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  • Threatening The Media

    "My gawd - THEY are afraid of US? Really?"

    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, thatís 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.

    And feared.
    This article was originally published in blog: Threatening The Media started by John Bonnes
    Comments 42 Comments
    1. Highabove's Avatar
      Highabove -
      The beat reporters such as LaVelle have been supportive of these guys.
      Its the commentary guys such as Phil Mackey and Jim Souhan who feel that their private domain is being invaded.

      Souhan has been the Cheap Shot Artist. Below are some of his comments.

      "Wow, I make fun of Bloggers and lose three followers. Existential question:
      Did they get off couch in Mom's basement to unfollow me?"

      "They're also afraid of players, and think the Moneyball A's won bc of Chad Bradford, not Chavez-Mulder-Hudson-Zito-Tejada"

      You show a lot of class Souhan
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      I'm a Twins fan in Pittsburgh, PA so -- When the Strib was "free" (not the 15 articles a month then needing a paid subscription) and clean (before the horrible ad layout, especially the rollover ads), I'd go there to get the majority of my Twins news (along with mlb.com). I always enjoyed the Twinscentric articles/blogs published/linked on the Strib. With the combination of TWINS DAILY's existence, the annoying Strib issues mentioned above, and the quality of writing and information from all available Twins sites, I'm not at all surprised with the popularity of this site and the jealousy of the Strib. But you make the bed you sleep in. For the last couple weeks I've been hoping that the Twins Daily would get economic independence and sustainability --enough anyway-- to get a "beat" writer for this site with access to the club and following at least some games. Looks like this won't be happening because they won't be granted access though, which is really too bad. I think the Club execs would be surprised to find that open and more transparent coverage of their team would create more buzz and excitement -- increased dollars. Until then, I hope the Strib doesn't become any more of a propaganda tool for the Twins, and I don't use that world lightly.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I found it fascinating when the STrib changed the way they handle comments, and when Howard actually said they don't want the site used for game commentary during a game. The Strib had a great opportunity to keep eyes and minds on their site, yet they told us they didn't want that. Since people want that, it is only logical that someone would take up that space. Since people want detailed analysis of the Twins' minor league system, and the STrib and ESPN1500 won't give us that, it is only logical that someone else will provide that. Since people want opinions and analysis that are more in depth than a paper will allow, it is only logical that someone else will provide that. If Mackey or anyone else thinks that the masses should not go to where the product is, I'm not sure what Mackey really knows about economic theory....It's clear that there is an appetite for what this site and others provide. As long as that appetite is not met through the mainstream media, sites like this will exist, thankfully.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Highabove View Post
      The beat reporters such as LaVelle have been supportive of these guys.

      Its the commentary guys such as Phil Mackey and Jim Souhan who feel that their private domain is being invaded.
      And those kind of writers should, because they're essentially paid bloggers who don't write as frequently and confuse the idea of access with facts. (I like Mackey, btw, but there are others I've stopped reading).

      I remember a Star Trib writer speculating that Joe Mauer was "depressed" based on his access, though that access didn't include Mauer. I also remember another Strib commentator criticizing Twins for not playing hurt and praising those that did. However, I took 10 minutes, unpaid out of my day, to fact check his article with statistics. player for player those that he praised as playing hurt were horrible when they played hurt (worse than replacement value). Finally, and more recently, take a look at what access gained with regard to Jason Marquis. Ryan told the reporters he was a guy who throws strikes (paraphrasing). I didn't see anyone but bloggers fact-checking this statement, which can be done literally in one minute, to find out he in fact has the same career walk-rate as Liriano.

      In the end, I really like Nick's take on the whole thing, too, that there really shouldn't be an argument as both are valuable. I can't expect paid sportswriters, who are covering many different avenues, to go as in-depth as the bloggers. However, those bloggers do require the initial access and reporting that comes from the paid outlets.
    1. East Coast Twin's Avatar
      East Coast Twin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Highabove View Post
      Below is a direct twitter quote from Phil Mackey. I find this amusing coming from someone with limited objectivity.

      Non Cooperate views need to be put in their place.

      "I appreciate the work of some sports bloggers. But at times I think some of their platforms are too large in 2012. No
      accountability."
      The irony for me is that as a person following the Twins from a thousand miles away, I know who guys like John Bonnes, Seth Stohs and Aaron Gleeman are. I have no idea who Phil Mackey is.
    1. tsteff36's Avatar
      tsteff36 -
      The biggest concern I have with blogging comes in the way bloggers and posters like us police ourselves. The people who do most of the writing for this site I'm sure have standards and integrity...no one really wants to look dumb. If indeed factual information is posted by a writer on this site, I would like to believe they have checked those facts to the best of their ability. If opinion is offered, I would like to believe that those who read it and respond to it do so with decorum and in a responsible way.
      As for the regular press and media, it's a new age, and the sense of ownership and distribution of the information they feel privileged to seems threatened. I get that. There is room for all of us to write and enjoy the inner journalist within ourselves.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      So I would like to know more details about this spat.
    1. Twins Daily Admin's Avatar
      Twins Daily Admin -
      Quote Originally Posted by shanewahl View Post
      So I would like to know more details about this spat.
      Here's a pretty good synopsis, though there is more to the story.

      http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2...ts_blasted.php
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      I think one point that Mackey may have been trying to make and that John seems to have missed is the accountability factor. John seems to think that if a blogger didn't supply "reliable information," no one would read them. I think that is a fantasy. The internet is full of very successful websites that cater to viewpoints based on crazy opinions, with no accountability. If a blogger wanted to write that Valencia is in Gardy's doghouse, or Punto is starting at short b/c he has pictures of Gardy, he'd find a audience regardless of the truth of that statement. Generally, I think the Twins bloggers and professional writers are pretty good, I enjoy reading most of them. But simply b/c a number of people read a free blog doesn't mean that the blog is giving reliable information.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      It's not the same accountability, to be sure. But to say there is no accountability is silly. It's definitely more long-term - occasional mistakes are tolerated whereas they might be smacked down by a corporate overseer. But I would submit that longer leash has been earned because the indy writer built it. The same thing happens for a radio host or corporate writer, too. If they greatly increase their following, their audience (and boss) are a lot more forgiving of missteps.

      I'd also suggest that if the only audience that follows a writer are the crazies, it doesn't matter if the audience is big - that viewpoint is still going to be viewed as suspect by the mainstream. It might annoying, but it isn't threatening.
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Wow, I regret missing this (sort of).
      As a blogger, the best test for accountability and the quality of the product is when I put out a post and no one reads it.
      That's pretty good incentive to step it up next time. Just because there's no boss overseeing the work product, I think most bloggers try to do a solid job, if for no other reason than to avoid embarrassment.
      John, I read the City Pages article. Thanks for holding your own there!
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      I think you crushed PMAC on twitter last nite. The "journalists" are so biased towards the club to make sure they can stay on the "inside". They are afraid to criticize if it means they potentially lose their job.

      Bottom line: the journalists are concerned that bloggers are doing their jobs BETTER! I appreciate the honest assessments we get on this site and other blogs where the Twins aren't just always applauded when at times they should be booooed.

      Keep up the good work.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Best laugh I had all day is this quote from the article cited by admin at 4:26: 'Mackey, for what it's worth, said in an e-mail this morning that "if I could go back in time, I would have presented my points with a less condescending tone." '

      He is almost always condescending. It is why I stopped following him on twitter months ago. The irony, for me, is that I generally think his reporting is more insightful than that of the Strib writers and various columnists.

      But he is a snotty twerp. So while I read what he writes on 1500ESPN, I unfollowed him a long time ago.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Honestly, this kind of thing is why I don't like Twitter. I could get drunk as a skunk and start saying stuff and then . . .
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I finally got to get to read pretty much the whole thing and I think that I have somewhat crystallized an opinion about this whole thing...

      - I think that it is unfortunate that this started by Phil because a. I think that he is a nice guy (unlike his co-workers on ESPN - Doogie aside) and b. he was a blogger once (and kinda still is, only now he spoon feeds the same canned club-provided information fed by the others with "Access")
      - "Access" is over-rated. "Access" is as good as what you access is worth. The truth is that the Twins' organization is not one of those that is very open with what is going on, even to people with "Access". On the other hand, the last 3-4 years, information about Twins' transactions, including the Sano and Willingham signings, a few trades and other discussions with other clubs has broken not by the ones with the Press Cards and "Access", but by alternative sources with access to people who are willing to talk or willing to give them a call or a text if they hear of something happening. And I know that this does not sit well with the mainstream media
      - That said, being a reporter is like being muzzled when you hear something that you are not supposed to hear. You are just not suppose to print it. Otherwise "Access" would be lost. I feel their pain. Case in point. This morning at Fort Myers before the Twins game. The bench players were taking batting practice. On one of the far dugout cages, Gardenhire and Tom Kelly had a very animated conversation that got pretty loud about certain players. I heard it. It will probably affect cuts. Will I say what they said? No. But I will speak between words. Someone with a reporter's card and "Access" would not even hear that because as soon as he/she showed up there, the conversation would had turned the other way...

      Lesson? Nothing really... just live and let live.
    1. Grady Kruse's Avatar
      Grady Kruse -
      I like Mackey and think he does a helluva job. But, I also like Twins Daily and the bloggers. Everyone does a great job whether they have Access or not so who gives a ****. Let's all be buddies again.
    1. shawntheroad's Avatar
      shawntheroad -
      Just imagine if there were no bloggers. We'd have four outlets mostly reporting the same thing with their access. We'd also be stuck with Souhan and a couple other commentators rehashing tired jokes (less jokes if there were no bloggers in the first place). With more bloggers than i have time to read, i peruse as many stories as i can, I check out a few of the paid writers takes , I use sites like fangraphs, milb.com and many other to formulate some opinions without reading anyone and most importantly, I never need to bother with Souhan. Imagine Twins fan reading without Gleeman, Geek, Seth, Nick, Parker, Thrylos, Topper, kbro and many others with opinions, analysis and fun stuff. I enjoy Lavelle and Mackey usually has good stuff, but they are more replaceable than the best bloggers.
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Quote Originally Posted by shawntheroad View Post
      Just imagine if there were no bloggers. We'd have four outlets mostly reporting the same thing with their access. We'd also be stuck with Souhan and a couple other commentators rehashing tired jokes (less jokes if there were no bloggers in the first place). With more bloggers than i have time to read, i peruse as many stories as i can, I check out a few of the paid writers takes , I use sites like fangraphs, milb.com and many other to formulate some opinions without reading anyone and most importantly, I never need to bother with Souhan. Imagine Twins fan reading without Gleeman, Geek, Seth, Nick, Parker, Thrylos, Topper, kbro and many others with opinions, analysis and fun stuff. I enjoy Lavelle and Mackey usually has good stuff, but they are more replaceable than the best bloggers.
      I think you're onto something with that last sentence -- just like we have Wins Above Replacement, and Replacement Level players in baseball (Drew Butera), do we have a replacement level Twins reporter in MN, one that could be replaced by one of the bloggers?
    1. Klochner's Avatar
      Klochner -
      Quote Originally Posted by East Coast Twin View Post
      The irony for me is that as a person following the Twins from a thousand miles away, I know who guys like John Bonnes, Seth Stohs and Aaron Gleeman are. I have no idea who Phil Mackey is.
      You should learn who Phil Mackey is. He's really good at what he does and despite what prompted this post might indicate isn't a a close-minded cheap shot artist like Souhan. The best mix of inside information and advanced stats that you'll find as a Twins fan.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      To be honest, when Mackey started on 1500 ESPN, I liked his work and the new voice. He used Sabermetrics and sounded like a blogger (he was one before, still is to some extent). But it very quickly went to his head, and working with Reusse has further sent him down the path of the darkside. Striving to be a "heel" is one thing, but this isn't "professional" wrestling. If you're a heel here, you're actually a heel in real life, which is another way of saying you're a [redacted]. I can't listen to him anymore on the radio, but I'll still read his work for about the only reason that he gets quotes from players, etc... and can form a readable post. But he's got to realize that's not the same thing that's done by bloggers, who largely analyze and offer opinion, and can speak freely for a fanbase that feels the same way a good majority of the time. He's just a mouthpiece to me, really. It's also very rare he acknowledges a good counter-point to his own views, instead resulting to name calling, or telling you to get out of your mother's basement. Newsflash Mackey: there are many, many, many more successful "bloggers" who are also very successful in their professional lives, than there are not. Four of them run this site, several others contribute here and elsewhere. The platform is as big as it is because of the content that is produced. Quality content. It's very easy to recognize crap, and that doesn't get read. If the readership is shifting to the form of blogs instead of mainstream media outlets, I think that tells a lot more about what the audience wants to see/read instead of the accountability associated with the source. They want opinions. They want their team called out if they're struggling. They want someone to say what they're all thinking. And that's not guys like Mackey. Be who you are, recognize the differences between platforms, acknowledge the good things each one provides, and coexist.
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