To Quote Or Not To Quote

I wish I had some great Twinsfest stories to recount today. However, my weekend did not include a trip to Blaine to rub elbows with the players, front office execs, fellow bloggers or the 25,000 other Twins fans who enjoyed (to some degree or another) the festivities over the weekend. I could fill you in on some terrific symphonic band performances at Wartburg College on Sunday, but I suspect you don’t come here to read that.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of Twinsfest reports in the blog community. There’s some really good stuff out there at Off The Mark, North Dakota Twins Fan, Fanatic Jack Talks TwinsSethSpeaks, and others (I’m also sure we’ll see more posted as the week goes on, based on how many bloggers reportedly attended).

In addition, one of the advantages of getting all the players and management types together in one place in January is that the people who report on the Twins for a living with the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press and get a weekend full of opportunities to do interviews and write articles about our guys. There are some great articles on Danny Valencia, Brian Duensing (that one’s a must-read, if you haven’t yet), Pat Neshek, Denard Span, and perhaps the most encouraging article I’ve read lately about Justin Morneau.

Reading through the various articles and posts got me thinking more about an issue I’ve been wrestling with a bit lately, though, and I’d be interested in others’ thoughts.

I’ve got a post (or, if I’m lucky, maybe a series of posts) in the percolating stage about minor league baseball, from the perspective of the fans of minor league teams and those who labor to provide communities all over the country with quality, affordable entertainment at the ballpark. I’m not sure yet what direction this will go, but I’ve started working on an outline.

(I bet you thought all that blogging involved was writing whatever crap comes to mind and posting it on the blog site. Well, you’re wrong!.. OK, mostly you’re right, but occasionally we do give some pre-thought to what we write and this post on minor league ball will be one of those times… if I ever get around to writing it.)

I have some friends who have worked on the “inside” with the local minor league team and I’m planning on buying them a beer or four some time and taking the opportunity to ask them some questions about how things work… what directors and GMs of minor league teams do… how the relationship with Major League affiliates works… that kind of thing. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since long before I started writing for a blog, but now I really want to ask those questions.

But what I’ve been wondering about is this… do I tell them WHY I’m asking the questions, or not?

I think the answer is obvious. Even if they might be more inclined to open up about things if it was just between  a couple of old friends and even if it’s just going to be in a blog that, let’s face it, isn’t exactly getting thousands of readers a day (though we’re very proud that we’re sneaking up on 25,000 visits in less than a year since going online!), I can’t imagine NOT telling them that I may end up writing a blog post about the subject. I think they’ll probably still talk to me… after they get done laughing at me. (No… my closest friends and family still have no idea I lead this double life as a blogger. It’s not something respectable people do, you know.)

I understand that part of the freedom of blogging is the ability to exercise our First Amendment right of free speech without the confinements that “real writers” are hamstrung with by the people who pay them. But even though I dropped out of the Razorback School of Journalism before taking an ethics course, I just don’t think writing for a blog instead of a newspaper or magazine means I shouldn’t at least make an attempt to follow some basic ethical standards.

That means that when I include quotes from others’ articles or posts, I attribute it to the original author and/or link to the source. You may also notice that we try, whenever possible, to use photographs that one of us at Knuckleballs has taken ourselves. It isn’t always possible and, when we use someone else’s photo, we try to include the photo credit if we know that information. That’s pretty basic stuff and, while we’re not perfect, we make an honest effort considering we’re still beginners at this stuff.

But here’s the question I’m pondering… the question that arises at the intersection of my planned minor league posts and some of the other blog posts I’ve read about Twinsfest over the weekend. What responsibility do I, as a blog author, have to let someone I’m talking to know that what they say might end up published in my blog?

I’m not interested in appointing myself the blog ethics cop and I’m not here to throw any blogger under a bus. But when I read accounts of conversations had with players, coaches and/or front office people, I wondered about whether or not that person knew (or should have assumed) he/she was talking to someone who was going to publish their comments for attribution.

It’s probably not much of an issue in 99% of the situations. Most people aren’t going to open up to a random fan and say something they’re likely to be embarrassed by or get in some sort of trouble for. But I could see it happening, either at an event like Twinsfest or something less formal like the “Unplugged” events… or even just sitting in a bar or restaurant having a beer.

It’s also probably not an issue for a few of the best known Twins bloggers. I’d imagine some of them have become so well known within the Twins organization that almost anyone who talks to them knows they’re talking to a blogger/writer. But if a random unknown fan like me, for instance, happens to find himself having a conversation with a player or a coach or front office person, am I ethically bound to tell them up front that I write for a Twins blog? Wouldn’t that be a bit awkward? But if I don’t do that, can I still publish an account of that conversation or even include a quote from that person?

These are the types of questions I need answers to now… before I become a famous blogger!

– JC