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Axel Kohagen

Friends, GMs, Bloggers, and Fans: The Blogger "Controversy"

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The following are my thoughts on the blogger versus journalist "debate." They are largely unresearched and completely subjective, but I hope they offer something to the public discussion.

1) It's not really a debate. This discussion is about the journalistic appraisal of the talent of the blogging community. I don't believe the discussion lends itself toward critiquing the journalistic community. Some mainstream journalists (Jon Heyman comes to mind) get more blogger abuse than others, but usually this vitriol is directed toward an individual and not a community.

2) Nothing is really at stake. Bloggers will keep blogging regardless of criticism. Having a blog is a free way to get your opinions out to the entire world. It's unlikely public disfavor would stop people from complaining about things on the internet - especially when it's free to do so.

What's it all about? This is my informal conclusion:

Conclusion: We fear change.

If you have bloggers writing from the outside and journalists writing form the inside, you have two separate views of reality within a particular sports world. If you're comfortable living in a world without absolute, yes-or-no answers, this is not likely to upset you.

However . . . if you need heroes and villains, having multiple views on a topic means you have to identify who is right and who is wrong. If you're from the side losing power, you'll pick the other side to play the bad guy. It's what people do when they're scared.

In some ways, we should all be scared of losing professional journalistic voices. I wouldn't want to live in a world without professional journalistic standards, where all of the news was written by bloggers. I'm writing this piece while my wife plays Super Mario Brothers. I'm publishing at as "Mr. Horrorpants," a name you're unlikely to see attributed to an article in the New York Times. When I publish it, I will hit a button. I will not submit it to an editor and/or copy editor for approval. No one will check my facts. Blogging IS different, after all.

However, bloggers often provide an informal discussion of my favorite sports teams. Some of them provide news and content that can compete with the pros, and I respect that. I also respect fans with attitude, even if it's more gossip and goofiness than actual news. I work odd hours and I'm not always able to get together with friends or go to a bar to talk about the game. Regular journalism is not adequate in these areas.

Neither bloggers nor journalists are heroes or villains. I suspect a more balanced way of looking at this problem is this:

Sportwriting is becoming more informal. Increased access creates community and offers more opportunities for people to share their voices. It's also likely to create a dip in certain standards of professionalism. We can love this or hate this, but it's not likely to go anywhere.
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Comments

  1. shawntheroad's Avatar
    nice work blogger.
  2. gil4's Avatar
    My random thoughts on the subject:

    1. The line is bluring between blogger and professional journalist. Which one is Gleeman? He still has his blog, but he is also on NBC Sports. How about Seth or the Bonnes? Both blog here, but both are also regularly on the Star-Trib site as well.

    2. A big difference used to be access - bloggers rarely had first-hand sources because they weren't in the locker room and didn't have the numbers of the GM or some of the coaches or players. That is changing because some of the bloggers have been at it for a long time and have built up contacts. Twitter has also provided first-hand sources for the world, or for those in the world who care enough to sift through the mountains of crap to find something interesting.

    3. The quality of writing on the blogs had improved, or possibly the number of quality writers who blog has increased. There might still be the same amount of slop, or even the same percentage of slop, out there. But there is definitely quality content t be found. At the same time, the quality writing from the traditional journalists has declined. This is not a knock on them, just an observation that the expectations have changed. The 24-hr news cycle has tightened deadlines, and the electronic media has increased the demand for content because nobody is limited to a certain number of printed pages anymore. The focus has shiftged further toward quantity of timely content, rather than quality of writing. I would guess that the average journalist publishes more material that previous generations.

    4. There will always be tension between the bloggers and the traditional journalists. Part of that is because the journalists are in a no-win position in dealing with them. If criticism from a blogger is valid (Souhan), then their reputations and even their jobs could be endangered. If the criticism is unfair, there is no way an editor will allow tha journalist to respond to a "Mr Horrorpants" in print. The most they will be able to do is lash out against bloggers in general.

    5. The blogger and the journalist write for different but overlapping audiences, and both sides are trying expand the overlap. There will still be content on the blogs that won't fit in the mainstream media format (especially some of the technical analysis), and there will still be the crossover of talent between the two.
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