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How UFC's attempts to control the media and unwritten message board rules distort MMA news coverage

For the second time in five months, the same stupid thing has happened.  A UFC-credentialed reporter posts a newsworthy item not as a story on their usual website, but on the F4WOnline/Wrestling Observer subscribers' message board.  A contributor for SBN picks it up, and then the credentialed reporter throws a fit and acts like a major foul has been committed even thought the SBN writer did nothing wrong.  It's utterly ridiculous and symptomatic of some major problems.

The first was incident was when Oliver Copp of UFC.com and F4WOnline threw hissy fit in April when Keith Harris reported on this very site about Copp's and Dave Meltzer's comments about Vince McMahon trying to get UFC banned in major European markets and it was then picked up by our sister SBN blogs (including Watch Kalib Run) and various MMA news sites such as The Underground.


Someone started a thread about the WKR version of the story on the F4WOnline board, and Oliver replied with this:

Yay... taking quotes from here outside the context of a discussion and putting your own spin on it. Way to go!

This is the type of thing that'll get me to stop posting inside info on the Board, sadly. For the past three years plus, it's never been a problem. Apparently that has changed.

To which Keith replied:

I didn't spot this thread until now, just in case anyone thought I was running scared. If it was just a cryptic remark by Oliver that would be one thing, but Dave corroborated the story. It's a genuine news story, I don't think I shouldn't be allowed to discuss it on a fan blog or another message board (though if Dave disagrees he can have a quiet word with me about it). It wasn't like I was making stuff up and falsely attributing it to Dave like other sites do. Disagree with my spin all you like, but I did my best to put the comments in their full context.

Personally I think genuine news stories shouldn't be buried on the message board, where print only subscribers can't access them. They pay good money too.

Keith was right: It was a major news story.  On a public message board, Oliver told the story and Dave confirmed it.  Keith gave it the proper context in his post.  Where's the foul?  On top of that., why didn't Dave (or partner Bryan Alvarez) end up reporting the story on the main site, on Yahoo Sports (Dave's other gig), or in their newsletters?

Pretty much the same thing happened this week.  Jeremy Botter of Heavy.com posted on the same forum about how many of the "fans" asking questions at the Chael Sonnen Q&A session were plants.  S.C. Michaelson of WKR posted about it (and crossposted it here at Cageside Seats).  Botter cried foul requested that his name and the quote where he reported the item be removed from the post.

So I suppose that at this point you're asking "Bix, why did this happen when Keith and S.C. did nothing wrong?"  Well, there's more than one issue at play here.  As has been intimated in the past on various sites, UFC keeps a very tight leash on its credentialed reporters.  That's presumably why Copp (who also works for UFC), Botter, Meltzer, and Alvarez never reported these stories in their usual outlets.

So I'm sure that now you're asking "Why did they post this on a public message board, then?"  Well, that's because F4WOnline's infamous board is infamous for a reason to the point that it's deservedly referred to as "The 4chan of wrestling boards."  It's a bizarre, wildly offensive, mean-spirited mix of crazyness that just happens to feature several credentialed UFC reporters among its ranks.  Thanks to various in-person meetups, especially at UFC events, there's a sense of community for some of the posters that serves as an odd counterpoint to the endless trolling.  This sense of community seemingly made Copp and Botter think that they were just kibitzing with friends off the record even they never declared anything to that effect.

Don't get pissed off when you post news on a public message board (albeit one that's part of a pay site) and someone picks up on it.  Just because you think it's a "wacky" community filled with your sociopathic buddies making ridiculous Photoshops doesn't mean that it's a private off the record discussion not to be breached. On top of that, don't you dare say we took your comments out of context when we did the exact opposite, and especially when a fellow reporter like Dave Meltzer followed up your post with full corroboration. 

If you learned of a story in a legitimate manner, then report it.  Don't keep it hidden in a cesspool of a message board that wrestling and MMA fans who actually have shame try to stay away from (Keith has shame, he just tries to use the forum for good instead of evil).  If you heard about it off the record, then why the hell are you repeating it on a public forum, much less that forum?

If you're a reporter and want to play "I AM TEH UFC INSIDER!" on a public message board, then you need to be an adult and face the consequences.