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Jul 12 / Bailey Brautigan

It’s OK to be wrong: How to handle analysis that misses

It’s OK to be wrong.

As Bleacher Report contributors, we’re constantly asked to inject our writing with informed opinions and speculation regarding the latest happenings throughout the sports world. Our unique takes on current topics fuel heated debates and keep our audience engaged.

With all this opinion and speculation, we’re bound to be wrong once in a while, and since our B/R community is so passionate, someone’s bound to notice (and highlight) our error.

So what do you do?

Situation A: Predictive Content (Mock drafts, game picks, free agent and trade rumors, etc.)

Problem: You were wrong, and several readers have come back to say, “I told you so.” Your readers now have the luxury of hindsight, and these comments are unavoidable. Accept it.

Fix: Respectfully respond to these comments. Admit your mistake, and try asking your readers questions to continue the conversation.

Note: If you check back on these comments early enough, you’ll only have to respond to a few of them. Ignore anyone who points out your mistake after you’ve already indulged the early birds. The stragglers will hang themselves with their lack of originality.

Benefits: Your readers get the satisfaction of “pwning” you, and you’ve extended the conversation well beyond the shelf life of your article. Pay attention to that conversation—you might get some good material for another piece.

Situation B: Opinionated Content (Reactive, critical columns)

Problem: You were critical of a player, team, coach, etc. in your past work, but you’ve had a change of heart in light of new information. You want to express your new opinion without appearing to waffle.

Fix: Acknowledge your change of heart, if it’s relevant to the current piece. You have two options here:

  • If your previous criticism is specifically relevant to the piece you’re writing, you can be proactive here. Explain your thought process to your readers in your article, and you can avoid the credibility debate altogether.
  • If your previous criticism isn’t specifically relevant to the piece you’re writing, don’t bring it up, but be prepared to answer comments calling you on it. Here’s a recent example where I did just that.  Don’t forget to thank these people for their comments. They’ve been following your work.

Benefits: Either way, you’ve appropriately defended your credibility and extended the conversation. And if you’re lucky, you’ve cultivated a respectful debate among some of your biggest haters.

The Bottom Line

Never apologize for wrong predictions, and don’t let readers bully you into throwing your previous work under the bus. If you believed it when you wrote it, your integrity is not in jeopardy, and acknowledging your mistake will only strengthen your credibility.

So embrace your errors. That tiny bruise on your ego is nothing compared to the satisfaction many of our readers get from proving you wrong, so let them have those small victories. Write it off as a learning experience, and remember …

A negative comment can ruin your lunch break, but your response to that comment might just make that reader’s week.

* * *

Bailey Brautigan is a Video Content Manager for Bleacher Report.

  • Mohamed Al-hendy

    Great piece. Every BR writer needs to read this.

  • Rob Goldberg

    Good post, but I did have to laugh a little at the “respectful debate” part. That seems to be very hard to achieve.

  • Howard Ruben

    Excellent article, thanks. Insightful and very helpful. This is a must read.

  • Scott Carasik

    This is great, but where is the section on how to deal with the d-bag trolls who use inaccurate sources and personally attack you?

    • Bailey Brautigan


      Once a reader resorts to personal attacks, that conversation is over. Responding to anything that isn’t relevant to your writing itself will only make you appear less professional. Trolls will be trolls. You can’t please everyone, and you don’t always have to have the last word.

      I think of it as I would an in-person conversation: When the other person crosses the line, I remain silent and let their words ring in their ears. Trolls are mostly numb to the shame they’d experience from saying these things without a computer screen to hide behind, but by ignoring them, you’re making a statement to everyone who reads that nasty comment.

      As for inaccurate sources, I’m not quite sure what you mean here. Can you give me an example?

  • Charles eAkerton

    Highly disappointed with your report on the espys best team. Heat obviously were the best team in 2012. All the polls show this time and time again. Please lay off on your over bias articles. Is it possible for your writers to be professional and show more then one angle on an article? Of course we are talking about the same writers that trashed on the heat and Lebron all season. Once again your ignorant writers are proven wrong. They have just cost you another reader!!

  • David Persons

    Bailey, thanks – this was helpful.