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On rumors, reporting and reality

As we all know, we had a bit of nervousness in the Big Blue Nation about a WKYT report as well as rumors in the usual places about Patrick Patterson's health.

First of all, here are the facts as I know them.  Around lunchtime on October 23rd, I got an email tip about a report at the WKYT website (since, substantially revised) that Patrick Patterson had been seen at a hospital somewhere with the head coach, and that there were Internet reports that Patterson was allegedly experiencing some kind of breathing difficulty, and was undergoing some kind of tests -- the word "heart" or "chest pain" was never, as far as I know, in that report.  I linked this report in the "Breaking news" section, because that is exactly what it became when a bona-fide local news organization reported the incident.  It was linked under the "Concern for Patrick Patterson's health" lede that the WKYT site had up itself.

Somewhere along the way, someone (Rob Bromley?) allegedly speculated/reported that Patterson had or was undergoing tests for some kind of heart problem.  I never heard that report/speculation by Bromley anywhere, although I suppose others did.  I did see some mention of heart problems discussed in TCP threads, but never reported or linked that as news -- that falls under the rubric of rumor.

Patterson's visit to the hospital was not a rumor -- it was a substantially true, except possibly for the part about coach Gillispie being with him.  The reason for his visit, subsequently disclosed by UK, was an upper respiratory infection, which basically confirms the premise of the initial report of breathing difficulties.

The first time I ever saw the word "heart" mentioned on the Internet other than in The Cats Pause threads (and I did see them, whether they exist anymore or not) was at KSR in this entry.  Now, I don't know what prompted this -- maybe some commenters (I almost never read comments at Matt's site, the signal/noise ratio is just too low) over at Matt's site or at TCP.  Unlike here at A Sea of Blue where you have to undergo a double-opt-in sign-up process, anybody who can fill in a text entry field can comment on Matt's site.  But I am sure Matt posted it in a response to something or someone, I just don't know exactly what the impetus was.

So let's review.  We have a credible report which turns out to be accurate on WKYT.  As far as I know, WKYT didn't speculate as to the reason for Patterson's visit, they accurately reported "breathing difficulties".  While their source may have been somewhat suspect (I'm not really sure who it was, but it was apparently an Internet report from other than a bona fide news organization), it was, as far as I can determine, accurate in the relevant particulars they reported.  Eventually, KSR reported UK's comments on the story, which was that Patterson was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection.

So what we had here, it seems, was an accurate mainstream media report that UK didn't see fit to address until long after it created a stir.  That report was apparently speculated upon somewhere down the line, but that is hardly surprising.

Comes now Matt Jones not to praise those who reported this, but to bury them.  Now, I'll be the first to agree that anyone trading in rumors such as the mythical "heart problem" in this situation was wrong.  But when a bona fide local news organization reports it as news, it is, by definition, no longer a rumor, especially when it turns out to be true.  News organizations generally try to get more than one source for stories for good reasons, and that's why when they report it, we listen.  The fact that others could not confirm the story doesn't make it false, and it doesn't make it a rumor.  Nether does not having official commentary from the University of Kentucky.

Matt lauds the fact that KSR and The Cats Pause deleted speculation and refused to publish a link to the WKYT report:

Thus we commend Rob on beating the entire Kentucky news media on the story that did not exist. And the lessons of Tuesday are some that we should all look into a bit. While internet reports are often criticized as being not "official" enough or not having to "follow the rules of journalism," the major internet sites (Wildcat Nation, Cats Pause, Kentucky Sports Report and this site) deleted all references to the Patterson rumor and made no comment or report until the story could be followed up upon by the school. The reason why was more than clear. When dealing with a UK player's personal health, it made sense to wait and get something official.....especially when the rumors being circulated dealt with a health condition that could be serious. Because of privacy concerns, getting out an 18 year old's health status to the masses takes a back seat to the information being correct....and thus TCP, KSR and Kentucky Sports Radio did nothing.
There is nothing wrong with this, and if that's how Matt and Jeff Drummond prefer to run their sites, that is certainly their decision.  Fans aren't entitled to know everything about Patterson or any other player's health, by any means, but patting yourself on the back for ignoring a bona fide media report is taking this just a little too far.  Could KSR, TCP et al have taken the report to task?  Yes, that is certainly fair, but when it is out there, ignoring it only increases speculation and the likelihood of really damaging rumors.  People wanted to know what was happening, and any fan of the Kentucky Wildcats knows very well that waiting to get something out of the rather opaque UK media department regarding players is going to happen very slowly, if at all.

In my mind, it is better to transparently inform people and try to keep speculation down, if there is any, by addressing it, not just willy-nilly deleting every post containing speculation or links to a news report -- you can't put the genie back into the bottle, as they say.  I think Matt tried to address it with his admonition about waiting for UK's comment, but to do it without addressing the source of the speculation, which turned out to be an accurate report by WKYT (at least, the Internet version I linked) is a bit like hiding one's head in the sand. 

I believe that ignoring reality fuels the flames of speculation and creates more rumor than transparently addressing it -- that's the kind of thing the University of Kentucky has done in the past, and now we have members of the blogosphere apparently doing the same thing.  I didn't bother to address the "rumors" at the time, because a) nobody here was speculating on the cause, and b) I didn't think it was that big of a deal -- people Patterson's age and profile very rarely have any sort of serious health problem.  One person bemoaned the fact that others were rumormongering, and I addressed that, but really, we just don't have that kind of readership here.  Other sites can address their readership as they see fit.

To be fair to Matt, most of his criticism was directed at Rob Bromley, who allegedly traded in some of the "heart" speculation.  I have no knowledge of this other than KSR,  and didn't hear or read anything about it until Matt mentioned it on his site.  So quite frankly, I have no idea what particular circumstances drew his ire with respect to Bromley.  But I think we should note that the part of this whole affair that was "rumor" was any commentary regarding the diagnosis of the problem.  The facts pertaining to Patterson's illness that were initially reported by WKYT were, insofar as far as I am aware, substantially correct.

One of the great things about our audience here is that we don't make wildly speculative comments about reports.  That's just how we roll here at A Sea of Blue, and have since day one.  I almost never delete a comment for any reason here, just another measure of the fine membership we are fortunate to have.  This whole situation generated maybe 3 whole comments -- three more than what this tempest in a teapot deserved.