes to giving Paladins little cherub babies as mana regen instead… nobody’s ass is on the line… except mine.  My choosing to report on that (with an anonymous source) only gets MY ass grilled if it’s wrong.

However, if that same developer allows me the privilege of using their name and title, THEIR ass is now on the line as well.  This is why in the early stages of these “releases”, an accredited source is very rare.

And so, I maintain my Right of Disbelief for many many things about WoW.  I don’t freak out about early, leaked Patch Notes, or pre-Blizzcon special “mined” releases. I’ll believe it when I see it.  When, as Matt’s E1-E5 rating would suggest, I have at least an E4, if not an E5 rating on the source.

That doesn’t make a site that is willing to publish E1 information any less valid.  It simply means they’re willing to take the grilling if the source data falls through – a risk I (and my tiny little insignificant website) am not willing to take just yet.

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11 Responses to “Sources, Belief, and Credibility”

  1. Anna, in the next expansion, Paladins are going to have summonable angel pets as their form of raid healing

    Oh, man, how awesome would that be? I mean, I know that was just your example and has nothing to do with anything, but that would rock.

    (Peddlefeet-style cherubs running around for mana regen, significantly less so. XD)
    .-= Teuthida´s last blog ..Who were these crazy shamans, and what were they doing? =-.

  2. This explains why I’m not getting excited about new races/classes/what-have-you in the next expansion just yet. Well put, Anna.
    .-= Sarai´s last blog ..Day 5 with no computer… =-.

  3. Wise choice, Sarai. You can’t very well be disappointed if you don’t elevate your hopes, and you’re all but guaranteed to get a kick out of *anything* that makes it into the release.

    Anna already knows how I feel about any sort of reporting that requires sources to remain anonymous. I admit that I can respect maintaining a certain degree of confidentiality. However, the “news” in question isn’t going to overthrow a corrupt dictator or cure a life-threatening disease. I agree with the poster who responded to Matticus’ commentary by pointing out a sensible alternative: Not reporting the story at all until it was ethically sound to do so (i.e. publicly confirmed).
    .-= Badger´s last blog ..The Role of Roles in RPGs =-.

  4. I’ve always thought posting news from questionable sources was fine so long as it is done in a way that explicitly states that the information is rumors, or that it was something that was leaked but isn’t written in stone. Following your example, as I reader I think it would be acceptable to say:

    “I’ve heard from an unnamed source that in the next expansion, Paladins are going to have summonable angel pets as their form of raid healing. Note that this information is not written in stone, so please consider it only a rumor at this point.”

    Then the writer could ask readers if they think this is a good idea. I don’t think something like that could be misconstrued as fact. Not that I report news much, either, but as someone who reads it, if I know it’s not a fact, I’m happy to speculate.
    .-= Frijona´s last blog ..Why I’m a Warlock – Part 1 =-.

  5. So happy to see someone side with me on this one… I’ve left my own similar comments on the wow.com articles regarding the “new races” in the upcoming expansion and I have even had one of my comments “thumbed down” out of existence simply because I called the posters out on their lack of supporting evidence. Until such evidence can be cited and sourced, everything should be labeled as speculation, rumor or allegation and not purported as fact.

    By Scott on Aug 14, 2009 | Reply
  6. I still remember when the first “leaks” about WotLK talked about the new race of the Kalu’aks, and it was being reported on various sites and forums as a “playbale” race when in fact, those rumors were proven to be false as the race was simply a new faction to gain rep for. (Gogo Epic Fishing Pole, FTW!!)

    I can only imagine the embarrassment associated with false reporting (with or without a disclaimer of a faulty source or an unconfirmed rumor) to have it proven wrong a little ways down the road. As Anna said, you’re ass is the one that get’s burnt in the end and it’s hard for readers to have confidence in your reports from the point on. Everything after that makes people skeptical of the news you’re trying to bring to your readers.
    .-= Mikata´s last blog ..The Impact of Loss =-.

  7. Good post. =)

    I find it extremely ironic that people scream so loud about “good journalism” when someone releases news passed on by an anonymous source -when it doesn’t suit their desires-, yet they are very quick to embrace and defend the same “baseless rumors” when they like the idea. Anonymity: allowing people to scream and fling poo like enraged monkeys without fear of social reprisal since the dawn of time.

    Myself, I like half the changes that were leaked, and really don’t like the other half. (goblins? Really…?). Yet I didn’t spend hours trawling through posts flaming everybody who defended WoW.com on that one. People should really learn about journalism before criticizing someone else’s integrity.
    .-= Omega2´s last blog ..Roleplay: Archeology! =-.

  8. First, @Omega2: see the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/

    Second: @Anna: While I know you and I disagree on the coolness factor of the “leak” in question here, I do agree with you regarding the implied credibility of the source. In truth, if it were any source OTHER than WoWInsider, I might believe that there was, in fact, a leak that did confirm the new race information. However, given that the source is inherently untrustworthy and known for publishing as “fact” their own heavily biased opinions, I have to view that little tidbit with more than a little skepticism. If anyone was going to be on the receiving end of such a leak, WoWInsider would be the last site I would believe about it. MMO-Champion or World of Raids would be FAR more believable. Since neither of them have made a peep about this supposed “confirmation”, well…

    Also, given that the original data mining that produced the original rumour IS likely true, WoWInsider gets a free pass on their supposed “leaker.” They can make up whatever the crap they want. Even if it turns out that the new masks are just masks, they can then claim the “oh, well, the team took a different direction” card.

    In short, WoWInsider like to play at real journalism without having to ever be actually familiar with what that means.
    .-= teh Khol Abides´s last blog ..Intermission: Casting Call! =-.

  9. So, I read this post, nodding along and agreeing with most everything you said… and then I got to the part where you mentioned e1 and e2, etc, and I was like, “Surely the source she refers to is not talking about Eklund’s ratings? SURELY not? Oh goodness!”

    So I checked it out and, sure enough, they were. I don’t know Matt, nor claim to follow his or any other WoW blogs outside of glancing at this one occasion, but someone who does know him might want to pass along a word of caution if his intention is to be seen as a credible source of information or even to be taken seriously by his readers. Again, I don’t read his blog. He may not care about things like credibility or basic practices of journalistic integrity- plenty of blogs, like this one, eschew that sort of responsibility and serve completely different purposes and more power to them.

    That said, I think Eklund is probably not someone I’d want to associate myself to as a blogger of any stripe (unless my shtick was to parody other ‘news’ sites) even to the point of referencing his rating system without a very strong disclaimer. I’m not sure I’d even want it known that I read his site!

    He’s has done more to hurt the potential credibility of bloggers than anyone else I’m aware of in the last few years to such a point where teams have ran pieces on their websites asking fans not to trust the “anonymous blogger reports” that they can find online. This, in a sport that, for lack of sufficient television and mainstream newspaper coverage, has a fanbase that relies heavily on online sources for adequate coverage and even to watch the games (As a Detroit Red Wings fan, I have to either pay a ~200 bucks a year for the Center Ice package on satellite or watch the videos via online streams, which I do). Many major newspapers (Dallas Morning News, as an example) have more or less cut regular print coverage of their local team in favor of directing readers to an online blog instead. The NHL is fairly progressive in this regard… and still has had teams that felt sufficiently annoyed with his reports that they had to ask fans to take blogs with a grain of salt (presumably because of the negative backlash when he reports things like “MVP runner up Evgeni Malkin will be traded to the Los Angeles Kings…” when no trade has ever been discussed by any of the particulars who make such things happen for their respective franchises.).

    For those who aren’t aware, Eklund runs a site called Hockeybuzz that posts hockey rumors and “breaks” trade reports. He uses the e-system of ratings shown at Matticus’s site and charges a decent amount of money for subscriptions to his site.

    For those subscriptions, he provides a site without sufficient bandwidth to remain up on the most important day of the year for hockey trade prognosticators (ie, the trade deadline), features that are never implemented, and he has repeatedly been caught in lies, making up trades, and falsifying information (His resume, sources, etc). His track record is terrible enough that a site was set up to follow his predictions (http://hockeybuzzhogwash.com/) and show, at the end of a year of following him, how often he got trades right. The end result was 2.3% accuracy in his news reports.

    The site I link above has a good breakdown of different things he did during the year that site followed him. They don’t touch upon some of the worst journalistic mistakes and questionable practices (falsifying resume, lying about identity, utilizing separate usernames to flame those who criticize him on another blog- then getting caught because they came from the same IP Address), though those can be found elsewhere if you desire links let me know, they’re found easily enough on http://www.kuklaskorner.com (a very reliable and upstanding hockey news site for anyone who wants one!) and other places around the interwebs.

    To put it in more familiar terms, as I am extremely fond of silly analogies, Eklund is That Guy who gives Night Elf hunters a bad name, pulling the UBRS spectators by tabbing over and sending his big (red) white tiger cat at someone off screen because he couldn’t keep his tab/pet attack fetish from getting the best of him, only he sells himself so well that a lot of people don’t realize he’s a fraud until after he’s come around and ninaj’d their azuresong mageblades as it’s a clear huntar wepn (Onyxia loot tables have me in a nostalgic mood, what can I say).

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