One of the interesting news stories that probably found its way into your field of vision on Wednesday was the reported rumor that Brock Lesnar would no longer be fighting in the main event at UFC 116. In conjunction with Wanderlei Silva's already confirmed pull-out, the Lesnar rumor circulated quite quickly as story that was hinting at the fact that UFC 116 could be suddenly doomed without the inclusion of both stars.
The story was a small four-paragraph blurb of information in which the use of vocabulary made it obvious that this was only a rumor. The author, a seventeen year old by the name of Tom Kelly, isn't the best at his grammar or spelling, but in some strange way -- the article made its way to the Bleacher Report front page.
For those of you who don't know, Bleacher Report is a community-driven sports network in which anyone can join and begin writing. They are partnered with CBS Sports, are credentialed with the UFC, and do have content deals with multiple newspapers around the country. Some might say that's insanity considering the quality of writing by some of the community members on the website, but they do employ featured columnists who have been in this business for quite some time.
Tom Kelly isn't one of those established members of the Bleacher Report family, but who's to say the guy can't write a small rumor post for everyone interested in mixed martial arts to read and decipher for themselves, right? Wrong. As Steve Cofield pointed out in a post on Wednesday morning, a few calls to the UFC confirmed that Lesnar was perfectly fine and the entire rumor was a hoax. In my best Shatner impression, Go figure... a rumor.. was a... hoax. Bleacher Report pulled the story for obvious reasons, but then Bleacher Report decided to ban Tom Kelly for his erroneous post.
I normally wouldn't come to the defense of some seventeen year old kid I've never met in my life who constructed a very poorly-written rumor post, but Bleacher Report needs to take a long, hard look at their policies and the way in which their own ideology of the website being a community-driven site hurt them in this debacle, not Tom Kelly.
Here's a few things to take into consideration:
- Community-driven websites thrive on the involvement of their members, and Bleacher Report is pretty successful at producing traffic in that format as a website. That should mean that editors, or human beings should be looking at what is forwarded on to the front page of Bleacher Report. Blame yourself for that one.
- Since the website is community-driven, I can basically write whatever I want in the context of the sport I'm involved in. That's exactly what Tom Kelly did. He wrote what he read somewhere else, albeit it was a stupid mistake -- but a mistake. You've banned someone for doing exactly what the site was supposed to allow users to do... except the moderation is what failed -- not Tom Kelly.
- This is a bit disturbing, but I'm almost positive that Bleacher Report actually approves what newspaper headlines are sent out to papers around the country. But if you don't realize the process, here's where much of the controversy over this whole debacle stems:
It opens the debate of what's news and what's simply Internet chatter taken from message boards. The problem here is that Bleacher Report appears in many newspapers around the country. If a reader sees a headline, doesn't read the story or look at the source, it could be taken as fact. Major newspapers like the L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Post Intelligencer and Houston Chronicle simply run the B/R headlines.Obviously, if this rumor post somehow gets past someone and is confirmed to hit newspapers, which is highly unlikely, it causes a huge problem. Not only for the UFC, but for Bleacher Report.
- Being close with the UFC obviously has its advantages, just ask Yahoo! Sports. They have a very good track record at breaking stories that have been confirmed by the UFC, but they also have the criticism of being somewhat biased at times as well. In this instance however, Kelly felt that because the UFC complained... it was one of the sole reasons he was banned from a network that prides itself on being community-driven.
Take Bleacher Report for what it is. It is community-driven by users who want to write about sports they love. Some of its writers have been in this business for quite some time while others like Tom Kelly are simply wanting to contribute. At 17 years of age, why ban someone, as Steve Cofield put it, who might be the future of journalism who just doesn't have the experience to know any better at this point. Instead of taking away the platform for the kid to write, why don't you take the "higher ground" here?
The ignorance displayed by Bleacher Report's higher management is astounding in this instance. For a site that prides itself on being open to anyone, they banned a user who simply reported a rumor. Whoever fronted that post to the front page should be punished, if that's within their guidelines. If those front page posts are somehow aggregated programmatically, that's a major, major flub by the people who decided it should work in that manner to begin with.
Re-instate Tom Kelly. And if you aren't willing to do that, I'd be more than willing to have Tom post here at BloodyElbow.com under our Fanpost section, a section that is closely monitored by this staff. Sure, his writing probably doesn't meet the standard, but there is always room for improvement. Perhaps, Tom can find some helping hands in a platform that's more accepting instead of being banned for one mistake.