Once upon a time, there was this thing called journalism. Journalism was something that relied on real sources and fact-checking. It was a beautiful thing that could be relied on for some level of accuracy. Then, one day, people woke up and started seeing opinions being passed around on the internet. They started believing these things, considering hoaxes to be real, rumors to be fact, etc.
Lately, as an Auburn fan, I have been shocked at the number of people on local news stations and major news organizations who seem to be relying on anonymous sources, allegations by someone who heard it from someone who heard it from someone who knows a guy who knew the person who originally said it even though they’ve never talked, and rumors by gossip websites.
In the past week or so, Cam Newton, the quarterback from Auburn, has been accused of pay-for-play (an NCAA no-no), cheating on exams, nearly being kicked out of the University of Florida when he was there, and a variety of other criminal and immoral behaviors. Every day, the blogs of Fox and ESPN are coming out with new allegations. Other organizations are picking up these blog entries and running with them as fact. Even TMZ has gotten in on the action of the Cam slams.
Some people feel that since bloggers and TMZ are right on some topics, then they are legitimate sources. I know that I have ranted about Wikipedia being used as “legit shit” before, and I have concerns about blogs and TMZ being used to legitimize stories. Anyone with access to the internet can start a blog these days. Having a blog doesn’t make a person a real journalist and a journalist who blogs doesn’t necessarily have to stick to the same ethical principles. As for using TMZ as a source, it seems a little odd that we have gone from a society that looked to organizations that promote harassment and paparazzi as being the bad guys to being the best places to get the news.
Honestly, it would suck if the stuff about Cam Newton is true, but I have a hard time believing it. If Cam were guilty of cheating on tests and was facing possible expulsion, then it is highly unlikely that the University of Florida would have allowed him to transfer to a community college. As a person who has used college transfer systems, I can attest to the difficulty of leaving one school when there is some kind of unfinished business at another school. It also seems a bit odd that the school could get away with leaking any information on the academic record of a student, since it violates Federal privacy laws related to students. As for the pay-for-play allegations, I find it highly unlikely that the story even carries any merit when no legitimate source exists. (Coaches from many schools, including ones out of the SEC, have come out saying that these allegations hold no merit.)