Is Bad Writing Hurting Bleacher Report?

shoguncdnCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

CHICAGO- OCTOBER 25: Anderson Silva (L) wrestles with Patrick Cote  in the Middleweight Title Bout at UFC's Ultimate Fight Night at Allstate Arena on October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

I was introduced to Bleacher Report after doing a news search for an MMA article on Google news. The link lead me to a B/R article. I knew nothing of B/R before this and thought that it was just another sports news site. It was not until later that I understood how B/R worked and that the articles were in fact written by a (mostly) unpaid community of amateur writers.


A series of recent events has lead to me wondering though: Could the lack of enforced writing standards actually be hurting B/R?


When I first joined B/R I made a comment on an MMA article that garnered a rather crude response from someone I did not know. I found out that the person behind the response was actually a writer for the site and was curious who I had offended. It turns out this writer had written quite a few articles for B/R in its MMA section.


What was most surprising though was the quality of the articles. In short, they were terrible. There was no attention paid to grammar, punctuation, or even basic spelling. It was as if the author wrote some of the articles on his cell phone and then transferred them to B/R when he got home without any editing. Some of the sentences he wrote didn't even make sense. I began to think to myself that if I had seen these articles when I first came to Bleacher I would have immediately written the site off and never returned because of the low quality of the writing.


I understand that B/R is a place for fans to come together and write and talk about sports, but what effect does really bad writing have on the site? On the one hand you have a somewhat democratic system where everyone gets an equal chance to express their views and have articles published. This is an admirable feature of the site but, if that is all there is, how is B/R really any different from any kind of forum where poor writing is the norm and people simply spam the site with their opinions without regard to writing standards?


To me what sets B/R apart is that it has a measure of legitimacy where fans of the sport can come to read interesting, well written articles and not just the usual gibberish spewed on any number of sports forums. I believe the link to Google news gives the site a huge boost that other fan forums just don't have. Is B/R squandering that initial good will by allowing articles to be published that clearly do no meet any kind of minimal standards for writing? Is the casual fan, who is only looking for interesting articles to read and not looking to write for the site, going to be turned off if he/she comes across obviously bad writing?


Now before the comments about “you left out a comma” or “nice dangling participle” start, let me acknowledge that I am not talking about perfect writing or professional writing. I know the people here are not professionals (and neither am I) and that no one is getting paid to write. What I am talking about is a minimal standard of competence so that when that casual fan reads an article, that fan will be impressed enough to come back.


While writing this article I came across the Bleacher style guide. It appears Bleacher wants some kinds of standards when it comes to the writing on the site.The guide even goes so far as to talk about what kinds of hyphens to use and there is a spell check offered in the article creation software so there does appear to be some wish for standards .


The question of course becomes who enforces those standards? For that I have no answer as I do not have a good enough understanding of how the site works. At the present though it seems that anyone can write anything, regardless of the quality and have it posted on the site. To me this seems like it will only serve to dilute the quality of the articles on the site and does more harm than good.


Perhaps part of the problem is the ranking system which seems to encourage quantity over quality. The writer who wrote those bad articles seemed to be more concerned with getting as many articles published as possible which may have explained why he was not worried about good writing.


I am too new to the site to have any real answers, but the question remains.