Mind Your Ps and Qs: The Case of Jerod Morris And a Lesson On Libel

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Mind Your Ps and Qs: The Case of Jerod Morris And a Lesson On Libel
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

I have written Internet journalism for over a year now.

In that time, I have published stories on topics that I believe have been ignored by the mainstream media.

Why do I do that?

I do believe that many in the mainstream media are hindered by forces that do not affect a blogger, such as a paycheck and adherence to the authority of those who give them that paycheck (like newspaper companies and advertisers).

At the same time, those in the mainstream have more training in their field and are therefore less likely to make costly mistakesyet are more timid to cover a controversial subject. 

I am educated, and in fact, I take pride in my research and willingness to ask questions. 

This article though is in response to the antics of Jerod Morris, who insinuated that Raul Ibanez could be juicingby way of supposition.  In that, he strongly supposed that Ibanez *could* have juiced, simply because Ibanez has been on a hot-streak.

That, however, is irresponsible journalism and denigrates the credibility of bloggers who take this seriouslybecause it is still defamation to even suggest something that you cannot substantiate or defend with direct evidence.

To simply state, an 'opinion' can in fact befoul the practice of journalism.

Everyone does have a right to an opinion, but if it attacks another, then you must be prepared to defend your opinion, or keep it to yourself—defend it or drop it. 

I do not see anything wrong with that maxim, because I think it encourages education: If you want to opine on everything, then do your research first rather than spout that which first pop into your head.

In a court opinion written by former Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, strong suppositions without valid substantiation can be held as libel.

For instance, if you said, "In my opinion, (blank) is a liar," but with no valid reason to think so, and yet you wrote it anyway, then it can be libel.

Normally, people like Mr. Morris do not get attention.

With Mr. Morris, the grease has gone to the squeaky wheel, not to those who make an effort to say something constructive but different from the mainstream media.

Mr. Morris has in effect said, "In my opinion, Raul Ibanez could be a juicer."  Thus, the news media was willing to make news about a guy who makes up news.

I would like to believe that we bloggers can be controversial and provoke thought and questions, with unique views of the factsnot just random junk under the guise of journalism.

 

On Juicing

The fact that many players have played during the steroid era does not prove that they all juiced or that they all deserve to be questioned simply because they have an increase in their stats.

It is like an IQ question. 

Some baseball players have juiced.  All juicers had an increase in stats.  All increases in stats resulted from juicing?

False.

You cannot prove that all players have juiced or that all increases in stats result from steroids.  Thus, the fact that Raul Ibanez has played in the steroid era is not valid substantiation.

A dramatic increase in stats and a veteran age is not proof of juicing, or even a valid reason to question. 

Now, if Raul Ibanez had added twenty-pounds and lost body fat, that would be different because steroids are made to increase muscle and eliminate fat.

That means that your weight can increase to unnatural levels, while maintaining very low body-fat. 

Or if Raul Ibanez had increased his weight, and suddenly could run fasterThat would also be suspicious.

A hot-streak in a player's late-thirties isn't valid substantiation.

 

On Libel

Typically (but not always), a plaintiff must prove malicious intent by the defendant but also prove that the libel incurred damages.  You also must prove that the statements are false.

If I or you said, "In my opinion, (blank) engages in bestiality," just to set the 'sports world on fire' and get attention, that would be malicious intent, because the only way to gain infamy is to wrongfully soil the name of someone else.

I have followed Raul Ibanez's career for a few years now, and the one thing I have gathered from it is that he goes hot and cold.  He has been the type of player that can hit .220 with five RBI and two HRs, and then suddenly hit .320 with fifteen RBI, and six HRs.

Moreover, Raul Ibanez switched from the American League to the National League.  It is common for a player to have a dramatic increase in stats if they switch leagues.

Though Jerod Morris has tried to claim that he was merely discussing the possibility that Ibanez might be juicing because of his age, it was an invalid line of questions. 

Morris had no valid substantiation that would necessarily suggest juicing.

If Mr. Morris truly wanted to question Raul Ibanez's production, Morris should have done what journalists do and ask for interview with Ibanez, his trainer, or others, and then ask questions.  Such as, "What has Ibanez done differently in order to achieve a dramatic increase in stats?"

It is called investigative journalism.

Ironically though, Mr. Morris has abused blogging by defaming Raul Ibanez with unfounded suppositions, simply because steroids have hurt the credibility of baseball as a whole. 

People like Mr. Morris however, have hurt the credibility of blogging as a whole.

 

Those Who Live in Glass Houses

I, however, have the belief that others could judge me as I have judged Jerod Morris.  Thus, I would appreciate feedback from readers and professionals in order to gain from their advice and experience.

Nevertheless, I have heard many times over that my opinions on controversial subjects have been speculation and theories.

Speculation and theories are not necessarily false. 

If you think they are false, can you disprove them?  Most journalism in the early days of this country came from speculation and theories about the tyranny of the British, which is to say, that theories can be good journalism, but not when they are slop. 

How can you differentiate between slop and not slop? 

If you put an honest effort into your research and line of questions, then it will usually reflect as such in your journalism.

The fact is that, a good journalist will start with a thesis (as any essay writer would) then research facts that agree or disagree with the thesis to, then, develop a conclusion.

Keep in mind however, that I will not consider asinine insults as constructive criticism.

So be thorough; be self-cynical; and above all, if you think I wrote something blatantly false and malicious, then explain why.

You can do so by reading the article and the hyperlink below.

Have I Libeled You?  An Honest Request for Constructive Criticism

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