frank beamer #1
Blog/MSM Throwdown! Probably Not That Exciting!
Hi. It's time again for another post in the occasional self-indulgent meta-blogging/MSM thing that I do. I've been really good about not talking about this lately, though, so you'll have to forgive me. If you'd rather just read about how AW3ZOM3 Notre Dame is going to be, check out NDCHOOCHOO, my new favorite Notre Dame blog. (Sorry, BGS.)
(Warning: a long string of generalizations about sportswriters is about to follow. Exceptions exist, exceptions that I respect and, in some cases, treasure. This definitely includes anyone reading this. Probably.)
Nancy Clark of the Des Moines Register stuck her hand in a low-volume hornets nest with this article titled "Blog 'reports' lack media's credibility" in which she threw out a torrent of juvenile anti-blog invective. Most invective-y bit:
Read the blogs if you want. Read the message boards. But do it for entertainment, not information. Don't accept anything you read on them as truth unless it has been independently verified.
Usual scenario: A loser tries to make himself seem important by posting information that makes him appear to be an insider, "in the know."
Worse case scenario: Gambling interests, bookies, the mob pass off inaccurate information about a player or team as truth to try to influence wagering or the outcome of a contest. They're counting on readers and viewers to be gullible.
I could utterly demolish this. I really could. I live for this. But the destruction has already been capably accomplished by Boi From Troy and Fanblogs. So I'll leave the crying Jayson Blair to others and segue into an occasional topic on mgoblog and something I've given a lot of thought to in recent months: the mainstream sports media, how it regards itself, and how I relate to it.
Sometime during the whole Albom flap I followed a link to a thread on "SportsJournalists.com", which is a message board for, you guessed it, sports journalists. Jason Whitlock posts there. So does erstwhile Detroit News and current Orlando Sentinel waste of space Jemele Hill. The board piqued my interest. I'm sort of coming to the realization that I lose interest in my 9-5 job rather quickly and then become bad at it. I enjoy writing. I'd like to try doing that for a living, and there is a natural intersection between my interest in writing and my interest in sports... I mean, obviously. So I was intrigued by SJ.com. I checked the job postings. I read the topics on the general board. I searched for posts referencing "blogs."
The result was something akin to the end of Heart of Darkness. I was horrified. That's a word I use a lot for dramatic effect, but I really mean it in this case. No part of it could possibly have been more dissuading. Ninety percent of relatively new sports journalists work dull prep beats at tiny papers in towns that make Dexter look tony. They get paid less than janitors to work 60 hours a week, usually nights and weekends. They pound out dreary, neutered prose and try not to kill themselves. If they are dedicated, lucky, and hopefully black and/or female, they will move on to a place that is not the most depressing area in the universe after approximately five years. There they will continue to complain about anything until they are a crabbed self-parody of themselves, at which point they will smugly lash out at their readers. No thanks.
The most grating thing, though, was the sense of self-importance permeating post after post. Given the fact that most of the posters on SJ.com are stuck in really, really bad situations I found the haughter unsurprising--it's the same I-make-this-sacrifice-for-my-higher-calling mentality you find in ascetics everywhere--but that didn't make it any less annoying. Sportswriters have a ridiculously inflated view of their importance in the general scheme of things. Yes, they are journalists. No, I am not. But their importance is much closer to that of the home and garden section than page A1. Sports are entertainment, always. The functional difference between Sports Illustrated and People is nonexistent. But those in purgatory believe they progress towards heaven.
For an example of this highly annoying delusion, witness mgoblog whipping boy Terry Foster. Apparently a couple of newspapers just changed hands. Gannett now owns the Free Press. Some other conglomerate owns the News. Foster's reaction contains this:
I feel that I can revive my career that is in shambles. I feel that I will get the opportunity to write again. And I hold out hope I can make a difference in my city again. I want to impact my home town the way I used to.
I want to make people react and protest and laugh and move them to make changes in their lives.
It is what I used to do here until handcuffs, both imaginary and real, were placed on my wrists.
(For God's sake, Foster, hit enter twice.)
Excuse me? "Make a difference in my city again"? Anyone under the delusion that they are "making a difference" while writing about sports needs some cold reality-slappin'. Move them to make changes in their lives? Aaah! I (perhaps erroneously) pride myself on my eloquence and catchy pithy summations that wrap things up in nice correct packages but I give up. I can't possibly deconstruct that. All I can say is that this is what the harsh reality of sportswriting drives people to: the delusion that they are making a difference. It's okay to not make a difference. Ninety-nine percent of people go out and do jobs that make a difference in no way whatsoever and they are mostly okay with that save for the occasional twinge of conscience. Sportswriting is such a crap gig that it forces people into one insanity (My Sportswriting Makes A Difference) so that the overarching crappiness of their lives does not bring the whole house of cards down.
(Side note in the "you can't make this stuff up" category: Foster's blog is now "presented by the new bloomfield ford." This is the URL he presents on his site: http://http//http://www.bloomfieldhillsford.com/[etc.]. That's right, kids, three sets of http tags, one missing a colon. Anyone willing to offer money for one broken link, email me.)
Ugh. There's a pattern to the kind of people who overwhelm my better judgment and end up causing me to launch into diatribes, and that's arrogant dumb people. It's okay to be dumb. It's okay to be arrogant. It is not okay to be both. Guess what! Lots of sportswriters on the list. Off the top of my head: Dodd, Simers, Whitlock, Woody Guthrie or whatever from Denver, Mariotti, Lupica, Sharp, Matt Hayes, etc. And given the output of SJ.com, probably around 50% of goofs working in the middle of nowhere.
And then I get scorned by dumb arrogant people for doing something akin to taking the Legos provided by dutiful scribes penning down every piece of insincere saying-something-while-saying-nothing blather coming from sports figures totally disinterested in
engaging these warped souls and building them into what little castles of meaning I can cobble together with the wonky blocks I've been given.
Yeah, well, screw you too. It takes a certain ability to play court stenographer at a press conference; congratulations, Nancy. You can certainly talk to people and write down what they say, and I'm grateful for that because then I can take it and do something interesting with it.
Blogs are not a replacement for the press. They are a wild adjunct that is 90% crap. The 10% that floats on top, though, offers something new and cool and unique that the pajama-fearers don't understand. No, I'm not a journalist.
That's the point.
PS! If you're going to throw down the gauntlet, try not to do this:
The conclusion of the 600-page report was that the traditional "journalism of verification," in which reporters check facts, is being infringed upon by a new model of journalism that is "faster, looser and cheaper."
In the new "journalism of assertion," as the report calls it, information is offered with little time and little attempt to independently verify its voracity. [sic]
mgoblog: Where The Voracity Is Unverified Daily!