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Blog Entry

Blogging = Armageddon, or something

Posted on: May 6, 2008 11:57 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2008 11:11 am
 

By now, most of you should be familiar with Will Leitch of Deadspin.com and his appearances on Costas Now and Best Damn Sports Show a few weeks ago (the videos can be viewed here and here).  To summarize, Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Buzz Bissinger, the legendary Bob Costas, and the consummate host/windbag of Best Damn Chris Rose, all question the value of blogging.  The most extreme view, which was embodied by the flustered old-schooler Bissinger, was that bloggers represent the second sign of the Apocalypse; preceded only by Bret Michaels’ Rock of Love.

As you will notice on the Costas Now video, Costas turned into a potty-mouth while reading a few blog comments posted in response to an entry on Sean Salisbury leaving ESPN.  Costas says, “Now, these are posts. It isn’t you [Leitch], but you don’t stop these posts from following what you put up there.  This is HBO, so…‘Good riddance, f-ck face’, ‘So long, you fetus-faced windbag’, ‘Good luck managing a Denny’s, douchebag.’” 

Although this historic moment in television would make for an excellent ring tone or voice mail greeting, the biggest fireworks came from Bissinger, who melted down and told Leitch “I just don’t know where you’re coming from except that I think you are perpetuating the future and the future in the hands of guys like you is really going to dumb us down to a degree that I don’t know if we’ll ever recover from.” 

Now, I accept that in the blogosphere, there is a lot of crap out there.  But that’s probably because many blogs are written by 12-year-olds with as much life experience as a pet rock. [Editor’s note: For those of you under the age of 20, “pet rocks” were sold in the ‘70s to thousands of still-shamed buyers duped by the idea that a rock-in-a-box could provide both entertainment and a best friend.]  What Bissinger doesn’t understand and what Leitch explained on both shows, is that it’s not easy to maintain a successful blog.  Leitch said, “The nice thing about the Web is that it’s a meritocracy; anyone can start a blog.  But to get a readership you have to be serious, you have to be consistent.  It’s hard god d-mn work doing a blog.”  So, if your blog is weak and relies solely on personal attacks or profanity, no one is going to pay attention to what you have to say.

Leitch said that Bissinger is probably afraid that blogging will eliminate quality journalism.  This assessment has merit, but I think if Bissinger wanted to confront what is really bothering him about the blog-generation, it would include the following:

  1. Unfamiliar format.  Blogs represent a new media that many sportswriters are not comfortable with and are actually intimidated by.
  2. Job security.  Unpaid fans can provide content to blog-sites for free, so companies may choose to retain fewer experienced, higher -paid sportswriters.  There will always be demand for quality journalism, but writers now need to be able to meet fans on a new medium, which may be unfamiliar to certain sportwriters.
  3. Random criticism.  Bloggers can criticize a sportswriter’s takes almost immediately.  Rather than have his opinions automatically placed on a pedestal, informed (and unfortunately uniformed) readers can take pot shots with few negative repercussions.  This is a huge change from writing newspaper articles.
  4. Limited accountability.  Unlike sports beat writers, bloggers are not accountable to a media outlet employer (newspapers, magazines, sports websites) and typically do not have to maintain personal relationships with players.  Consequently, bloggers don’t have to live up to the same standards of journalism that beat writers do.
  5. Decrease in player access.  If bloggers are overly critical of athletes and base most of their opinions on what sportswriters and sports media companies are reporting about athletes, they may be less willing to be candid with sportswriters.

Although most bloggers probably laughed at Bissinger’s rants against Leitch, the concerns listed above probably get to the root of why many sportswriters’ loathe the average blogger.  The most detrimental concern that is applicable to all of us, may actually be the potential restriction of the media’s access to athletes. 

If the “trust gap” between athletes and those who write about them continues to widen, and athlete-endorsed companies continue to have millions of dollars riding on an athlete’s image, it will be increasingly common for them to issue all significant statements solely through press releases or their websites, both of which would be ghost-written by their publicists.  This information would communicate the endorsing company’s the athlete’s desired message and not necessarily the true emotions that make sports so compelling.

I won’t be aligning myself with Buzz Bissinger to strike against Will Leitch and all blogs anytime soon, but his concerns are based on the unknowns of what new digital medias bring to the sports world and whether we are headed towards a watered-down version of the sports we have grown up with.

So what do you guys think?  Bloggers?  Sportswriters?  Let's hear it.

Baseball Jones ~~ Hustling since 1980

 

 

Comments

Since: May 5, 2008
Posted on: May 9, 2008 3:41 pm
 

Blogging = Armageddon, or something

Mate, I can totally relate to both sides of the spectrum here working in Publishing. Of course we all want to receive opinions and information from writer and/or bloggers who are experienced in field over some person who just decides they want to write down some smack aimed at a subject or person. In addition, we always like to here what other people have to say on something that interests us.

Now, I do not think that blogging will take away from quality journalism. As you mentioned, bloggers generally do not have the same guidelines or hierarchy to answer to, which can give more flexibility to a subject. This can give some writers too much leeway and make a solid subject lose its quality quickly, but a strong blog will draw more of the engaged crowd over the trolls who are just trying to evoke a reaction (like the Monday Hustle!!).

Many famous sportscasters have their blogs, which I am sure feeds their ideas for talk shows, columns, segments etc. Would we now turnaround and say that these guys are quality journalists in all there work except for their blogs? Not sure but I would guess not.




Since: Mar 29, 2008
Posted on: May 8, 2008 7:02 pm
 

Blogging = Armageddon, or something

Like any other form of communication, there are going to be those who spout simply because they can.  The blogs are such a democratizing medium that any dolt with an internet connection can speak and possibly heard.  Blogging is just a new medium to which existing media and greater society at large are adapting.  In the 1830's technological advancements in printing and newsprint production increased the number of newspapers dramatically.  The Industrial Revolution brought increased printing capacities and even more publications. 

Like the web today, the nearly 500 % increase in the publication of daily newspaper titles was called the democratization of the media. I would imagine that this cacophany of new and disparate voices was as upsetting to the establishment of the 1850s as it is to people like Buzz Bissinger in today's electronic world. 

Let Buzz rant and rave against the changing of the age.  The blogosphere will laugh at him and call him a "newb."  He will claim that we are making the world a bit more stupid one post at a time. 

Obviously, I believe in the blogosphere and the collective wisdom it represents.  Once you learn how to cull the OMGWTFBBQ! posts from discussions such as this one, I find the interactive nature of the web infinitely more enjoyable.



Since: Aug 10, 2006
Posted on: May 8, 2008 11:55 am
 

Blogging = Armageddon, or something

Excellent blog, Jones -- despite what Buzz would think.

I agree wholeheartedly with the points you made. That's a well-thought out assessment of the situation. Here's a few other reasons why I think many of the old guard are against it. Most of my comments are talking about blogging professional writers -- like, newspaper guys that are now blogging.
  • It ain't easy -- Writing a feature is tough work, writing a column can be difficult, but they're taught how to be successful at that through years of J-school. And it goes the other way too, I'd bet that many successful bloggers on Deadspin/BleacherReport/WithLeather

    would have a difficult time writing a column or a feature in the traditional sense.
  • College Loans -- A number of no-experience bloggers are gaining audiences without having to take the university route to learn how to write for a newspaper or a magazine, yet these vets are still paying off their college tuitions. It's similar to being a Fantasy writer. No one goes to college to become a Fantasy writer, they get experience other ways and make inroads other ways.
And here's why I love blogs:
  • The veteran sportswriters that are good at it make me a more knowledgeable sports fan. The Baltimore Sun's Roch Kubatko, Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant and that dude from the AJC are three examples of some entertaining blogger/columnists that have made the change with the times work for them. They get it. And their readers are better off for it.
  • A blog can be long and informative, it can be short and funny, it can be about a mix of several items, or an extended part of something you wrote about previously. There are no rules and that makes for plenty of potential.
  • It adds personality to the writer, allowing readers to get a better idea of how they should read his viewpoints even outside of a blog format, and it gives readers insight into that blogger's career. I loved reading the spring training blogs this past March, where a bunch of the bloggers were talking about their stays in Florida, the small-city life compared to their big city homes, and the food. Always the food.
  • Also, blogs offer fans that have REAL jobs or the inability to get into mainstream media a chance to gain an audience. The ones that suck become the ones that go unread, while it gives the entertaining, thoughtful bloggers a chance to stand at a podium.
  • It gives me a chance to talk about poop and CBS has to pay me for it. (I think I just made Bissinger's point for him.)
Finally, Bissinger can suck it. Friday Night Lights was awesome, but come one -- his name's BUZZ and he's ripping on bloggers for dumbing down America?



Since: Dec 14, 2007
Posted on: May 7, 2008 8:00 am
 

Blogging = Armageddon, or something

Baseball Jones,

Your game is tight on this one. Great question. Now I have to re-read your blog about 7 times to let it all soak in so I can formulate an opinion.




Since: Feb 26, 2008
Posted on: May 7, 2008 1:02 am
 

Blogging = Armageddon, or something

Is there anything that can be done to bridge the gap between classic sports writing and blogging? I think that I will always seek out the opinions and coverage of traditional sports writers before I look to blogs for my sports info but I can see myself eventually blending the two together. Within the past year alone, I find myself actively searching out new articles, chats, mailbags from Bill Simmons who almost seems to be more of a blogger than a sportswriter with his over the top biases, use of pop-culture references and humor. His material seems more accessible and reoccurring. On the other hand, I would much rather read something from Peter Gammons who's articles stir the imagination of numerous experiences and conversations he had during is career covering baseball, beginning when the game was at its peak, through the strike, the steroids era and into the future.

Eventually I wonder if his experiences and relative genius in covering the game, much like that of countless other traditional sportswriters, will be overlooked as a younger generation becomes more and more accustomed to blogging. Will there ever be a middle ground?


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com