Skip to main content

Bloggers vs. MSM: Nobody Wins

The segment on Bob Costas' HBO show this week that pitched sports blogger Will Leitch of Deadspin against Buzz Bissinger representing the mainstream media is burning up the internet, and having had the privilege of press access to some splendid NHL games back in the late 1990's while writing for In the Crease, I can't help but share my two cents (which, thanks to Blogger, comes to you free of charge).

Do sports blogs "dedicate themselves to cruelty" and "journalistic dishonesty", as Mr. Bissinger asserts? While "dedicate" is too strong a word, I think what he's getting at is that reckless sensationalism is the meal ticket for far too many blogs (including, like Deadspin or Kissing Suzy Kolber, the most celebrated ones). That indictment says more about the readership than about the content providers, in my opinion. The sad truth is that there is an insatiable appetite for lewd & crude material, and bloggers have the agility to pounce on tantalizing bits that come available, resulting in surprisingly strong daily readership.

Take, for example, the Matt Leinart "beer bong" pictures that were run on Deadspin and other sites recently. Braylon Edwards makes a fine point in the discussion that an isolated picture says nothing about Leinart's work ethic, yet that's exactly what the Deadspin headline called into question. Does the Deadspin crew owe Leinart (or their readers) journalistic "due process"? Mr. Bissinger would seem to indicate that they should.

The problem, I think, is that Deadspin and other sensationalist sports blogs aren't trying to be the Sports Illustrated of the 21st Century. Rather, they are more like a combination of Howard Stern and Dennis Miller; not so much interested in actually analyzing a game, but instead looking for a chance to stitch together today's sports scene with pop culture icons and blue humor in a steady stream that brings readers back day after day. Think of it as Talk Soup meets ESPN Sportscenter.

Another criticism that Bissinger levels is that the quality of writing on blogs is generally abysmal, and frankly, I'd have to agree with him on that one. Personally, I would love to work with an editor who could help tighten up my work; the nature of personal publishing allows for anything to get online, and since most readers don't place a premium on quality writing, the overall level sinks lower and lower. In a way, that creates a niche for blogs which are exceptionally well written, the first of which that comes to mind being Theory of Ice.

One of the main reasons I've enjoyed chipping in on the New York Times' Slap Shot feature is that Jeff Klein gives us parameters to work within, such as "give me 25 words on what went wrong for your team in Round One." Having a limitation like that forces you into refining your work; sometimes it's quite difficult to get my point across within the space given, but I usually find that as I trim extraneous phrases the core thought emerges much more clearly, like a statue found within a giant block of stone. It's an exercise I'd recommend to just about any writer; take your first draft of a piece, copy it into Word to get a word count, and try to reduce that total by 20%; you'll be surprised how much better your piece will read afterwards.

Overall, I thought Leitch represented himself rather poorly; it might have been that he was understandably flustered by Bissinger's raving diatribe, but he failed to respond strongly to either that or when Costas read some of the comments from a typical Deadspin article. Leitch should have replied that objectionable or outright obscene comments can be found on just about any website (including mainstream media like ESPN), and while some of those may employ moderators to prune the worst offenders, independent bloggers don't have those means available.

Of course, the other impression I was left with was that for a guy who is seemingly concerned with public profanity and professional decorum, Bissinger came off as a foul-mouthed, anachronistic, contemptuous bully. It's really too bad that things descended into the gutter so quickly. Costas obviously wanted to shine his spotlight on the seedy side of the sports blog world; a pity, considering the fact that the CBC did such a fine job a few months ago highlighting the value that hockey blogs are bringing to the table. Aside from some throwaway comments that "yeah, there are some blogs out there that do a good job," this segment was a decidedly pointed attack against Leitch and others like him. In the interest of journalism, it would be good for Costas to provide a followup segment featuring the best of the best as well.

For any of you who haven't had the chance to see the piece in question, here it is, over at Awful Announcing. This is HBO, so there's plenty of language used you won't hear on broadcast television, so if that's not your cup of tea, don't click.

Popular posts from this blog

How I'm Trying To Make Money Sports Blogging

To kick off this series of articles general sports-blogging articles here at OTF Classic, I think it's best to start with a comment that Brad left here last week, after I shared my goals for 2012, which include specific revenue targets:
I considered diving into the world of internet marketing myself, but I felt that my friends would hate me for bugging them about stuff. I mean, it's pretty low-risk high-reward, so it's tempting. I wouldn't mind reading about tips on how to maximize impact of blogging in general to make it a legitimate income source. Trying to make money at sports blogging can be a very touchy subject - for the vast majority of us, this is an activity we pursue to both exercise our creativity and share our love of the game, whether it's hockey, football, badminton, whatever, with fellow fans. Mixing that personal conversation with a commercial message can turn people off, especially if it becomes too intrusive for the reader.

It's not unreasonabl…

Canadian Baloney, starring James Mirtle

A tireless refrain from the Canadian media is that Nashville is an absolute failure as a hockey market, and failing to move the team north of the border is an exercise in folly by the NHL.

Our latest exhibit comes from James Mirtle, usually one of the more thoughtful hockey bloggers extant:
But Nashville, quite simply, has proven it cannot sustain an NHL hockey team. Even with the lowest ticket prices in the entire league (I know: I've looked into flying there for a game or two) and a ridiculously forgiving arena lease, the team has had attendance issues despite having one of the best records in the league.

It's not a matter of Canadians not wanting teams in the southern U.S.; I've argued time and again in favour of teams like Dallas and Tampa Bay that have supported their teams and really brought something to the table in terms of bringing news fans and new energy to the game. That's a good thing.

The Predators, however, are not that, not in the beginning and certainly no…

Get Your NHL Super Schedule 2008-9 Right Here!

Click here for the 2009-10 NHL Super Schedule, at my new site,!

The NHL announced the 2008-9 Regular Season schedule today, so of course, it's time right here to publish my very own NHL Super Schedule 2008-9 as well.

For those unfamiliar with what I did last year, the NHL Super Schedule is a spreadsheet that I put together and make publicly available via Google Documents*. It includes an entry for each game in each team's 82-game regular season schedule, with additional information such as how far that team has had to travel since its last game, how many days have passed since that previous game, and various statistics relative to the opponent that evening, such as 2007-8 Winning Percentage, Goals Per Game, Goals Against Per Game, etc. For example, you can total the distance that each team will travel during the upcoming season, or find who plays the most back-to-back games. Check out which team faces the toughest opposing offenses, or which power plays…