January 7, 2009

These Interwebs, Man. Ruining Everything...

So I just read a pretty good post that I found rather interesting. It's from the Columbia Journalism Review blog, and it's all about how they perceive the quality of sports reporting to have decreased significantly with the advent of these here internets.

It wasn't necessarily an attack on blogs, as I had kind of expected. In fact, it was actually a call for sports editors to get their acts together (or something to that effect). But there were a couple of things I noted that I wanted to share with y'all. About blogs, of course. After all, what the hell else do I know about? Certainly not football...

Anyways, hopefully you haven't clicked away yet and are ready for a somewhat serious post. I kind of hate writing them, to be honest. Only because I tend to like to keep things in my life light-hearted and humorful (probably not a word). But sometimes I just have somewhat "serious" thoughts on something that I feel like sharing. If you are with me, great. If not, so be it.

Here it goes...

First, and I quote...

"The Web, meanwhile, did to sports writing what it has done to journalism more broadly: carved up the audience and exacerbated the more-faster-better mindset that cable TV began. Anyone can go to the Web anytime to get scores, rapid-fire articles about games, and gobs of analysis and statistics. There are generalized sports sites like ESPN.com and CNNSI.com, hyper-focused team news blogs, sites run by the athletes themselves, and irreverent sports sites such as Deadspin."
Ok, so unfortunately this has had an adverse effect on the journalism industry, but really, it's a good thing. I tend to liken it to the music industry.

So there (in the music biz), you've now got a whole truckload of artists who through the power of ProTools and iTunes can now get their music out to millions independently. This is a good thing. More music, in theory, should mean better music. When artists hear what other artists are doing and realize how good it is, they then will likely be compelled to write something even better. Maybe even without noticing that that is what they're doing.

While it should be the same for sports writers, apparently it isn't. But that's not for lack of trying (apparently...and I won't keep saying it, but not having any context, all I can do is take what they've said as true). It is, as the post indicates, how crafty can you really get in 400 words and with a limited time frame? The responsibilities and restrictions journalists have seem to constrain their abilities to write game recaps, in particular. Which is unfortunate, because I'm sure that with more traditional training and significantly more practice than I could ever offer, what they'd say could be quite engaging.

The other thing that I thought was a great little nugget in there, which is essentially my mantra as a writer (or whatever you'd call me with respect to my literary endeavors), was stated (uh oh, passive voice...tsk tsk) nicely by ESPN's Buster Olney...
"Don’t worry about beating the seven other papers on the hamstring story; focus on developing your thousand-word game story. Remember the great writing you loved as a kid? Write it up like that."
I couldn't have put it any better. However, this isn't a phenomenon unique to the mainstream media. From my perspective (which is, just that - mine) there are even some blogs out there that think they too need to rush a game recap post up, in the hopes that somehow, just by being first, they'll get all the eyes. Failblog. And I'm not talking about how I just used like 15 commas in one run-on sentence...

My feeling is that I'm going to write what I want to write, in the way I want to write it, which includes taking my time in an effort to make it as intriguing as possible. Now, by "take my time," I of course mean three to four hours, not like two days. Frankly, like sports writers, us bloggers don't have that kind of luxury either. But I'm not going to gyp myself or y'all out of a more interesting game recap just because I feel the need to prematurely ejaculate a garbage post. If this is you, I suggest you take a step back.

Anyways, some might say that bloggers are at the bottom of the food chain in terms of writing prowess. Probably largely due to the fact that many of us use the words "dick" and "balls" more than the triple word score Scrabble terms we learned back in High School and College. But I think, just as with any job/industry, if you look for them, you can find those gems. There are plenty of blogs out there that are both well written AND funny.

I used to tiptoe around profanity and tried to keep my language objective and balanced (still do, a little). But then I wised up. This is more than just a blog about the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's me, in literary form. I write just like I speak. So chances are, if you ever met me on the street (or maybe you've even seen it in the [Unnamed] Steelers Pregame Shows), you might even feel like you already know what I'm going to say. And I think that's the way it should be. Or at least that's how I'd like it to be. Otherwise, why would you read anything I write? If I wrote like everyone else, you'd be better off just reading everyone else.

Bottom line - I'm all for good writing, be it blogs, newspapers, magazines, books, or poetry. Hell, I'll even take some good subway or bathroom graffiti if you've got it. And part of good writing, at least for me, is personality and engagement. Reading is a form of entertainment just as much as it is a tool for disseminating information. If you can't engage those who read your writing, then that's unfortunate. But I do think that this is one of the major reasons why people like blogs. You watched the games. You know how they went. You know what you thought about them. But do you know what other people think about them? At least that's one of the main reasons why I like them.

Anwyays, I'm sure by now you've gotten my drift and you're probably going cross eyed from all my rambling. So I'll cut it off here. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, should the mood strike you.

/grabs pillow, sets up on office couch for three hour nap


shawnk said...

Interesting post.

I think each media format has it's purpose. I am not sure that the sports blogs have hurt the sports journalism industry. I think blogs help generate interest in sports and teams in general. In some instances blogs can become the news. What I think the issue is that blogs are just another format that the news biz has yet to get a grasp (make money) on and therefore they get a 'bad' wrap from the traditional news folks.

Cotter said...


And to some extent, there's even a symbiotic relationship between us. Some of the larger blogs may have more access than say, me. But without news reports from the Associated Press and other traditional outlets, I wouldn't have a clue what was going on with the Steelers or in the world for that matter.

Thanks for you comment, Shawn!

tecmo said...

Good idea of using the Pro Tools comparison. I was trying to think of something to relate the whole MSM/blogger divide to, and that put it perfectly.

In blogging, there is a wide net for what is "good" writing. My interpretation is differnet from probably every other blogger...but that doesn't mean mine is exclusively correct. Or incorrect, for that matter. I get perturbed when MSMers try to get blogs to follow a certain formula, be it the writing style, humor level or credibility. I blog so I don;t ave to go by someone else's standards.

joy said...

Good post.

Good writing is good writing, no matter the medium.

I imagine there's a whole corps of dodgy, rumpled sportswriters longing for the good old days, which kind of makes me sad. But, it's just the classic case of whatever's new cannibalizing the old. It's not good, it's not bad, it just...IS. And everyone adapts to it.

You also make an interesting point above that bloggers (unless they've managed to get themselves press credentials) are still relying on the traditional outlets for the hard news to round out their opinion posts. We're all still going back to the same well.

Finally, re: cursing. Funny story. My mother, bless her heart and unbeknownst to me, told one of her patients about my magnetblog. The patient (a schoolteacher) has kids who love magnets.

The next time she went back to see mom, she told her that she didn't like my blog because every other word was shit, damn or fuck. Which of course, embarrassed my mother, and prompted a very long call.

In short (too late, I know), I'm in my mid30s and I'm still getting reamed for cursing. I told Mom that it was MY blog and she should have known before she sent KIDS to it. (Mind you, the mother should have checked before the kids were blogsurfing, but that's a whole post on its own.) Mom said, "but I didn't know you were cursing and cursing there."

NOT a fun call. But, to appease her, I did end up putting a parental note at the top.

So, Cotter, go on with your cursing self. Please. And I might forward your blog to that crazy woman just to make her head explode. (The schoolteacher. Not my mom.)

domski43 said...



tecmo said...

dude, really?

Noah said...

Well, I'll agree with the CJR about the topic, even though I probably won't read the article.

You wouldn't believe, on CBSSportsline alone, how crappy those writings are. It's either:

a. Saying something ridiculous (ie Tim Tebow greatest college football player EVER) just to get people fired up.


b. Just respitting the facts (not always right, by the way) to make a safe pick or to make a conservative statement or something.

I don't condone the latter as much simply because of what you said about obtaining info from the same well, but live a little.

And yes, Domski, I do believe the Steelers play on Sunday. Here's to more holding calls on Silverback.