The Life of Brian


-Photo from AP

I did not want to write about this. I still do not want to write about this. But, I feel compelled to write about this. By this I mean the recent water cooler gossip that Brian Burke’s job may be in jeopardy thanks to events in his personal life. I was not going to write about it until I read what Steve Simmons had to say.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the story by now. If not let Greg Wyshynski sum it up for us:
On Sunday, a Toronto sports website called published a report — since deleted, but cached here — that Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke "could soon be" fired by Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment "because of an extracurricular incident, implicating other MLSE employees."
Essentially, the blog published innuendo that had been passed around the Toronto hockey and media fraternities for the last several weeks with the frequency of children trading sports cards. (link)
When I read the original blog post I quickly dismissed it as baseless speculation at best, and libel at worst. Obviously someone out there agreed with the latter as the post has since been taken down. The site must have gotten more hits than Cal Clutterbuck and this apparently lead to Bob Mackenzie addressing and confirming that these were in fact only rumours. 
Steve Simmons also weighed in on the matter in this post. After telling us that these rumours have been passed around for months but have no truth to them Simmons proceeds to tell us all exactly what those rumours are. This is the first I had seen of these rumours actually published anywhere, the Toro post made no specific reference to them, nor did Mackenzie. According to Simmons: “This much we know, even though it isn’t our business. Burke is apparently having marital problems.” It seems like a specialty of certain writers to make a statement and immediately follow it up with the exact opposite of what they just said, e.g. “Not that Phil Kessel deserves anymore pressure but he has yet to win a Stanley Cup in his career.” 
Even though it was none of anyone’s business Simmons became the first person, which I’m aware of, to put into print the actual rumours about Burke. So that’s good. How did it come to this you may ask? Well, allow Mr. Simmons to explain: 
So what has happened here? The worst of the modern world of journalism and the blogosphere is at play here. A story gets whispered about and talked about so often that it becomes truth simply by being spread regularly — and in this case by people who should know better. From word of mouth it makes its way to Twitter or a blog or somewhere where the principles of journalism are not exhibited. The regular rules of attribution and sourcing don’t exist in non-traditional media outlets such as blogs.


Again we see the trope of following up one thought with a contrary one. While he says that this was the result of “the worst of the modern world of journalism and the blogosphere” he proceeds to blame the whole thing on the blogs and our apparently non- attributing, non-traditional osphere. (As a side note I’ve used footnotes in many of my posts.) 
Most of the people I read regularly or follow on Twitter- MSM or Blogger- have moved past the “MSM vs. Blogger” battle and recognized that content is what matters. The medium is no longer the message. Apparently Mr. Simmons disagrees. What I find interesting is that both he and I had the same thought when we first heard the rumours. His “initial inclination was to let this pass”. Hey mine too! Does that make me a journalist? Unfortunately other people would just not let it go and “the more I’ve been asked about it by prominent hockey people, the more there seemed a need to bring some calm to rumours that have no validity.”
So, instead of simply saying that these rumours had no validity, Simmons explicitly stated what the rumours were, and then told us all that it was not true and was none of our business anyway. What’s worse it that there was absolutely no reason for him to include the conjecture about Burke’s personal life. The rumour that most people heard and that needed to be addressed was that, for some reason, Burke was going to be fired. Now, thanks to the responsible journalism of Mr. Simmons we all know that Burke is “apparently having marital problems”.
I don’t want to suggest that Steve Simmons is a hypocrite, but he published a rumour about Brian Burke’s personal life in a post attempting to silence rumours about Brian Burke’s professional life. See what I did there?  

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  • Captain Reneault: “I’m shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here!”

    Croupier: “Your winnings, sir.”

    Captain Reneault: “Oh, thank you.”


    Steve Simmons: “I’m shocked, shocked, at the immature bloggers that spread these rumours!”


    Steve Simmons: “What rumours? Let me tell you…”

    • Danny Gray

      Ha ha! That’s exactly how that story reads and given that he and Burke don’t have the best relationship Simmons revealing that information looks even worse.