My specific focus, however, was on the segment about the Internet. It was a flat-out ambush of the most visible sports blogger, Will Leitch, courtesy of of award-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger. I'm somewhat comforted by the fact that Leitch was at least prepared for what he was walking into but that doesn't really make it any better.
What I found really disturbing as I watched and I write this - which I surely would have been doing in my basement, in my underwear, if I had a basement, or underwear for that matter - is that the people on the show, specifically Bob Costas, didn't appear to see the common threads running through all of this. The issues of negativity, the grab for ratings, bigotry etc. came up in nearly every segment. There were many more things, obviously, and I think there was huge potential during the TV segment but Joe Buck and Dan Patrick couldn't stop saying "balls deep" but I digress. The thread I really want to focus on is the issue of credentials/qualifications.
This is clearly a big deal to the members of the "legitimate" media because they bring it up every other sentence. Is it important? I'd argue yes and no. And I know what I'm talking about because I was accepted to journalism school* in 1995 (for those of you who take yourselves too seriously, let the record show I was being ironic). Qualifications are important because it provides context to what you say or write. When I read or hear something from someone, and I know their work, and believe them to be a trusted source, then that makes a difference in how I receive and process the information they are delivering. That IS important.
What isn't important is what school you went to, what certifications you have, what year you were born, or if you happen to be "legitimate," meaning someone hired you for your opinion. It's been proved time and time again that employment in the biz doesn't necessarily make you any less full of shit than anyone else.
Here's the part that the show was missing. One of the biggest complaints the mainstream media has of the blogging community is the lack of a journalistic standard. They don't talk to the athletes, they don't attribute their information to sources, if they have them at all. Yet the journalistic standard, that integrity that guided the legitimate media and that bloggers lack, has been dying for about 30 years - pretty much since cable went mainstream.
Every year there is more and more coverage, and this isn't limited to sports. This saturation is the same reason that the other Clinton was nearly impeached for something that likely had become a unwritten presidential perk - oral in the oval. When (and if) it happened in the past it was either buried by those who knew or at least not widely known. But all the coverage now - TV, radio, satellite radio (removing the geographic component), and the Internet - has become so much white noise. And because this is business and all comes back to money, the way a media outlet succeeds is by being faster, louder, and/or more controversial. Over time this has caused journalism to transition into entertainment and many of the standards have been sacrificed in the process.
Of course, I don't want to be THAT guy and say that NO journalists have any integrity because that is simply not the case. There are great ones out there for sure, but the ratio of entertainers:journalists is rising at a steep rate.
One of the most entertaining things you see on a daily basis is the legit media - the sames ones that complain that blogs aren't legit - use materials from blogs for their shows. Sometimes they attribute it to the blog which is, at best, a HUGE contradiction, or worse, they don't mention the source at all. And the journalistic standard dies a little more.
However, none of these things are the most disturbing part of the argument to me. It's the "how is that guy, joe blogger, qualified to say that or write that" line that you so often hear. Now, I don't want to go all George W on folks but, dammit, this is Amurica. And in Amurica, people are entitled to have AND express opinions. The horrible thing that is happening to the legitimate media isn't that suddenly regular people (the people who care about sports and therefore create a career for these people) have opinions, it's that they no longer need a printing press, radio transmitter, or satellite dish to publish/broadcast their work.
This is known as progress, people.
The sad thing is, a lot of these media types are scared for no reason. Just because someone sitting in their mom's basement in their underwear (more irony) can broadcast their opinion doesn't mean it will get read. The cream will rise, and the best/most informative/most entertaining content will get the audience. Just be good at your job - write well, have standards, don't be a complete jackass - and all will be OK.
There isn't really any good way to wrap this up into a pretty little bow except to say that I was left feeling a bit like this (and no, I don't know why this version of this clip was flipped):
I guess us bloggers - even those among us who haven't posted in nearly a year (that would be me) - just need to keep plodding along. Writing our unsubstantiated posts, strewn with poor grammar and profanity, and keep fighting THE MAN so that we may have, AND express, an opinion.
* Yeah, so in 1995 I was accepted to the masters journalism program at the University of Iowa. Not Northwestern or anything, but not bad. I was going to write, about sports if I had my way. I was killing the summer making sandwiches (at a sub shop, not just for myself - I'm a big boy but even so, it wouldn't have been a full time job) when I accidentally got a job offer to build web sites for $21,000 a year. Like that rising junior that couldn't pass on the big bucks of the NBA, I left school behind and the rest, as they say is history, albeit, not very interesting history.
I miss writing but when I think back on it, I don't have any regrets. I obviously have no idea what kind of success was waiting for me had I proceeded down that path but I always imagine three outcomes that I think were all distinct possibilities. One, I get out of school, can't find a job and 13 years later I'm still driving a cab in Iowa City. Two, a get a job but 13 years later I'm writing up high school football, legion baseball, and clever features about the local beer-league softball team for a weekly paper somewhere. Or three, I actually get the job as the beat writer for a major league team, cross over into radio, get my big break screaming at Woody Paige on Around the Horn, and in 2015 replace Skip Bayless as the irrational, screaming, lunatic on Cold First Take Pizza.
Let's just say that I consider myself lucky.