Come in, sit down, and let me slide an analogy across the table. Imagine that two businessmen meet over a game of poker. During the course of that game, they hammer out a deal to create a brand new company. Should the poker media report it? I don’t mean morally. I mean, is that something you – our particular audience – would find interesting? I doubt it. Even if you happen to possess a particular partiality for late-night business deals, that interest is irrelevant to poker. To co-opt a bit of Latin, your interest in the story qua poker is nil.
Here comes the second half of the analogy. Imagine that two gentlemen meet over a game of poker. During the course of the game, they get into a disagreement that results in one player wounding his opponent by means of gunfire. Exciting right? Violence, crime, projectiles! I’m sure you’d be interested in that sort of thing. Hey, and it involves poker too, so that means that we can report it in the poker media. Win win!
But really, does a reader’s desire to learn about this violent crime have anything to do with the fact that it occurred next to an upturned circle of felt? Once again, your interest in the story qua poker is minimal. It’s unlikely that you’ll be asking what the stack sizes were when the shooting took place or whether the man with a bullet in his leg has ever won a WSOP Circuit ring.
At this point it’s fair to ask, ‘so what?’ If a story provides titillation, who cares that it only has a tangential relation to poker? If the audience enjoys it, print it.
There is a problem however and to expose it we can ask for a helping hand from one of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment. Scottish philosopher David Hume argued that we could never truly know when one thing caused another. Instead we could only establish that two events were regularly correlated. We can lay aside his intellectual musings for the moment, but his insight into the human condition is extremely relevant. Hume’s discovery was that when two events happen frequently one after the other it is a natural human tendency to assume that the former plays a part in causing the latter, even if their connection is just coincidence.
In many ways, the press have the power to curate your world view. So far as the poker media are concerned, what we choose to report makes a big difference to what information you absorb. Twitter and Facebook have broken down those barriers to some degree, but a written report from a major poker news outlet still highlights an event in a way that the burbling of social media cannot match. In other words, we can make certain correlations more distinct.
To quote another equally important thinker, “with great power comes great responsibility.” If we choose to regularly report on poker shootings, both ‘poker’ and ‘shooting’ become more commonly correlated in the minds of our readers. The knowledgeable sorts who bookmark Pokerati can see through such illusory causation, but not every site is blessed with such learned readers. The openness of the internet also means that anyone could pick up on a story at any moment, immediately highlighting it in even bolder lettering; adding to the weight of correlation. Not to mention poker’s many enemies, who will leap at the chance to trumpet any bad press they can find.
Let’s leave crime reporting to the crime blogs, except in cases where poker plays a tangible role. Focussing on stories of shootings at poker games adds nothing of interest to the general tapestry of the game and only serves to further denigrate the image of a pastime that is fighting for legal and moral recognition.