Little, it seems, can stem the tide of false news and rampant speculation that comes our way from tabloids and news sources in general. There are some obvious culprits and some less so – but overall, there’s a lot that’s published in the papers with the deliberate intention of misleading the readers (whether the motivation is to create false news to gain more readers or to carry out a vendetta against a particular point of view or person).
There’s little one can do to stop this – but in some very rare cases (such as today) the offended party stands up and smacks the offender upside on the head with the threat of a lawsuit.
On Sunday, March 2nd 2008, Duncan Castles in the Observer claimed that Chelsea manager Avram Grant had been deliberately and repeatedly snubbed by his players, who (if memory serves – the original article is of course now deleted by the Guardian) told him to go away when he them during the players’ meeting, and was met with silence when the meeting with the manager actually happened.
Such claims do little in terms of informing readers – there’s hardly any solid information to go on here and as such we’re being told to believe someone’s speculation on a single piece of information – that Grant had to wait a few minutes for the players’ meeting to be finished, which presumably took longer than expected. They do a lot to damage the reputation of the people involved – in this case Avram Grant and Chelsea FC – and similarly do a lot for bringing readers to the rumour-monger in question.
The apology printed by the Observer is hardly worth the time it took to write it, and removing the original article (instead of putting an apology on that page as well) is just another way of burying their own mistakes.
Now if I was the speculative kind, I would say that this rumour was just retaliation from the Guardian after Avram Grant criticised the media earlier that week for having an agenda against him at Chelsea. More likely though, it was just a symptom of journalists trying to get a feel for public opinion and feeding that with concocted news (in this case, the anger at Chelsea’s defeat in the Carling Cup final).
If the Guardian was serious about cleaning up their act (and it needs desperate cleaning up), they would put the likes of Daniel Taylor and Duncan Castles on notice, establish strong guidelines for their bloggers and writers to differentiate between opinion and fact, and as a general rule avoid baseless speculation.
No one’s perfect (least of all us bloggers), but perhaps we can work on holding ourselves up to higher standards than the Guardian writers currently hold themselves to?