Threatening The Media
That's the thought that went through my head last night when a flame war broke out on Twitter between two local groups that had established a uneasy truce in recent years: corporate media and independent writers, commonly labeled bloggers. The critical topic? Baseball.
Or rather, that’s the subject matter about which the involved parties write. The topic was the power of independent writers and the checks and balances from which they are seemingly immune.
Concern 1: Independent writers are just fans who benefit from having a very large platform.
It's true. Some independent writers have very big platforms from which they can distribute their messages. In fact, yesterday, Twins Daily, a site that hosts independent baseball writers, announced they have drawn 34,000 unique visitors to view half a million pages since they launched five weeks ago. So yeah, they have a hell of a big soap box.
But that platform was not handed to them by a media entity established decades before by writers who built up an audience. Rather, the independent writer IS the person who built up the audience. They find themselves free to do with it what they want.
Concern 2: Independent writers don't have the same accountability of corporate journalists.
It's true. Journalists can be fired for their mistakes, but not independent writers. Know why? Because independent writers never asked to be hired. They are not dependent on pleasing anyone other than their audience. Their livelihood likely isn't even dependent on that. Their audience decides how accountable they need to be, not their corporate masters.
Like any writer, if they screw up, they can publicly mocked and condemned. I wonder if they'll be able to handle that?
Concern 3: Independent writers don't appreciate the value of Access and the accuracy it brings.
It's true. Access can increase accuracy, provided those being interviewed feel like telling the truth. But one cannot have that Access without accepting compromises, whether it be trying to steer clear of a public relations doberman or hesitating to criticize a player whom one personally admires. Indeed, navigating these challenges is the art of journalism.
Since the independent writers don't have that Access, they've taught themselves how to live without it and still find compelling content and an audience. In fact, most who have achieved a certain level don't want that Access. They'll trade any accuracy it includes for objectivity, thanks very much.
(Incidentally, the people who want the independent writers to appreciate that Access are precisely the same groups that work so hard to deny it: the baseball teams and the journalists.)
The bad news is that the concerns are real. The media is damn astute to be nervous about the power the independent writers wield right now. They're popular, they don't give a crap about Access and they're beholden to no one.
The worse news is that they helped create them.
But I do have some good news for concerned corporate journalists who want to enjoy all those same benefits. It's one easy step away.
Just quit your jobs.
After you find other income, devise compelling stories which are not fed to you by player or coach quotes, and write independently for several years with no compensation, you might just establish an audience. Then you too can be criticized by the corporate journalists.