Medical school graduates take the Hippocratic oath, which can be distilled into three words: Do no harm.
Journalism school grads take no such oath, but our duty is clear: We're bound to seek the truth, to be as fair and accurate as possible and to serve the interests of readers.
I thought I was doing that Friday when I chose to ask Melky Cabrera about rumors that I had heard from several different readers who had contacted me via email and my Twitter account over the past few days. I had no idea where these rumors started, but the questions were starting to mushroom about whether Cabrera flunked a drug test and would face a 50-game suspension.
Let's be clear: There is no evidence that there is any shred of truth to these rumors. Cabrera knew nothing about it. He contacted the union and his agent. They told him the rumors were unfounded as well. If Cabrera had failed a test, he and the union would've been the first to know. The rumor, to my knowledge, is a red herring. Cabrera even suggested to me that Dodgers fans could have made it up as a distraction.
I wasn't 100 percent sure what to do next. On one hand, it's my duty to serve readers who look to me to provide accurate information about the team I cover. On the other hand, knocking down the rumors would serve to give greater voice to them.
Ultimately, I decided to serve the truth.
Upon reflection, I did more harm than good.
We live in a different media universe and the rules are changing every day. Information is immediate. The level of interaction between fans and journalists is greater than ever. Anyone can self-publish any thought that rumbles through his or her head, true or untrue. It can be a confusing cacophony for any journalist, and it certainly is for me at times.
Its my job to serve readers. But what if its just one tenth of one percent of my readership who are asking these questions? Is it my responsibility to respond to them in a public way?
Asking these questions from a different vantage point: If I were Melky Cabrera, would I appreciate a reporter who knocked down a rumor that was just a whisper in some corners of the Internet? Or would I be royally pissed to see my name mentioned alongside PEDs, no matter the context, by a credentialed, professional journalist?
Its obvious, isn't it? Well, it should have been obvious to me. It wasn't.
In retrospect, I made the wrong decision to address these rumors on my Twitter account and disseminate it to my 30,000-plus followers.
So I feel its important that I issue a public apology to Melky Cabrera for giving greater voice to a rumor that, to the best of my knowledge and on his word, has absolutely no basis in fact.
I can only hope that he, and the rest of the Giants clubhouse,coaches and front-office personnel, at least understand that my motivations were not nefarious or self-oriented in any way. I wasn't looking to create a story. I was trying to squash one that has no basis in fact.
As I often say to folks who ask me to describe my job, I write about the Giants, not for them. In this case, I'm not apologizing becauseIm seeking their approval. I'm apologizing because its the right thing to do.
About that, I am certain.