On Blogs, Credentials and Sports Journalism in the Al Gore Age

May 1, 2008 – 12:03 pm by admin

There sure has been a lot of fallout from that whole Buzz Bissinger vs. Will Leitch business on HBO’s Costas Now the other night.

I decided then to leave most of the ruminating to the highly established voices in the blogosphere. There have been so many good takes on the whole situation. I won’t even bother to link it, just look around and you can find the video if you haven’t seen it already. And if you haven’t, where the hell have you been?

But now, as we sit a couple days removed from the segment, I do have some thoughts to get out of my head. And I may ramble, so beware. There’s no editor to stop me! Thanks, Al Gore!

OK, here goes:

1.) Credentials. There are a lot of people in the mainstream media (Wilbon) who seem to think a person’s opinion of sports is somehow less valid if they are not credentialed media. I say erroneous on all counts.

I’ve had the occasion to cover some pretty high-level college sports as member of the credentialed media. Does that make me, a 22-year-old aspiring sports writer, any more qualified to have an opinion about UConn men’s basketball? Hardly.

I had a thought this morning, and I think it’s interesting. You tell me. That’s what blogs do well. But if you watch Pardon the Interruption on any given day, Wilbon and Kornheiser debate all kinds of topics. Given their media credentials (for Monday Night Football and NBA games, respectively) how are they any more qualified to debate Big Ten basketball than I am? I could make an argument that I’m even more informed about college basketball because I’d bet my house (er, my parents house…stupid blogger living at home!) that I watch more college basketball than both of those guys combined.

Now, don’t get me wrong, writers like Wilbon, Kornheiser and our new best friend Buzz are great wordsmiths that can evoke a game or a moment better than me at this point in my career and better than most people could ever hope to. But to say they’re more qualified to have an opinion than me because they went to Northwestern or whatever is garbage.

2.) If MSM guys weren’t old and had already worked their way up, they’d be living at home in their parents fucking basement, too. There are some truly great people in the MSM. I count myself as friends to some. There are also a lot of weirdos. Just like any other job. If you look around at any big sporting event, there are loads of MSMers that are 40+ years old, single, overweight, poorly groomed and socially awkward. Are you telling me those guys (and gals) are somehow more enlightened than me? Jesus. If that’s the case they can have their enlightenment. I’ll take my life.

Editor’s note: To be fair, there are a lot of perfectly normal people. But there are a TON of weirds.

The only difference between US and THEM is they cut their teeth in newspapers when times were good. They found their voice in print. We’re finding it online because it’s easier and more practical.

3.) Print is dying, man. OK, this point might get a little muddy since I’m just rambling at this point. Like Will Leitch said somewhere, maybe on Best Damn last night, there will always be a market for good journalism. It’s just the delivery method that is changing.

I’m under 25 and I pay to have the Chicago Tribune delivered to my door every day. I think it’s safe to say that puts me in the minority in my age bracket. I also read probably a dozen sports sections online a day and a handful of the best blogs.

At the risk of becoming too righteous: I am the future, Buzz Bissinger. Young people get their information via their laptop and wireless Internet. And they don’t have to pay for the fuckin’ subscription.

Newspapers screwed this up years ago when they started posting content for free. It isn’t Deadspin’s fault that newspapers are dying. It’s their own fault. The business model is flawed. As soon as you make content available for free, what’s the point of paying for it? Somebody should have figured out the answer to that question 15 years ago. Now it’s too late.

The only reason I pay for the Tribune is so I can physically see what it looks like (and so when the Cubs do win the World Series my paper is guaranteed). That’s the journalism nerd in me.

Check out the Editor and Publisher Web site sometime if you want to know the state of print media. Cutbacks everywhere. Where does that leave guys like me that still want to make a living as a sports writer? Online.

The opportunities in print are so few it’s unbelievable. So, where are we supposed to go?

4.) Blogs are not a threat to MSM. They should go together like peas and carrots. It’s simple, both can coexist. And if folks in the MSM want their print mediums to survive, they need to embrace blogs/the Interweb. That’s the truth of it.

The problem, especially at newspapers, is that leadership is a bunch of Buzz Bissingers — people over 50 that just don’t get it. I don’t want to be like Buzz and paint a medium with one brush, but that’s the way it is at too many papers. There are loads of people in leadership positions that still scoff at blogs and too many writers that will only do them if forced.

You’d think if your job and paycheck is threatened you’d be willing to adapt, but whatever.

That’s why I think the future of journalism rests on people that understand the difference between covering a beat in print (serious mostly) while also blogging (entertaining and fun!). Sports are supposed to be fun, after all.

5.) Profanity. You know what, people use profanity every day. Just because I drop fuck or shit into my posts doesn’t make me a bad person. It makes me normal. OK, that’s all I have to say about that.

6.) Buzz Bissinger must just be an ass. Of course, I don’t know Buzz, or Will for that matter. Though Will seems like a lot more fun. I’ve read “Friday Night Lights” and “3 Nights in August.” I thought both were incredible sports books — something to which I should aspire.

I also read Deadspin and The Big Lead (among others) multiple times a day.

One isn’t better than the other; they’re not the same and are equally entertaining.

As many others have said, it’s just ironic that the “enlightened one” was the guy frothing at the mouth about something he doesn’t understand. I’d call it shoddy journalism, Buzz. When was the last time you wrote a piece without researching for it and knowing it inside and out? I bet you knew every part of LaRussa’s mullet.

But yet you can mother fuck Will Leitch up and down about something you have no fucking clue about? Hopefully this is in your lexicon: Hypocrite. That’s what you seem like to me and every other rational person.

Do your research next time, Buzz.

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