A cyberspace episode of “24”
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Mar 05, 2007
This is the story of the little Internet post that took but 24 hours to bloody a Big Bad Bully. It's a pretty compelling case study for those folks interested in the dynamics of the new media and how it interacts with old media.
It's also a story we need to tell in the interest of disclosure.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts are being credited by most for uncovering the copy that led to the suspension of the Boston Globe's Ron Borges. We certainly played a role.
But the truth is that we were merely the outlet that got the allegations into the hands of the Globe and others in the media around the country ... and then got a boatload of people to write about it, talk about it, and, more importantly, complain about it.
But we didn't exactly dig up the story ourselves.
The credit for that bit of journalistic bulldoggery goes to a random Seattle Seahawks fan from parts unknown who we've probably never met and probably never will.
Here's how the story unfolded – like an intense little episode of "24" that played out in the borderless battleground of cyberspace and ended with an old-media leviathan bloodied and bowed.
We couldn't begin to identify everywhere the story went. But the basics of how it unfolded are fairly well defined.
7:05 p.m. (Sunday, March 4) (B-hour)
A guy who operates under the handle "SeattleStatman" launches this thread on the Patriots page of the ESPN message boards.
"I noticed the entire first page of the (Borges) article," he writes, "is stolen from a previous article written by a Seahawks beat writer."
7:36 p.m. (B+31 minutes)
A poster on the same thread named "Roninent73" sends an e-mail to the Cold, Hard Football Facts with links to the two stories.
8:53 p.m. (B+1 hour, 48 minutes)
"Kurt O" sends us another e-mail with the same links.
9:40 p.m. (B+2:35)
After interrupting what should have been a pleasurable evening of watching "The Dark Ages" on the History Channel, the Cold, Hard Football Facts publish a story with a comparison of the two articles sent to us that evening. Our story essentially amounted to copying and pasting both articles and placing them side by side. And, you know, attributing where they came from.
10:04 p.m. (B+2:59)
The Cold, Hard Football Facts send an e-mail blast to several thousand readers and hundreds of sports media members around the country with links to our report.
10:13 p.m. (B+3:08)
Reader Steve Downer fires off the first of what will be a wave of mostly angry e-mails sent to Boston Globe executives over the next 20-odd hours. At the same minute, "Roninent73" on the ESPN message boards announces that "CHFF is after Borges now."
10:26 p.m. (B+3:21)
The CHFF report quickly starts to spread through the voracious chat-board community with a thread on the Web site PatriotsPlanet.net. "Our long regional nightmare is over" reads the thread title, highlighting in no uncertain terms how the public in the Boston area felt about the belligerent Globe reporter.
10:55 p.m. (B+3:50)
Executive editor Dave Zeeck of the Tacoma News Tribune is the first in the media to respond to us. His message is short: "Thanks; we'll look further."
11:31 p.m. (B+4:26)
"Seattlefan2007" is the first to get the article into the hands of Washington football fans with a link on ESPN's Seahawks message board.
11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
After missing its first showing, the Cold, Hard Football Facts catch a repeat showing of "The Dark Ages" on the aforementioned History Channel. E-mails from readers begin to trickle into Globe and CHFF cardboard-box world headquarters overnight.
6:40 a.m. (Monday, March 5) (B+11:35)
Popular BostonSportsMedia.com becomes the first alternative sports media outlet to link to the Cold, Hard Football Facts report.
7:13 a.m. (B+12:08)
CHFF publisher Kerry J. Byrne takes a phone call from Boston sports radio WEEI producer Steve Ciaccio. Within minutes, Byrne, an occasional WEEI guest, is on the air discussing the story with hosts John Dennis and Gerry Callahan.
People stumble into work and look for ways to avoid doing their jobs. Hundreds of chat boards, Web sites and forums from coast to coast get lit up like the CHFF crew at our annual holiday party with posts, links and e-mails about the story flying through cyberspace.
11:08 a.m. (B+16:03)
Blogger Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix becomes perhaps the first non-sports media member to hop on the bandwagon.
around 11:10 a.m. (B+16:05)
Byrne completes a phone call with a sports-industry insider who revealed to us that Borges had culled the copied copy from a network used by football writers to exchange notes and information. The Globe and Tacoma News Tribune later confirm that is, in fact, where the copied copy changed hands. (Which apparently means that we beat the old media on that story, too.)
11:50 a.m. (B+16:45)
Popular sports site Deadspin.com reports on "Borges' Cut-And-Paste Job."
1:23 p.m. (B+18:18)
As plagiarism talk gobbles up space on Boston Globe message boards, an e-mailer named Dave sends us this message: "You'll find it funny how quickly the Globe is deleting any reference to Borges' plagiarism off of their message boards. I've seen at least a dozen disappear in the last 30 minutes."
1:51 p.m. (B+18:46)
Popular site ProFootballTalk.com wonders "Is Borges down for the count?" (playing off our original lede and our frequent boxing metaphors when discussing Borges, a former prize pugilist).
2:10 p.m. (B+19:05)
Media heavyweight Editor & Publisher, which touts itself as "America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry," reports that "Plagiarism Allegations Hit 'Boston Globe' Football Writer."
2:17 p.m. (B+19:12)
Boston Herald media reporter Jessica Heslam weighs in for the first time.
3:15 p.m. (B+20:10)
Blogger David Scott becomes the first in the media to demand that the Globe fire or suspend Borges.
5:45 p.m. (B+22:40)
Borges serves as a human piñata on the popular "Whiner Line" on sports radio WEEI in Boston.
7:54 p.m. (B+24:49)
The Boston Globe announces that it has suspended Ron Borges for two months, without pay – just 24 hours and 49 minutes after some guy named "SeattleStatman" posted his links on an ESPN message board.
Postscript: Borges briefly returned to work at the Boston Globe in May 2007. However, within days he was gone from the newspaper.
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