If one reads the forums and blogs, reaction to this here “story” has been somewhat muted. Ambivalence about CardPlayer’s own journalistic integrity has perhaps prevented most from jumping to their defense here. I’ve complained before about CardPlayer’s frequent blurring of the line between reporting/journalism and advertising/promotion. Hell, Belsky himself is an agent who represents a few of the professional poker players about whom he writes in CardPlayer and converses about on The Circuit. Does that matter? Not necessarily. But let’s say Belsky is writing an article about the UIGEA and begins with a line like “To say that it's an interesting time for the poker industry would be like me telling you Mike Matusow is kind of a loud person” (as he began an article in the November 1, 2006 issue of CardPlayer College Magazine). A perfectly reasonable way to start such a piece, right? As it happens, Belsky is Matusow’s agent, someone who is being paid to get the Mouth’s name out there at every opportunity. Does it matter now how he chose to open his article? (On his MySpace page, Belsky says he represents Matusow, John D’Agostino, and Jennifer “Jennicide” Leigh.)
Sort of thing tends to make some of us -- even those of us who actually care about issues like intellectual property or journalistic integrity -- less animated about CardPlayer’s supposed victimhood here. The other factor lessening the impact of CardPlayer’s “scoop” is the fact that the “content” being defended here is not editorial in nature -- it’s chip counts. Something akin to your local paper getting the score of Hometown U.’s lacrosse match off the college’s website, then reporting it in their pages without attribution.
Some, such as Jennifer Shoots, co-host of The Tournament Trail (on Hold ’em Radio), cry “plagiarism” here, and believe appropriate penalties should be assessed. “It really is a disgrace,” says Shoots (on the 1/31/07 episode). “If these magazines and media outlets aren’t going to do anything to prevent plagiarism . . . [the WPT] need[s] to take some steps to deny credentials to anybody who is going to participate in that fashion, because it’s just ridiculous.” She also believes that Bluff Magazine “need[s] to make a spectacle out of this guy . . . . To prevent things like that from happening again, they need to make an example -- not just for the magazines involved, but for the media in general. It’s just wrong. I say, destroy the guy.”
Shoots has a point. Of course, whether the Bluff reporter was actually guilty of “plagiarism” is perhaps a matter for debate. Regarding plagiarism, the Hodges’ Harbrace Handbook tells students “You must give credit for all information you use except common knowledge and your own ideas.” Are chip counts “common knowledge”? Perhaps not. However, chip counts are certainly closer to common knowledge than other kinds of content, e.g., reporting and/or editorials containing genuinely “original” words and ideas. (Not to be overly catty here, but a lot of the “content” one hears on a show like The Tournament Trail -- a show that consists largely of reports on tourney circuit results -- appears to come from that same category of “common knowledge.”)
So a Bluff reporter was lazy here. Does he deserve to be punished? Yes, I think so. (EDIT [added 2/12/07]: Please see the comment below from Spaceman -- who has reported for Bluff -- that casts light on what happened, and casts doubt on the notion that the reporter here deserves any punishment.) Should CardPlayer have posted the video and sensationalized the affair in such an obviously juvenile way? Well, that’s an editorial decision CardPlayer chose to make. An article over on PokerBiz characterizes the whole affair as a “pissing match,” then goes on to make the point that the poker industry could probably do without such nonsense at present: “at a time when the poker industry is facing major challenges the fact that CardPlayer went out of their way to belittle another key player only shows that there is little, if any, solidarity in the industry.”
In my opinion, CardPlayer shouldn’t feel as though it needs to be at all loyal to Bluff Magazine as a “colleague” in the industry. However, when it comes to trumpeting its own “integrity,” CardPlayer might consider not underestimating its audience once in a while and instead use a little common sense.
Labels: *the rumble