Guess what. This is not the post I promised. Well, promised may be overstating it. The post after 'Interpreting History' was supposed to be ideas & answers for dealing with the current competition paintball landscape. This isn't that post--because I got distracted by something else. (Again.)
Regulars know I am endlessly fascinated with how the paintball media landscape has changed (and is changing) and what those changes mean for paintball in general and competitive paintball in particular. And there's a fascinating example over at Paintball.com. It's the (supposed) leak of a rumor that Spyder might be getting a Walmart deal. (After all, Walmart deals, or the lack thereof, are all the rage right now, so why not?) Is it news or propaganda?
Now this may surprise you but I'm going to call it propaganda. (Of course if I hadn't it wouldn't be much of a post, would it?) According to Webster's propaganda is "the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person" and "ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect"[.] No big lie required. Not even a modest deception or the attempt to deceive--even though that's how most people would define propaganda, as some sort of lie cloaked as the truth.
In the Paintball.com example the core info is called a rumor. Is it true? Could be but it doesn't matter one way or the other. Rumors, by definition, can have varying degrees of accuracy. Sometimes they are dead on, sometimes they aren't. The point of this post isn't about the rumor itself, it is about the presentation. It is about the rumor's source, the additional content provided and the existing relationships between Spyder, Paintball.com & Giant Paintball Parks. In fact, it appears an effort was made to distance those relationships in both what was said and what wasn't.
Look, I'm not going to break the item down line by line. Hit the link and go read it for yourself. Then ask yourself if the way the story was presented is misleading (and self-serving.) (A twofer.) The claim of unnamed insider sources sounds juicy, perhaps even journalistic, but it also means nobody actually has to take responsibility for it. It intimates Spyder was responsible for the expansion of paintball a decade ago. Then suggests the relationship between Spyder and Giant may have been crucial in the Walmart deal. [If there is a Walmart deal.] It also claims no one at Spyder was prepared to go on the record so they went to one of the owners of Giant Paintball Parks, Dennis Bukowski, for a comment. He can't confirm the rumor either of course but is thrilled at the prospect of how this could help launch 50 cal. The next paintball evolution. Paintball.com wants everyone to stay tuned for the latest.
What they apparently don't want you to know is that the deal between Spyder and Giant was a sweetheart deal for Giant to try and kickstart small ball at the local level or that the other owner of Giant is Gio D'Egidio who also happens to be COO of Paintball.com.
If the rumor is true and a deal is signed it's a "scoop" for Paintball.com and a front page of free promos for all the principles. If it isn't, well that's the nature of rumors but no one is at fault and the principles still get a front page of free promos by tossing the Walmart name around.
Am I being naive? This is hardly a first time occurrence. Don't situations like this one occur all the time in paintball between various business interests and the media simply as a function of the way things work? The first answer is no. The second answer is yes. And because the second answer is yes any media outlet staking any claim to independence and (dare I say, integrity) needs to be particularly scrupulous in their process. And instead of either demanding propaganda or conspiring with media PBIndustry should also look favorably on media independence. The general audience is already wary of advertising claims. As soon as they become cynical about the rest of the paintball media industry loses any effective way to reach their customers. And even fanboys grow up eventually.
Does this mean we can't be Facebook friends? I look forward to your comments and emails.