In case you didn't know, this is Will Leitch's last week at Deadspin (if you haven't heard of Deadspin, you're probably not reading our blog). The week included a series of retrospectives and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, an interview with Buzz Bissinger. You should read the interview for yourself, because it gives an excellent idea of 1) the debate between bloggers and the mainstream media and 2) just how big of a jerk Buzz Bissinger is after all.
I wanted to share a few thoughts on that first topic; I'm by far not the first person to share these thoughts, and they may not sound that original. Bear with me though...
In my mind, there seem to be a few very real issues that keep the mainstream media from truly accepting the new media in sports reporting:
1) The delusion that reporters = athletes: This seems to be one of the largest issues. If you talk long enough to a mainstream media member, they'll mention the word "access," and how it makes all the difference in the world. They'll usually say that, since they're the ones in the locker room, they're the only ones who know the real deal. If you listen long enough, you'll get the idea that the reporter thinks of himself or herself as a part of the team, in some strange sense.
The funny thing about that is, most pro athletes have a healthy disdain for the media. Reporters are invaders into athletes' personal space, whether that's on the field, in the locker room, or out on the town. Sure, you have guys like Stuart Scott name-dropping their athlete "friends," but it's by no means a mutual attraction. At best, this "access" simply results in clouding the judgment of supposedly unbiased journalists.
2. The idea that bloggers are some losers in their parents' basement: While this stereotype has become laughable, at best, one has to wonder about those who stick to it. The bloggers I know are well-educated, intelligent people who have day jobs, and do this as a hobby. Take this blog, for instance; you have an econ major, a consultant, and a law student as the three primary posters. Firejoemorgan.com includes a Harvard grad, and a group of successful TV writers. Deadspin is run by successful writers, one of whom is leaving for a pretty good editorial position. We're not talking about the dregs of society here, but intelligent, motivated people who have found an outlet for their love of sports.
3. Throwing profanity in the face of bloggers: One of the points raised by Buzz Bissinger, both in the television segment and the recent interview with Will, is that blogs have too much profanity to be taken seriously. Michelle Tafoya raised a similar point on ESPN Radio just after Bissinger blew his top on HBO. These comments are interesting; I would invite any of those critics to read the comments on ESPN.com, any story, any day of the week. Do they think those comments reflect badly on ESPN? If not, then what's the difference?
Additionally, if anyone took the time to read the comments on a site like Deadspin, one would find some very clever thoughts. Aren't we adults here? Can't we overlook some adult language?
I'm not expecting things to change anytime soon. Both sides have dug in their heels, and the mainstream media doesn't seem too eager to welcome the new media with open arms. For every Bill Simmons that manages to cross over, there is a Buzz Bissinger ready to slam the door. We can just do what we can, churning out thoughtful blogs, and hope that the Luddites catch on eventually.