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February 24, 2004 - Journalistic Integrity on MTG sites


Ok, just like last week I complained about how sometimes, I just canít find anything to write about, sometimes things to write about just come along and kick me in the face. So here it is Monday of the new week, my last article hasnít even hit the website yet, and Iím ready to write again.

This morning, being two Mondayís ago by the time you read this, I woke up showered, and logged in to my computer for the day. Then, I logged back off and picked up my crying daughter. Then I changed her diaper. Then I got her a bottle, and by that time my son had woken up. Repeat process for son, substituting breakfast for a bottle. Ok, now I really logged in to my computer for the day.

The first place I go is IRC to make sure there are no fires I need to put out. I help out with EFNetís ChanFix ( and normally when I wake up and log on there are a lot of pissed off Norwegians with lost channels I need to try to help before I do anything else. Then I do a quick mail check and delete the over night spam, and after that I start web browsing. I admit I donít go to a lot of web sites. In fact, I go to a Magic Portal for all of my Magic needs, but I have to admit, most of the things I read come from here, the Magic The Gathering web site, and one other site, which shall remain unnamed.

I read this other site because there are some interesting strategy articles on it, and a lot of theory, and I like reading that kind of stuff. Today was a bit different, though. Today, as I clicked on the first article there, I read a long and poorly written story about how one team had stolen another teamís "tech" and a lot of insults towards this guy, including what turned out to be some blatantly falsified quotes which technically could be construed as libel. To make it worse, it was written by a player who, to some, has a less than sparkling reputation to begin with. Rumor also has it that he was kicked out of Pro Tour Amsterdam for acting up.

So, my joyous day of quality article reading, squashed. Ok, well, let me try this next article by Mike Flores. Mike points his article directly to another article, which I click on of course. Always trust Mike Flores.

But, this article is an entire article based on bashing Geordie Tait, another writer for that site. It would be fine if he just tried to argue Geordieís point, but he doesnít really. Instead he explains how Geordie just isnít good enough to write real Magic theory and should go back to writing tournament reports because, to put it bluntly, Geordieís other writing is crap.

Now, I know I am going to sound like I am being "holier than thou," or am "on my high horse," but, seriously, what happened to journalistic integrity? What happened to reporting facts or printing news, or even, when necessary, printing point and counterpoint type argument articles? This sort of thing is fine, but these last few where nothing but vicious personal attacks.

The editor defended this on IRC by saying that "any time somebody chooses to step out and accuse someone of anything, it's a smear campaign." Now, anyone who reads that article will note it is in no way an "accusation." It states everything as fact, and goes out of its way to lower the character of the person it is "accusing." If the article had stated something about this in a more news-focused article, I would have had no issue with it. This story is news. But to have it come from this source and portrayed as nothing less than a desire to destroy this personís reputation was not responsible for a journalistic service to do.

Donít get me wrong, there is a time and a place for these kinds of comments, but itís not in the articles. This is what forums are for. Go ahead; knock yourself out in the forums. Flame one another all you want. I donít care. I wonít be reading them. I want my articles to be informative and unbiased, and forums never are. Or if you feel the need, go to Mise Tings, which specializes in parody and is always brash, but in a purposeful funny and joking way.

But Monk, its just a web site. Itís not like a printed newspaper and shouldnít be held up to the same standards as one.

Why not?

I look to certain web sites for quality, integrity, and professionalism. When I read the articles, I want to know that the information has been double-checked. I want to know that the facts are correct. I want to know that the opinions are grounded in some reality, even if itís not mine. If I donít get these things, Iím just wasting my time.

But there are those that would argue that flavor and style are what count in these web sites. While I agree that reading the occasional tournament report and what tacos someone ate are indeed good fun and entertaining, I donít feel that personal attacks fit this bill. And I think using this medium for this sort of information dispersal is sacrificing long-term reputation for cheap and quick traffic. While the articles I described may get a large amount of hits in a short period of time, over the long stretch people like me will be more wary to go to that site. It will take a bit more prompting for me to click on another article for that web site; worried I might be wasting my time once again. And if it happens a few more times, Iíll probably leave the web site off of my Favorites all together.

I admit Iím a bit of a stickler for my web content. I have two types or articles I want to read when it comes to Magic. I want to read fun Magic Tournament reports. I want those to be spicy and flavorful, and full of amusing anecdotes. I want to read about that personís experiences with Magic, and live a bit through them, enjoying their triumphs and failures along the way like a good book or movie.

The other kind is news. News to me encompasses PT Coverage, Theory Articles, Strategy articles, and industry information, even the Week in Review. For a while Alex wrote the Week in Review, then it was taken over by Jeff Cunningham. When asked, I told people I preferred Alexís articles. Why? Jeffís were more flavorful and spicy, but thatís not what I wanted. I wanted news. I wanted information, and Alex was better at providing that to me than Jeff. If Alexís writing was a little drier than Jeffís, it was a price I was willing to pay to get the kind of information I wanted to get.

So, this is my call to arms for web sites on Magic. A call that will likely go unheeded. A call that some people will think is a call for less exciting writing, and dry, boring factual articles. Untrue. Itís call to web sites to use journalistic integrity in the articles they choose to publish. Itís a call for them to not promote the smear campaigns and the hate mongering, or at least keep it off of the front page.

Come on web sites; make me proud of the community I dwell in, not ashamed of it.

Copyright 2001


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