Saturday, May 3, 2008

Old Skool v. New Skool?

I know that much of the sports blogosphere has waxed at length on the Costas hosted conversation regarding mainstream journalism vs. the Blogs. One of the best responses I've seen is over at Tao of Stieb, but there are some things that I must say. Especially as a relative noob to the world of blogging.

The first thing that jumped out at me about that discussion was that just after Costas mentions (rightly so, in my opinion) the crudeness of some blogs, the "Pulitzer Prize winning" journalist who represents, supposedly, the respectable old school crowd promptly proclaimed that the blogger on the show was "full of shit" and launched into a profanity laced tirade. Meanwhile, on the whole show the blogger guy was calm, reasonable, and looked much more professional than Bissinger.

Let me be clear, and take a somewhat different stand from most bloggers I've seen, I think Costas has a point in that a lot of the blogs seem to try very hard to be very crude on purpose seemingly as a matter of stylistic vision - that is that they want to be perceived as "edgy" enough to be profane. I've never been able to buy into that. I'm not above an occasional profanity, obviously, but I do think a case can be made that such crudeness comes off sometimes as too clever by half. At the same time, I think that despite disclaimers that "not all" are like that, the disclaimers seem hollow and Costas (who's work I like very VERY much) seems to be dismissing the entire genre based on the "crude" examples. I think this is unfair.

On the other hand, Bissinger represents the nasty vengeful side of the sports journalism crowd. He strikes me as very much being a knee jerk reactionary defender of the old line journalism. That sort of reactionary venom is a reflection of exactly the sort of mindset that fuels the growth in blogs. If writers like him would take the time to do the due diligence that is supposed to be the hallmark of his profession, he would quickly find that the journalists - real working journalists, not bloggers who managed to get a paying gig - who are open to continuing the conversation with the fans and who avoid the temptation to hold themselves as superior to the bloggers routinely get praise and support from the blogs. In the case of the Jays, Mike Wilner and Jordan Bastian among others are routinely the subject of praise and linkage (see? I just did it again). The ones who catch grief are the hidebound dinosaurs who refuse to acknowledge that the world is changing around them. Such writers deserve no more coddling than the whale oil salesmen railing against Edison in a former age.

Another point I want to make is the false perception that the bloggers seek to replace the credentialed journalist entirely. I think that's a totally off base claim, or, at the least, the blogger who hopes to do so is short-sighted. We bloggers NEED the credentialed journalist with access to the locker room and the executive suite. We can't, sitting out here in the hinterlands, know about the everyday details of who's nursing a sore shoulder or who has developed a hitch in his swing or who is causing grief in the clubhouse or whether or not the manager is going to skip the fifth starter on the off day unless we have the journalist with access to find out these things.

Gentlemen, do not feel threatened - we NEED you, we CAN'T do what we do without your information to build from. But at the same time, accept the fact that, as is said so well at the Tao, the day and age in which the conversation ended when your column went to press is past. Informed and creative sports fans now have the means to continue the discussion of the information you present far beyond your last period. I think your profession and our hobby are both better served if you become a willing and active participant in that conversation, and in so doing, you can provide increased visibility and credibility to the better examples (in your opinion) of sports blogging and, perhaps, contribute to a little bit more "civilized" tone.

But whether you choose to do that or not, you might as well resign yourself to the fact that the phenomena is NOT going away. The day is coming when some editor somewhere is going to hire a talented blogger to step into the world of sports journalism as a paid professional (a day which many of us long for I'm sure) and, as in any other industry or profession, the man who gets left behind is the man who cannot adapt to the times.

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