Main stream media, (MSM), has always held contempt for blogs. The disdain took a very public turn during this past week as well known sportscaster Bob Costas hosted a special feature about the new media on his most recent "Costas NOW" series on HBO.
The 90 minute show was comprised of several related topics and was filmed in front of a studio audience, supposedly so it could have a "town hall" type of feeling, but neither the town or the hall had any chance for questions or feedback.
One of the most confrontational portions of the broadcast came up when the topic was concerning the "New Media" and how blogs on the internet have affected the perception of sports news reporting. The guests for this segment included award winning author Buzz Bissinger who wrote "Friday Night Lights", Braylon Edwards of the Cleveland Browns, and Will Leitch of Deadspin.
As a blogger, I kind of got the feeling that things were going to get ugly, quickly when Costas started the segment off by introducing the art of blogging as "blurring the lines between news and gossip, truth and rumor, and commentary and insult". Some of that is true of course, but as usual the focus was presented in a negative tone, and is not representative of all blogs.
The rest of the discussion mainly consisted of attacks on Leitch, with the somewhat overwhelmed blogger trying to defend himself and the content of his site. While Costas was at least tactful and polite with his questioning and comments, Mr. Bissinger came across as an enraged jilted lover, throwing out profanity laced insults and ignorant jabs at not only Leitch, but the entire blogging community.
Toward the end of the exchange, Buzz admitted that he was upset because blogging was a big part of the future of sports reporting and that more people were probably reading blogs, (even his own son), than reading books and newspapers. He thinks that bloggers are "dumbing down" America because of their poor writing skills and ill-informed content.
The subject of press credentials came up, and Leitch explained that he did not want to be in the pressbox since that is not what his blog is all about and he did not want to be beholding to anyone. Bissinger went to attack mode again and claimed that the blogger "did not want facts to get in the way" of his reporting.
The frustrating thing about this subject is that the majority of bloggers who want to have press access are denied, putting them in a no-win situation. They are not looked upon as being "legit" because they have no access to the inside facts, but they can't get access because they aren't considered to be "legit." This of course only pertains to the bloggers who want to have credentials, because many have no interest in that at all.
While I admit that I am not a regular reader of Deadspin and would not rely on that site to get my hardcore sports news, it is an entertaining site which has humorous and talented writers. I can also understand why sites like that would upset old-schoolers like Bissinger, because they can see their professions evolving before their very eyes and they don't like what they see.
In my opinion, Deadspin does not seem to be a site where you would get typical sports news, like a detailed recap of what happened during a game, or statistics, or the like. It seems to be a site in which the authors make note of a variety of different situations and give their opinions about such, primarily focusing on humor, or even poking fun at people. They also don't hesitate to throw in some gratuitous "T and A" while they're at it.
I wouldn't consider most of their authors to be "sportswriters", and they probably don't consider themselves to be either. So why pick them for this show?
I think ignorance runs rampant when it comes to outsiders trying to understand blogs. They attempt to define what all sports blogs are like, or should be like in general, and it just doesn't work that way. As I have mentioned before, there are a multitude of different types of blogs out there, and they vary just as much as the individuals do who write them.
But as usual, all bloggers were pretty much lumped together during the broadcast, the good, the bad, and the ugly. There was no mention of the well-written blogs, or the blogs which have media access and have represented the "profession" well. Although, I have a feeling that it wouldn't have mattered who the featured blogger was on the show, that person was going to be hammered anyway, because that was the intent.
I received a couple of emails from Canes Country readers asking me what I thought about the show, and my response is that I enjoyed it very much and I can see both sides of this debate.
Members of the MSM can see their livelihoods possibly slipping away. Instead of embracing the new art, they are focusing on the negative and fighting it every chance they get. But they show their ignorance, for instance, by not being able to distinguish between a blog author's article and a comment left afterwards, and this ignorance or lack of understanding is a big part of the problem.
I think that more professional journalists, such as James Mirtle and Luke DeCock, should start blogging themselves and should attempt to draw a larger audience to their traditional writing. If MSM writers would embrace the art rather than fight it, they would probably be surprised just how much they would end up loving it.
As for Deadspin and other blogs like it, I see nothing wrong with them. As long as what they are doing is legal, and they aren't pretending to be something that they aren't, then so be it. They do remind me a bit of the Paparazzi or National Enquire though. They seem to look for a particular thing in sports news and attempt to sensationalize it.
All in all, the "Costas Now" show was a good one and you should try to see it if you haven't. In another segment they also blasted talk show radio, so bloggers were not the only group being scrutinized.
If I may offer just a hint of advice to any of my fellow bloggers who gets invited to an open forum with members of the traditional media attending? Wear a helmet, a bullet proof vest, and be prepared for the worst.