Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bloggers are Not Journalists

First, to get this Real Madrid transfer business out of the way: Sir Alex Ferguson is getting pilloried for going back on his "I wouldn't sell that mob a virus." But he didn't sell them a virus, he sold them Ronaldo. So case closed.

More importantly, I was watching Jon Stewart yesterday and they went off on The New York Times for having their heads in the sand by sticking to print news when everyone else is off clicking away on their coffee breaks over at the Huffington Post. The NYT's editor, Bill Kellor, said in reponse to the seemingly unstoppable interweb news juggernaut, "does the Huffington Post have an Iraq bureau? Does the Drudge Report?"

Kellor is right; while traditional print media is losing piles of ad revenue to Craigslist, they're the ones actually finding out news for the HuffPo's and Drudges of the world to link to, as well as paying their reporters a living wage. While blogs add an interesting partisan hue to the news of the day, that doesn't mean they're a primary source. Primary sources are expensive and dangerous and the internet has yet to find a way to pay for the privelege.

Sports coverage is a slightly different beast. Most of what is written in your newspaper sports section is one part news, two parts commentary, because athletic events doesn't usually require much parsing out. Player goes here for x amount of money, which may have y number of implications for each party involved. Bloggers and professional sports writers both tend to make wild, highly-opinionated extrapolations from whatever bit of sports news, whether on field or off, happens to come up that day. While sports news still requires a primary source—someone has to record results and take player quotes—there is a lot more filler than in the front section.

There are pros and cons between each approach. Traditional sports journalism is more conservative, more literal minded, largely due to editorial demands and because they have a responsibility to paying readers. They are also (often) paid a living wage for their work. Bloggers on the other hand either write for free or scrimp tiny little bits of ad revenue, yet they have the important advantage of maintaing complete control over what they write about and how they write it. The most successful and interesting blogs tend to follow threads into the realm of the bizarre, the shocking, the unnewsworthy. Rather than ape the journalistic sports cliches and stories pumped out ad nauseam by various sport sites, the best blogs belly-flop into the abyss. If you'd like to see some of them, feel free to click on my right.

The relationship between sports journalism and blogs has up until now worked out well for the parties involved, but this will change over the next few years if the present situation—newspapers losing piles of ad money while link conglomerators reap the rewards of other journos' efforts—continues. Good writing deserves good pay; to treat journalism as a part-time hobby is to seriously undermine the Fifth Estate. I also believe sport bloggers owe it to themselves and their readers to take their writing seriously. Equitable pay models for excellent sport bloggers—the ones who make the step beyond aping the obvious or providing a series of links—don't yet exist, despite growing demand for more off-beat sporting coverage. I don't know how this happens, but I believe it's worth talking about.

1 comment:

rimpletide said...

Thank GOODNESS bloggers are not journalists! Nice post, man. I'm glad you leave room for the filler. Fuck the front section.