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.