On Sheridan Hoops and Journalism

Last week, At the Hive's Will Hibert and Hornets247's Mason Ginsberg took on a Sheridanhoops.com column that contended that David Stern was ruining the Hornets. If you missed it, they dissected the original story line-by-line, pointing out the myriad dubious claims contained therein. To me, it was important not for its defense of the Chris Paul-Clippers trade, but rather its contention that the article was flawed on a deeper level - a factual one. To express a preference for the Lakers' deal to the Clippers' one is hardly offensive, but to misrepresent intention and ignore legitimate reporting is.

I didn't expect Chris Bernucca, the story's author, to respond in much depth; some fans of the team he wrote about disagreed with him, quelle surprise. But an aspect of his muted response - pointed out on the Hornets board at Tiger Droppings - caught my attention today.

I like honesty; others like optimism.

This was how he chose to conclude his answer to Will and Mason's piece. I like honesty, others like optimism. He really wrote that! In six words, he banished the entirety of the rebuttal completely to the aether, back to the family basements from whence they came. Instantly, his arguments were reaffirmed in their inherent truthiness, untouched by the barbs against them, ones that had so foolishly originated from bloggers and fans in all their puerile optimism.

Bernucca's trick lies in shifting the issue from "there are multiple factually incorrect aspects to your column" (which is black and white) to "nobody's going to agree on how a team should rebuild" (which isn't, at all). It's what deeming Will and Mason's rebuttal "eye of the beholder" accomplishes more than anything. The fact remains though - Bernucca was called out for making an argument based on spurious claims; the means, here, were of far more interest than the end. If the angle is that the Hornets should have played ball with the Lakers, there have been multiple more eloquently crafted arguments in its favor.

The bigger issue here was always good journalism, and more specifically, an exhaustive lack of it. You want to talk about "honesty"? Then what of your complete ignorance of multiple reports on developing Hornets' ownership plans, specifically ones that gave both names and groups involved? Still want to be honest? Then go ahead and cite some actual data if you're going to claim that a team ranking 19th in attendance percentage and one that improves attendance like clockwork post-February ranks "bottom" of the league. And let's wrap up this honesty fest with your insider knowledge of Eric Gordon's knee - "Gordon, whose next game probably will be in late October 2012..." Excuse me? Even if you're cynical of the Hornets' public discussion of Gordon's injury, it behooves you as a professional journalist to not publish sentences like this one without proper acknowledgement of the riotous, extravagant speculation contained therein.

This rebuttal was never about "quality nit-picking" or whatever other patronizing terms Bernucca deemed appropriate to fling our way. It was an accusation that a number of basic journalistic tenets had been ignored in the crafting of an ultimately valid point. That Bernucca or Sheridan or whoever else ostensibly failed to understand this is neither here nor there. In a larger sense, Sheridanhoops - we don't want your apology. We don't need your apology. At the end of the day, we're all typing relatively meaningless words about a bunch of guys that run around a rectangular bit of hardwood and occasionally toss a lump of orange leather into the air.

But if you want to publish a shoddy piece of journalism and banish the snipers blasting hefty, gaping holes in your arguments to the domain of "optimism" and "upbeat" cheeriness, that's certainly your right. Just know it does nothing to mitigate the existence of those holes, those leaps of logic, those casually dismissed pieces of, you know, actual "honesty."

As you were.

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