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Rumors And Taking Credit Where Credit Isn’t Due: The Key To Web Success

When it comes to web traffic, the site SportsByBrooks.com knows how to get it.  From numerous stories about Auburn’s “illegal” activities to a wave (a Tidal wave, perhaps?) of photos showing Alabama players posing for photos at a menswear shop in Tuscaloosa, the folks at SportsByBrooks know how to get eyeballs — you run with hypotheticals, possibilities and rumors.

It’s a gold mine.  And if a rumor turns out to be true — boom — you “broke the story.”  If it doesn’t… no harm, no foul.

This week, SportsByBrooks set off a flurry of activity in the Twitterverse and Blogosphere by tweeting the following:

Hearing from multiple sources that high profile SEC coach will quit at end of season b/c of conflicts w/ AD

Not Joker, Nutt or Richt.

Cue the speculation.  The website FitsNews.com — which bills itself as “Unfair.  Imblanced.” — believes Steve Spurrier could be the coach to say bye-bye.

The site says its’ sources “say that they heard the rumor about Spurrier leaving at the end of the 2011 season ‘months ago.’”

From the handling of Stephen Garcia’s situation — which Spurrier never seemed to be in 100% agreement with — to the way the school’s administration handled his recent calling out of Columbia columnist Ron Morris, Spurrier hitting the exit makes sense.

But that’s the beauty of the blind item rumor.  If any coach not named Joker, Nutt or Richt leaves at the end of the season, the SportsByBrooks rumor can and will be called true.  Whether it’s factually true or not.

In Spurrier’s case, it’s possible that a coach could just get tired of having a struggling offense, isn’t it?

Seeing the success of SportsByBrooks, national freelance columnist Clay Travis decided to follow the model and by launching OutKickTheCoverage.com.  His first uber-story: photos of Bama players posing at a Tuscaloosa menswear store.  It was his story that SportsByBrooks picked up and ran with for days on end.  (For the record, nothing ever came of the numerous SportsByBrooks posts regarding Auburn and the NCAA has yet to get involved in the T-Town Menswear story.)

OutKickTheCoverage has exploded on the scene following SportsByBrooks’ plan — two or three stories per week, a healthy dose of cynicism, and plenty of rumors.  Travis is also a very witty writer.

But OutKickTheCoverage also is big on taking credit for things.  All kinds of things.  It’s the reason you’ve seen us start saying, “Hey, we were right about this months ago,” more often on our own site.

Yesterday, OutKickTheCoverage posted a story on Tony Barnhart’s involvement in the SEC’s accidentally-released dossier on Missouri last week.  It’s a good piece.  It examines whether or not Barnhart crossed a line with his CBS bosses by not reporting on the “hypothetical” Missouri-story the SEC website workers asked him about.

In what’s becoming a somewhat common move at that site, they said no one else on the web had even asked a question about Barnhart’s journalistic integrity in this matter:

“I did a Google search to find someone who even mentioned Barnhart’s conflict publicly.

Do you know how many results I got?

Zero.”

That’s funny.  ‘Cause when I did a Google search this morning of Barnhart + Missouri (searching under “news” of course, lest I get links to the town of Barnhart, Missouri), I found the following at the tip top of the page:

1.  Leaked Missouri to the SEC story raises serious ethical questions

That’s from the Capstone Report, an Alabama-centric site that posted its story six days ago.  That was the morning after the Barnhart Q&A appeared on the web.

2.  Questions Raised By Accidental Web Post

Uh, that one was from some site called MrSEC.com.  We also posted our story the morning after the web leak.  And we were the first site — as far as we can tell from searching the web and from looking all over the place that day — to reach out to Barnhart for a comment.  The comment he gave to us later popped up on his Twitter account and he’s repeated it numerous times to other outlets following up, like OutKickTheCoverage.  (For the record, knowing Barnhart, we gave him the benefit of the doubt.  You’ll notice that we also guessed — from the wording of the Q&A — that the “hypothetical questions” defense might be appropriate.)

3.  A link to the site TeamSpeedKills.com also popped up in our simple Google search, though not in headline form.

That site also raised the issue of Barnhart’s involvement with the SEC.

The folks at OutKickTheCoverage are sharp, witty and bigger than us.  A tip of the cap to them.

But that doesn’t mean they can do unto others as they so often complain ESPN does unto them.  If they think they can act like they’re the only site that exists and the rest of the world will let them, uh, no, that won’t happen.

In recent weeks, we’ve taken to point out when we’ve been right on a story and when we’ve been first on a story.  We get a few negative comments each time we do it.

Now you know why we do it.

If we report from May of 2010 to September of 2011 that the SEC could still possibly launch its own SEC television network, we’ll point that out.  Because we know live in a world where someone can come out after our most recent posting on that subject with “breaking news” that the SEC — can you believe it! — could start its own SEC Network.  Whoda thunk it?

Look, we don’t want a war.  The other guy’s got a national name and a pricier eduction than the guys here at MrSEC.  We’d lose that battle.

But we also don’t want to have to spend our time responding to questions about another guy’s report… a report that actually came a week after we covered the same topic and got the first comments from the person involved.

Fair is fair.  We’ve linked you to SportsByBrooks.com and OutKickTheCoverage.com a number of times.  They know how to get readers.  And some of their stuff is A-1 fantastic.

We only ask that if someone claims that he’s the only person to cover something — based on a Google search — that he actually learns how to do a Google search before making such a claim.

(And if someone has real information on a coach who might step down, go ahead and post that.  It won’t burn a source.  There are thousands of sources at every school.  Blind items for fun are one thing… blind items as “news” are something else entirely.)

There should be room enough for everyone on this here web without having to claim other people haven’t done their jobs, when they actually did theirs first.

As far as this site is concerned, if we say, “We told you so,” it means we told you so.  If we say, “We mentioned this as a possibility,” that means we mentioned the possibility, not that we “broke the story.”  And if we say we were first, it means we’re darn sure of the fact that we actually were first.

All it takes is a well-executed Google search to find who’s said what and when.

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