Why Sports Writers Who Think Blogs Ruin Journalism Are Wrong

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Why Sports Writers Who Think Blogs Ruin Journalism Are Wrong

There’s been a lot of discussion about the recent issue of long-time sports journalists slamming sports blogs as some sort of journalistic poison.  In fact, several bloggers on Bleacher Report have already given their two cents on the topic in reasoned, well-reasoned articles like this one.

It all started with the Bob Costas show Costas Now, and a round table on sports journalism, where he and several other respected writers bemoaned the existence of sports blogs.  Apparently, blogs are tearing down the fabric of journalistic integrity, or so they say.

So here’s one blogger’s two cents on the issue: these “journalists” are missing the point. 

Their anger is misplaced. 

Here’s the hard truth many sports bloggers don’t want to admit:  most of us are ignorant, untrained, crude, and impulsive.  Yep.  I admit it.  A lot of sports blogs actually make me sick.  But if sports blogs are a problem—and I’m not convinced they are—the writers of sports blogs are not to blame. 

The readers are.

Here’s a well-known fact about Web sites: if no one comes to read it, it withers and dies.  There can be no money made or popularity gained by a sports blog if it gets no traffic. End of story. 

Buzz Bissinger, who wrote Friday Night Lights (the book), apparently said that blogs are the dumbing-down of society.  Wrong.  Society was plenty dumb decades before blogs existed.  Blogs may point out society’s dumb-ness in a new light, but they are not the cause of said dumb-ness. 

You can cry about society in general all you want.  Heck, we’ve made “Britney Spears” the most-searched phrase on Google for six of the last seven years.  We eat up celebrity gossip about Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton like it’s candy.  Believe me…if your argument is that society can be lowbrow and silly…you’re preaching to the choir. 

It’s still not bloggers who are at fault. 

Here’s what sports blogs do: They bring fan opinions to the masses. 

Fans have been sitting on bar stools spouting ridiculous opinions to anyone who will listen for years and years…probably since sports began. What blogs have done—what the Internet itself has done—is make it possible to share those opinions with more than just the other drunks in earshot.  It’s a global community now. 

Your view on the issue depends on whether you think media shapes the culture, or merely reflects it.  And I guess I fall on the side of thinking that Americans have the capacity to love the lowest-common-denominator-type stories without anyone in the media having to help us along…for proof, just watch all the drivers gawk out the window at a horrific car accident as the traffic slowly crawls by. 

If Costas were merely saying, “Aw, it sure is a shame that society craves this kind of junk,” then I would wholeheartedly agree with him.  But he’s blaming blogs for it.  And that’s misplaced frustration. 

The nightly news was focused on the negative long before the Internet was a gleam in Al Gore’s eye.

They’re hypocrites

A sports blog receives a picture, via e-mail, from an anonymous sender.  The photo shows Matt Leinart doing a beer bong with a couple hot college girls.  The sports blog—who neither took the photo nor facilitated the circumstances that led to the event portrayed in the photo—then posts the picture. 

Who can tell me what happens next? Anyone? That’s right. Mainstream sports outlets start reporting on the scandal all over the place.  And that gives the blog credence. Many mainstream sports news sites now maintain their own blogs for Pete’s sake—as sure a sign as any that blaming blogs for journalism’s downfall is misguided. 

Don’t site as a source something that you decry and maybe we can have an honest discussion about the issue.  Until then, as long as you’re going to take what the bloggers write and run with it, you’re just as big a part of the problem. 

But why do you think “real” journalists write about blog-originated scandals like the Leinart photo?  Could it be, oh, I don’t know, because they know that’s what the people want to read about? 

Because sports journalists live by the same rules that blogs do—if no one reads what they write, they cease to be important.  So even though we hate the scandal and the lack of professionalism on With Leather, Kissing Suzy Kolber, or Deadspin…we’re darn sure going to take their gossip and run with it as a real story. 

Ridiculous. 

The Dallas Morning News recently reported on whether or not Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson have broken up.  Seriously?!  This is the mainstream media that Costas and other critics want to keep bloggers out of?  Dude, sports journalism took a turn for the gossipy well before blogs existed. 

That’s why T.O. does what he does.  It’s why Chad Johnson does what he does.  Because the circus surrounding athletes has long been more “newsworthy” than what they do on the field.   

And the fact that people love scandal is not the fault of the enterprising Webmasters who decide to make those scandals public.  That’s like noticing that society has a problem with being greedy, and then blaming the US Mint for it because they’re the ones that print the money we all want. 

Preposterous.

They’re elitist jerks

I admire Bob Costas a great deal.  Anyone that doesn’t respect the man is not paying attention.  That being said…I reject the idea that his opinion on sports is any more or less valid than mine.  More educated?  Yes.  More experienced?  Sure.  More entertaining?  Probably. 

But more valuable?  No.  Not at all.

No, I didn’t go to journalism school.  I haven’t spent years in the business analyzing data and film.  I don’t have a system of editorial checks and balances for the things I write.  I’m just a guy.  A nobody. And no one reads my blog either.

But if the Internet makes it possible for me to get my opinion in front of hundreds or thousands of people, and they like what they read…then my opinion is just as valid as any journalist’s. 

Let’s throw out the fact that most Americans long ago stopped believing that having an editor or a journalism degree meant that a person’s opinion was unbiased—I think we all know that professional writers and editors are, in fact, just as human as we are. 

They can create a misinformed, biased story all on their own without the help of any bloggers: See the SpyGate scandal and the Boston Herald tucking its tail between its legs after a long-overdue apology.  See any number of notable scandals of established journalists who faked a story—they’ve made movies out of some of them recently. 

Ever since Dateline rigged some trucks to blow up so their story would be more explosive, the public has had a deserved skepticism for “professional journalism.”  Probably long before that, actually. 

The days of sports journalists having the moral high ground have, and it happened when they started giving analyst jobs to people like Michael Irvin and Charles Barkley.  It happened because they want readers and viewers.  They want ratings.  Which makes them just like a blogger

The ONLY differences are that “journalists” have been doing it longer…and maybe they have a piece of paper framed on their office wall. 

It’s pretty stupid for journalists to say that only they should have the right to write an opinion about the latest PacMan-Jones-spitting-on-someone-in-a-strip-club story. 

Lastly…they give athletes a pass

If athletes in the spotlight would stop getting DUIs, making it rain, or partying with drunk college chicks there wouldn’t be nearly as many gossipy scoops for people to send to bloggers. 

Let’s not gloss over the stupidity of modern athletes and the idiocy of modern blog readers while jumping to blame bloggers for society’s focus on low-brow stories.  We wouldn’t love scandal if there was no scandal.

Wrap Up

Basically, I feel like Costas and Bissinger and those who agree are behaving like spoiled senior citizens: “Something used to be a certain way for a long time and now it’s changing, and I don’t like it one bit.” 

I’m honestly not sure how anyone can view this “controversy” in any other way. 

A blog is only a Web site with some basic universal features, such as reader comments and article archives.  Blogs are not the problem.  The fact that anyone can start one is not the problem. 

The “problem” is that blogs are pulling viewers, readers, revenue, and respect away from traditional media outlets…and some of those traditional media types are whiny about it.  No one is being forced to get their news from any particular source anymore—which is why I value blogs. 

It’s the extension of free speech onto the Internet.  If someone’s sports blog is sophomoric and rude, I don’t have to read it.  Neither does Costas.  But we can’t say that the blogger doesn’t have the right to his own Web site or his own readers. 

Blogs aren’t decaying the culture—they’re merely reporting on an already decaying culture.  Don’t shoot the messenger, Bob. 

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