We had an amusing exchange with Erik Wemple of the Washington Post this morning.Erik, WaPo’s excellent media blogger, emailed us to ask on what grounds we thought it was OK for our sports desk to call our readers’ attention to a report that a young and frisky Sarah Palin had jumped future professional basketball star Glen Rice.
We explained that we often report relevant rumours–clearly labelled as rumours–that we find credible and interesting and that we think our readers might want to hear. We explained that, given the capabilities of this medium, this seemed an obvious and reader-friendly thing to do (with millions of sources of information only a click away, we couldn’t “protect” our readers from information even if they wanted us to). We also observed that, based on their interest in our Sarah Palin post, our readers appeared to be thrilled that we had called their attention to the report that she had once jumped Glen Rice.
Erik thanked us for our kind reply and then asked a follow-up question:Who had we had sex with when we were young professionals?
Well, we (I) have been asked a lot of questions by reporters before, but that isn’t one of them. So we (I) responded! And we were admittedly curious to see whether our response would make it into the pages of the Washington Post.
Alas, in the interim, Erik did some more reading on the Palin thing and found that Sarah Palin has in the past advocated pre-marital abstinence and, therefore, that her reported Glen Rice fling might be viewed by some as hypocritical–and, therefore, that this was a legitimate rumour for us to report. So he said that he was not going to blast us for it.
And we thanked Erik for that. We do not like getting blasted.
Anyway, in case you’re curious how this story developed and what our responses to Erik’s interesting questions were, here’s the email chain:
Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 8:50 AM, Erik Wemple <[email protected]> wrote:
Hey Henry: As you know, I am a pretty frequent BI reader, and sometimes I wince at an item or two on your site. But I know you guys churn and churn and churn. Sometimes you don’t always connect.
Yet the piece on the Palin-Glen Rice rumour this morning to me seemed out of bounds. What explanation would you offer for running that item in any form?
Thanks, as always, for your consideration.
On Sep 14, 2011, at 9:23 AM, Henry Blodget <[email protected]> wrote:
We relay rumours–labelled “rumour:”–that we find interesting and credible and that we think our readers will want to hear. (Importantly, we don’t just relay any rumours–just ones that we think are interesting enough to bring to our readers’ attention. And we say they are rumours).
We do this for a couple of reasons. First, because this is a real-time conversational medium, and our readers want to hear what we’re hearing. Second, because with millions of sources of information now only a click away, we think it would be ridiculous not to keep our readers abreast of what everyone’s talking and tweeting about.
(For a vivid example of this, just look at how humiliated CNN was a few months ago by refusing to acknowledge the speculation that Bin Ladin had been shot for a whole half hour before their White House sources allowed them to report it. Instead they had to hint at it, pathetically, while the whole world vetted the rumours in real-time and eventually confirmed them.)
Our readers are intelligent–they don’t need us to “protect” them from unverified information reverberating around the Twitter-sphere. They can handle the truth (“it’s a rumour”). And who doesn’t want to know about what everyone’s talking about?
Based on the massive reader interest in the Palin report, our readers are thrilled that we relayed it. As always, if/when we get more information, we’ll print it.
On Sep 14, 2011, at 9:51 AM, Erik Wemple <[email protected]> wrote:
Got it. Thanks so much for the response, as always.
One followup: with whom did you screw around when you were a young professional?
Sent from my iPhoneOn Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 11:02 AM, Henry Blodget <[email protected]> wrote:
Some wonderful folks (though, as it happened, no sculpted future professional athletes or fabulous world-famous actresses or politicians–not that I would have fought them off with sticks).
On Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 11:18 AM, Erik Wemple <[email protected]> wrote:
Thanks. By the way, don’t think I will be calling you folks out for this item, after all. In Palin’s case, after looking at the facts, it’s fair game to discuss her premarital sex record, given her advocacy of abstinence-until-marriage programs. There’s hypocrisy there, and it makes the Rice thing relevant to Palin’s biography, horrifyingly enough. You folks may want to insert that fact into your post—I think it helps contextualize and explain what would otherwise be a prurient item. Here’s a link to a short CNN thing about it.
So, sorry for the uninformed inquiry—I hadn’t remembered that part about abstinence-only stuff, though I should have!
On Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 11:31 AM, Henry Blodget <[email protected]> wrote:
Thanks. Agreed on the hypocrisy (which is an issue that a lot of people have with Palin in general).
On Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 11:30 AM, Erik Wemple <[email protected]> wrote:
Actually, doing an item, but not the item I was thinking about.
On Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 11:32 AM, Henry Blodget <[email protected]> wrote:
Cool. I’ll do one about your kind decision not to blast us (which folks will find amusing).
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