The “Reporter” in The Cub Reporter

A couple of events this week have left me thinking about just where TCR and other sports blogs fit in the world of sports journalism. On the Thursday episode of ESPN’s “Around the Horn,” an execrable show in which sports “journalists” with faces made for radio “compete” at offering ten-second bits of “analysis” that are scored by some point system that is as arbitrary as it is absurd, Jay Mariotti concluded the program with a brief commentary about bloggers. No one has yet gone broke betting on Mariotti’s ability to explore new depths of idiocy, but this was new territory even for him. Commenting on the International Olympic Committee’s current debate over whether to allow blogging inside of the 2008 Olympic Village, Mariotti opined that bloggers should be denied access. Why? According to Mariotti, the sports world, and the Olympics in particular, already are filled with corruption, salacious trysts, steroids, boorish behavior and other bad things. Having bloggers inside the Olympic Village would just reveal more such things, and who would want that? Mariotti drew a clear line in the sand regarding the controversial issue of Investigative Journalism: He’s against it. In a completely unrelated event, earlier this year one of The Cub Reporters sent out very cordial emails to a variety of “real” journalists asking their support in promoting the work done here by "Dying Cub Fan" arguing for Ron Santo’s selection to the Hall of Fame. The premise was that while the Veteran’s Committee casts the votes, pro-Santo publicity by the mainstream media could only be a positive influence on the VC’s decision. Some of the journalists sent courteous replies of varying degrees of interest. One “journalist,” however, responded with the terse rebuke that they knew of Santo’s credentials, and that it wasn’t up to the fans to decide. Of course, without sports fans, there would be no paid sports journalists. I think these two instances illustrate exactly why blogs like TCR exist, and why a certain portion of mainstream sports “reporters” disdain the sports blogosphere: this portion of the media has grown accustomed to its privileged position, accustomed to being able to skimp on the grunt work required for real journalism – work that includes real research and measured analysis, and accustomed to not having to answer to anyone other than their editor and the athletes that they cozy up to. Quality sports blogs, a group that I certainly believe includes TCR, threaten the privileged position of the mainstream sports media. We act as quality-control, calling “bull-shit” on specious reasoning and shoddy research. We conduct innovative work, often employing knowledge of scouting, statistical analysis, historical research, and other fields where we are the experts and the journalists are the lay-men. Many bloggers possess both more natural talent and more advanced training in writing and thinking than do the mainstream journalists. But most threatening of all, we do for free, for the love of the game, what they do for a paid salary. I try not to look at the relationship between sports bloggers and sports journalists as an adversarial one. In a lot of ways we can complement each other with our different strengths. The journalists have far superior access, budgets, audience, and therefore, influence. I do not imagine that blogs will ever be able to match the Tribune or the Sun-Times in these areas. We do, however, have the power of numbers. At TCR alone our readers and columnists include doctors and minor league experts and former and current athletes and engineers and who knows what other backgrounds where we have more knowledge and expertise than any individual journalist could ever hope to have. And that’s before even pondering the sort of knowledge that guys like Will Carroll, Scout.com, John Sickles, The Hardball Times, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and so on and so on bring to the table. And to their credit, a good number of sports journalists also get this, and also avoid the adversarial relationship that characterizes, well, you know the offenders. Among those who clearly “get it,” get the potential for productive collaboration, are Bruce Miles, (we love ya, Bruce!) and most of the ESPN.com columnists like Neyer, Olney, Stark, even Gammons. Len Kasper, while technically a broadcaster, also gets that the mainstream sports media and the blogs share the same goal of advancing the coverage of sports. So where does TCR fit in the world of sports reporting? I think the right answer is that no one among us, certainly not me, can give the definitive answer. We go in whatever direction we, as a community of interested fans, choose to head. But the more we grow in number, the more we can work with the professional reporters out there who remain dedicated to providing thoughtful, accurate and useful information to fellow fans of the game.
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Comments

I'm normally not a fan of "meta" columns; with this single one I've filled my quota for 2007. Swear the next time I write, it'll actually be about the Cubs.

The same thing is going on in regular news. Mainstream media wishes bloggers would go away. Where before you had to just accept reporting and trust what a news organization said it can now be checked in real time for accuracy and be done fairly quickly.

Well, if there's a quota on this kind of column that's already been met then that's a shame, Transmission, because this is a fine piece of writing.

Agreed, Mike, there are several parallels with what's going on in News Journalism. The Historian of Science in me (a big part of me, obviously) is fascinated at how technology is changing these power-relationships.

Thanks, Doug. I'm sensitive that this IS a CUBS blog, first, and I don't want to hi-jack TOO much!

this discussion did come from a sports show and triggered by a chicago sports columnist, so its not exactly a stretch thought the gist of the article has more to do with covering the cubs (and other sports) insted of the cubs, themselves.

not like there's 5-10 of these a month and the motive isnt to push an agenda. that gives it weight, too.

you can't draw the line on just all-cubs content. the media shapes most of our views and delivers most of what we know about the cubs to begin with. be it the direct-tv impact or the people who get access to bring the news, its socially important to those of us who want this info, but arent gonna attend spring training and 162 games in person.

Fair enough, then. Thanks, I was feeling meta-sheepish. Feeling better now. We are TCR, hear us roar? ~rowr~

Not everybody in mainstream media wishes blogs and bloggers would go away. They add a lot to the debate and the exchange of information. The teams are certainly struggling with what to do with bloggers and their requests for access to players, management and information. But let's face it, the playing fields aren't exactly the same. I can't get away with calling somebody a "douchebag" (term I see a lot on sites) in the newspaper or on my paper's Web site. Part of the appeal of blogs is their irreverence, although I could do without the silly name-calling. And yes, a lot of good research is done by bloggers and those on Web sites. We're limited by space in the papers, and our audience is much more general. I've had people ask me what "slugging percentage" is, let alone such terms as VORP and BABIP.
As far as I'm concerned, there's room for everybody, if not (literally) in the press box, but in the information world.

It's best to ignore Mariotti. What better way to get the whole blogosphere talking about you than to insult them. I think most people involved understand the relationship between bloggers and mainstream media and that they are in some way in competition. It's pretty standard for Mariotti to say something controversial and then soak up the attention he gets in the city/nation. Every mention of his name is worth money to him and to the sun times. It's sensationalist journalism at it's most basic level.

P.S. If wordpress decides you don't have a valid email address the page it takes you to has no way to correct it. The back button then clears your comment forcing you to completely retype it. That is frustrating. Ask the MVN gods about maintaining session state.

At TCR alone our readers and columnists include doctors and minor league experts and former and current athletes and engineers and who knows what other backgrounds where we have more knowledge and expertise than any individual journalist could ever hope to have.

And economists.

Economists these days are talking about open source and how to make money at it. There's something of a race to harness the knowledge that comes from outside an organization--things like bloggers and wikipedia. It's the same issue, really. Here's an interesting article.

http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/...

Oh, and blah blah cubs blah blah baseball blah blah hijack blah blah

I'm not a fan of Mariotti anyway. Woody Paige is my boy.

Oh, and um...Cards rule.

Bruce,

Is there ever any talk in your paper or in your industry about the benefit that bloggers enjoy by not having access and then not being "held back" in their criticism for fear of losing that acces?.

Personally, I think the blog coverage not only supplements mainstream coverage but in many cases can outshine it because they can be more truthful. As you said they are also not bound by space requirements or the feeling that they need to cater to the "casual" fan. I think is a major competitive advantage and was just wondering if professional sports journalism sees it the same way.

This blog and a few others are more informative, entertaining and insightful then anything Mariotti, Greg Couch, and Carol Slezak have written combined in the last five years.

My complaint with part of the mainstream sports media is not that they don't belong to the same sports and media cultures that I belong to, it's that they treat these cultures as inferior to their own.

Your message right there shows so much more sensitivity to the differences between mainstream and blog journalism, without falling into the superiority complex that (from my perspective) characterizes so many of the traditional print sports columnists. (It's a trap that I'm sure I fall into more often than I should, as well)

and yeah, I appreciate that the best approach to anyone who appears on Around the Horn is to ignore him.

I would have left it as just a comment in a different thread, if not for its conjunction with that other incident by a different journalist, regarding the dismissive response to the Santo articles by Dying Cub Fan.

Around the Horn is unwatchable. I'd rather watch The Man-Hating Channel (aka Lifetime).

Bruce Miles is the best. If you're listening, know that there are those who appreciate the quality of your work, and who also appreciate the stupdity of "doucebag" web media.

So what I'm reading here about Marrioti, if I'm correct, is that Ozzie Gullien was right?

Interesting...

If you are a shitty journalist, it's only natural to feel threatened by bloggers.

I'm sure a lot of the nay-saying media types detest the blogging community for simple superiority qualms. If I had a journalism degree from a credible institution I'd probably be a little annoyed by "writers" who call themselves writers on a blogsite that an 8 year old could build who never stepped foot even in a entry level journalism class. I can build a deck, but I'm not a carpenter, that kind of stuff. Don't get me wrong, you don't have to have a degree in journalism or even a college degree at all to be a good writer but when many of these websites are making money off of them and often call themselves "published journalists" I can see some of the disdain towards the blogging community from them no matter how petty it might look. Plus, if you think about it, a good percentage of the content from the writers on blogs is "borrowed" from writers or reporters as sources, so we're using someone else's work no matter how you look at it. From my perspective, it seems like a lot of the venom is more towards the "writers" of the blogs rather than the regular posters, much in the same way many old school print writers dislike the electronic media types. You can't really call it a generational thing because many blogs like this one you can tell there are some grey haired fellows in the mix as can be seen with posters who recalled their first Cubs games attended in the 50's and 60's. We're an ADD culture, everything has to be right now so blogs are usually ahead of even the websites, albeit often without credibility, that allow the posters to vent. It's not going to go away.

blogs are a must when you have the type of useless baseball writers that we have in chicagoland. chicago writers are right up there with those in los angeles for the worst in baseball coverage. oh wait, and they're under the same ownership in 2 cases. the same ownership group that goes out of their way to put the most boring, vanilla, toe the company line on air personalities into the broadcast booths or newscasts.

at least its not like some NY baseball media who make a living trying to dig up the most 1/2 assed rumor and presenting it as a "very probable" fact.

i'll take the 4th article by carrie-muskrat -ove explaining how people in the clubhouse think dumpster is cheery and explaining what OB% is over how ARod is worthless and mentally disturbed on the verge of depression because he had a bad 2 weeks.

carrie-muskrat-love

=p

"If you are a shitty journalist, it’s only natural to feel threatened by bloggers."

Amen, señores!

it's become a hate the mass media thread...hehe

Mass media is owned by mass corporations and they have to appeal to a wide audience. As much as I love our site, we're lost on about 80% (if not more) of people who follow baseball. We're like the bonus features on a DVD, often more interesting than the film itself, but certainly not for everybody.

To Jon H.:
The journalism industry is talking more and more about blogs these days. Blogs have the advantage of immediacy _ they can put things out at a moment's notice. Newspapers are working on this. I've written stories for our Web site in the morning that get posted right away, and then I may write a more analytical piece for the next day's paper.
We do tell the truth in our industry, to the best of each individual's ability. The one thing I strive for is to be fair. And if I criticize a player, manager or management type, I make sure I'm there the next day so they can take a poke at me (figuratively speaking) if they want to. Fortunately, it's never come to the literal stage when it's come to taking a poke at me. I had a player once tell me, "If I suck, say I suck, but just don't get personal." I've never felt I would have an access problem if I told the unvarnished truth. Those athletes who hide from the media only look bad by doing so.
The point about poor journalists being threatened by bloggers is a valid one. I say there is room for everybody to express his or her opinion and let the reader decide.

People can make these issues a lot more difficult and complicated that they need to be. At the end of the day, people ought to be able to stand behind the merits of their own arguments and present them in a constructive way. There's a wide range of quality in blogs, but there is also a wide range in traditional sports journalism. You may need to work hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, but all in all, more thoughtful analysis is better (and traditional journalism certainly does not have a monoploy on it) and the web can be a great marketplace for ideas. What you hope for is thoughtfulness and civility by all hands.

Wonderful piece Transmission.

some of the problem is on one side you got guys who paid their dues covering highschool football on friday nights after spending years in school working their way up to a gig that's with a reputable paper...on the other side you got guys with total editorial, time, and space freedom who can "speak to the common man" more directly because they have the freedom and lack of constraint to do so.

both sides can have their share of hacks, regular joes, and top tier guys.

i know some people who could start a blog that could just destroy convential journalism...for a few weeks...when the sources they had dry up because of what they're saying.

there's just so much to ballance with a career journalist vs. a guy with too much time on his hands.

that said, both sides have done their share of investigative journalism and both have their share of guys worth a damn depending on what kind of info you're looking.

if everyone could just drop the pride thing and let it all play out (cuz its gonna have to play out in order to set the "rules" of how its gonna work) it'd be over soon enough.

"convential journalism"

uh..conventional.

i'll slow down enough to spell/grammEr check one day.

guess that "when" shortly following should be an "until"

*insert comment about cubs offer for schmidt*

wow..i changed tense in that sentence, too. its all kinds of 6th grade english class red pen mark horror.

yeah, go cubs...

just one L in balance too, just like one L in talent.

I think the newspaper industry itself is a dying breed. 5-10 years from now I expect the big newspapers to be fully on-line and generating their revenue. They can't survive as a paper newspaper. NYT has a great on-line site, it looks like the front page of a newspaper, that is their future.

In way it will be good for the environment. Imagine all the paper not being used if most newspapers go online. But on the flip side, a lot of unemployed people will find their jobs obsolete.

Great article and thread guys. One of the more interesting and balanced reads I've seen on here all winter.

Only a couple more days....

It's funny, after reading this post I was thinking about how infrequently I visit other sports sites now. It always seems to me when i read the paper that there is very little interest in educating or edifying the reader--I learn so much more from this site than I ever could from any other site.

I really think that's the beauty of blogs: they don't have to simplify things due to space consideration, politcal leanings of ownership, idiocy of general American public. I love the ease with which I can learn about pretty much any topic by looking it up on the internet--one google search gives you at least three separate sources.

I'm rambling because it's late. The long and the short of it: TCR is awesome.

I have two comments about mainstream media in light of this discussion.

Are the masses really so dumb that they couldn't be educated about what OPS means in about a half a baseball season? Just put it up as part of the stat line for everyone's second at-bat of the game and people will figure it out pretty quick.

Second, all I wish from the mainstream media is that they don't use flimsy stats to support an argument that is easily refutable, like defending guys with .300/.330/.370 lines as good hitters because they "hit .300". Maybe their general audience isn't sophisticated enough to know the difference, but my sportswriters should be and ignoring what they know to be true, that the line above is garbage, is intellectually dishonest.

"like defending guys with .300/.330/.370 lines as good hitters because they “hit .300″"

........As Chad's head explodes

# 33 - To try to answer your first quesiton: I don't think the case is that the masses are stupid, per se: it's that they're not interested or motivated to learn. That might be due to a variety of reasons. Perhaps learning about baseball isn't as high a priority for them as it is for us. Perhaps they're more distracted by job, kids, sick mom, or whatever else. But whatever the case is, their threshold at which they decide in favor ofspending the time and effort and memory capacity to learn something new is higher than ours.

>> At TCR alone our readers and columnists include doctors and minor league experts and former and current athletes and engineers

Well I'm a card-carrying, PhD-toting, certified Genetic Engineer, so add that to your mix. But because I'm eminently unqualified to comment on baseball matters, I greatly appreciate and depend on the knowledgeable baseball opinions and comment here at TCR. So put that PayPal button back up near the top somewhere and I'll put my money where your mouth is.

We had a paypal button?

Woah....

Some day, I want to do a survey of the professional and educational background of our readership. It could be that much of the blog world's tensions with mainstream media has to due with demographic differences. I'm willing to bet that the average blog reader does not resemble the general population. Sometimes, that's for the better, sometimes, that's for the worse....

Dave, you wouldn't happen to be the same genetic engineering Ph.D. (who I think was named Dave) who had recently moved away from Pittsburgh who was on the same softball team as me, last summer......

My 2¢--I love "Around the Horn" and Jay Mariotti, so I've convinced myself that he formed his opinion on a few bad apples. Perhaps Mariotti, like myself, is tired of the way so-called traditional or mainstream media, such as CNN, actually do reports on what "bloggers" think and have posted...let's be honest, a fair proportion of "blogs" out there are nothing more than opinions and ramblings of someone whose only credibility is the ability to create a website--hardly a manifesto for legitimacy. But to lump *all* blogs into one pile and say that the entire lot are not worthy of consideration is asinine...but, then, how would the IOOC set criteria for bloggers? I suppose that they could require a certain number of hits over a certain time period, say 1 million within the past 12 months...but then that would mean that only popular blogs would be allowed in which likely would be those with with sensationalized gossip, like the National Enquirer, would be featured. Blogs from former athletes? More legitimate, but also more exclusionary. Anyway, how would the IOOC prevent it? Couldn't someone buy a ticket to a game, then go back to their hotel room and post a comment on their blog about it?

Over at Goat Riders, I've been writing a lot on this subject the last two days.

In the end, it doesn't really matter. I mean, everybody wants credibility. There are bloggers writing about the Cubs now who are better than some journalists who've been writing about them for decades, and it would be an amazing experience to be given credit for it.

But in the end, a blogger's duty is to his readers, and while it would be cool to interview the players, the content provided in a blog isn't about reporting so much as it is about commenting. A blogger's fingers are far closer to the pulse of the average fan than a journalist's, if only because that blogger IS an average fan. The service we provide is expressing honesty while writing about things that might have gone uncommented on by the mass media.

To address what Bruce has said... I don't believe I have ever called a journalist - or anybody - a douchebag, although we have been pretty harsh about some of the Tribune's writers on our website. But even then, I try not to attack anybody personally, although I might go out of the way to express my belief that Paul Sullivan's ideas about running a major league baseball team are asenine and fightening.

(That isn't to say that Paul Sullivan is asenine or scary personally, although I know that he in particular dislikes blogs and that puts him on notice in my book.)

Anyway, there are ways for bloggers to get around the problem of not being "allowed" to report on their team. We've tried it at Goat Riders, and I've never failed to get information in the pursuit of a story (rather than a commentary) that I've written. That say something, at least from my perspective.

- who needs research when you can hang out in mlb clubhouses?

- don't believe everything you read on the internet

- cubs offer schmidt 3/44

lol.

Kurt, feel free to throw us a link to your commentary on blogs in the message thread just above this one (or in this thread too, if you like). I just did realize that yeah, I'm not alone in writing about this issue. Didn't mean to not reference your work!

As a former reporter/editor, I can say authoritatively that there is no more paranoid or thin-skinned profession than journalism. They simply hate to be questioned or second-guessed. I know I did. Therefore, the whole premise of blogs is a threat to what they do and how they do it. It's no wonder they react the way they do.

That said, baseball shouldn't be joining them in shunning the blogging community; MLB has allegedly/apparently banned teams from talking to bloggers (as discussed this weekend at BCB, GROTA and Wrigleyville, among other places).

I think blogging has gone to people's heads. Look any person can start a blog and express an opinion at the end of the day its like someone said previously a blog is simply someone's own commentary. A blog is not the Chicago Tribune nor the LA Times, as much as every blog wants credibility and respect the only way to achieve it is via the reader. Nothing else matters. Please do not think that simply creating a blog on the Cubs, including TCR is journalism or a form of news media, its not. Its simply a way for frustrated individual to reach out to the public and be heard like no other medium can. The fact that you have so many hits a day and so many comments should be an indication of your success and confirm the validation you seek.

Like "someone" said previously? SOMEONE? I'm a semi-famous BLOGGER, dammit! I'm not "someone!" They wrote about me in the Tribune! ME!!!! Because of my award-winning blog!!!!!!!

...uh... ::ahem:: that is ... I think you make a good point there, Rory. Blogging can definitely go to people's heads.

Seriously, it's a fine line shadowed by massive egos. Anybody who works hard at something wants their final product to be better than it is. Bloggers want more readers and they want recognition. Even if a blog has more readers than anybody else, they'll want more. And even if a blog is mentioned or acknowledged by the media or the subject they cover, they'll still want more. It's just human nature.

But, anyway. I digress.

Just an excellent article, Trans.

Rory: I don't think we're talking about all bloggers here. There is an unbelievable amount of excess fat out there -- terrible bloggers who will type entire paragraphs in capital letters, offer little insight, and do no research.

But good blogs, like the ones that Trans mentioned, are often times much more immediate, thought out, transparent, and objective than writers for traditional mediums. The truth is the majority of these guys (and girls) could outperform Mariotti in his job. They would outresearch him.

And there is a difference in motive that Trans noted: bloggers do it for a simplistic love of the game, while many mainstream journalists do it for ulterior reasons. The best mainstreamers are those who readers can still tell truly do it for a childish love of baseball: Peter Gammons, Bruce Miles, Rob Neyer, etc. The bad ones respond to criticism by saying "its only making me more famous" (a ridiculous Mariotti quote).

A few of you may remember me as the man-woman-blogoneophyte expressing undying man-love for Chad....and a some times antagonist to Crunch.

Beyond that, I say stupid things at times.....poke people with a sharp stick just to see what happens. Why??? I dunno.....that's not me in real life. This internet thingie called TCR lets me hide from reality.

The point to my otherwise douchebaggish meanderings here is this. Two years ago, or whenever it was I found TCR, I thought you all were just like me. HUGE CUBS FAN!!! HUGE BASEBALL FAN!!! Beyond that, I never dreamed SOME of you were as in tune with the real baseball-Cubs atmospehere as you are. Even further, I figured I was smarter than most of you. Sorry, it's what I thought...then!!!!

Full stop!!! I've been very quiet on TCR the past few months because I consistently got my arse kicked!!!!

I've turned the corner I have.....and am truly humbled....because though I'm educated and have a relatively important day job in my own mind, I am in no qay qualified to get in to the debates on TCR that I have taken on in months past.

Good job, folks. Crunch, Az Phil, Transmission, and my imaginary friend Chad, et al.....thank you for keeping me sane. I really do learn a lot that this 45 year old body and mind could never take the time to learn.

Thanks again, everyone. And Chad....relax....I'm just kidding.

Joey from Iowa

Gay=Way...that was NOT a Fruedian slip, Chad. I'm serious.

Trans, great job. Really a great article.

It caused me to think about something -- the potential abuse of power by mainstream journalism. Journalism has always played a critical role in our political system. The free press -- the power of the pen -- are part of why this country works. It's a great protection that we all take for granted from time to time. The press and media are powerful entities and we need them to be.

That's why it's so troubling that the mainstream media is turning against another media element: bloggers. It's not a good thing when one media element attempts -- or even prefers -- to limit another. With respect to the Big Picture, It's self-defeating.

One day the mainstream media will understand its role in the Internet Age. The mainstream media is not The Media anymore; it's merely part of it. But until that day happens, Trans is right -- members of the mainstream media that don't "get it" will beat on the bloggery and other less traditional forms of media. And my fear is that if unchecked, the mainstream media -- with all of its power and influence that we rely on daily for our freedoms -- will be able to do some damage. It's up to us to make sure that doesn't happen.

Blogs like this one and newspapers just serve a very different audience. I used to frequent chicagosports.com, suntimes.com, and TCR, but now I don't even remember the last time I visited a newspaper's website other than dailyherald.com (to read B-Miles and Rozner).

If you're looking for just the most basic information like scores and recaps, newspapers are great. If you're looking for any type of advanced analysis, it has to come from blogs and other websites. Newspapers don't have the space or the incentive to write that kind of stuff.

The readers of TCR aren't really indicative of the normal, everyday fan. We've been on this website all winter long, sometimes with weeks between any real Cubs news, debating everything from player salaries to who the Cubs should draft this year. Most people just want scores and recaps.

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Cool site. Thanks!!!
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