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You've Got The Wrong Guy

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(This is cross-posted at Restrictor Plate This.)

I'm not the world's greatest sports blogger; never have claimed to be and never will.  That said, I have my moments when it comes together, this strange brew of the following:

  • News references written with the thought of how the last thing I or any other sports blogger should do is reiterate the readily available news of the day and act like I'm doing you a favor by doing so.  I've become aware there are those who prefer the news as filtered and commented upon by myself and other bloggers, so I do make an effort to mention items of genuine interest and/or importance.  I'm not a reporter, though, and I make no claim of being one.
  • Observations and commentary based on a modicum of racing knowledge mixed with speaking as a fan to other fans.
  • Entertainment, as I try to give readers cause to laugh and smile by either pointing out the obvious or inventing the absurd.
I note the above while wading through yet another professional writer versus bloggers screed, this one penned a few days ago by one Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.  While noting such sniping from either side is 99 44/100% empty rhetoric and 56/100% hooey, Mr. McCosky's rant is of such a nature it fairly begs for a response.  And a response it shall have.

Mr. McCosky begins:

My bosses want me to focus on what I do best, which, apparently, is griping, grumping and grousing.  They have asked me to produce a weekly collection of things that have been ticking me off.

No problem.  Buckle up.

Give the man credit for honesty.  His job is to generate heat by any means necessary, in this case by stirring the pot regardless of whether it needs it.  This creates controversy -- granted, it's artificially created and stimulated, but all parties concerned are hoping this will be overlooked -- which in turn generates attention.  This brings readers from both the 'love the writer' and 'love to hate the writer' camps.  Regardless of how they were attracted, readers bring higher circulation and/or Web site visits.  This translates into the paper being able to charge higher advertisement fees because all ads contained therein will enjoy more views.  Finally, all parties at the paper get paid, for advertising dollars, not subscriptions nor newsstand sales, are the lifeblood of every metropolitan newspaper.

Okay, time for Mr. McCosky's first fusillade:

Bloggers and personal, non-journalistic Web sites are starting to tick me off.

Why, may we ask?  Mr. McCosky's getting there.  But first, a tossed out tidbit officially classified as "damning with faint praise:"

Look, I appreciate and respect that in America, everybody has an opinion, especially on sports.  And I respect everybody's right to share their thoughts with anybody who happens to own a computer via blogs.

Actually, he doesn't, as he now makes clear:

But people, let's not confuse what random fans and wanna-be pundits are tossing out there with legitimate reporting.  The line is getting way too blurry now between Internet noise and actual journalism.  It's actually getting to the point now where some (too many) of the bloggers are using cyberspace to discredit the legitimate media.
As already noted, I know I'm not a reporter.  However, when I present news in an accurate manner, is that not to a degree reporting?

The minister standing behind a pulpit on Sunday morning knows they didn't write the Bible.  However, when they present its message in an accurate manner, is that not to a degree proclaiming the gospel message?  Therefore, are they not part of the message being given?  Same deal with bloggers.  As to Mr. McCosky's kvetch about bloggers using the tools at their disposal in an attempt to discredit legitimate reporters, quite frankly there have been more than enough reporters discrediting themselves for there to be any genuine worry about bloggers being the fly in the ointment.

Now I am not saying all legitimate media or every reporter is 100 percent credible.

Good call.

Nor am I saying every blogger is out to discredit legitimate media.

Thanks for noticing.

But the distinction between the two must be clearer.

Please, be my guest.

Journalism employs trained professionals.  We actually have to go to school for this stuff.  We take our jobs seriously.  There are rules and standards that we are beholden to.  There are ethics involved.  We actually talk to, in person, the people we write about.  If we rip somebody in an article, you best be sure most of us will confront that person the next day and take whatever medicine we need to take.

More than a few bloggers I know are also educated.  Being a journalism school graduate no doubt looks nice on your résumé when you're applying for a job at the paper and/or magazine.  But it guarantees nothing in terms of quality, ethics, accuracy, lack of bias, etc etc etc.

The above snark aside, Mr. McCosky actually has some legitimate points.  Over the years I've come to know how hard a sports beat reporter works, and how difficult their job can ofttimes be.  And yes, if they misrepresent something someone in the sport said, they will hear about it.  Usually in a none too polite fashion.

Mr. McCosky continues:

With blogging and Web sites, it seems the hard work, standards, accountability, courage all of that is bypassed.  Who needs to study this stuff, or attend games, or conduct interviews when you can just sit in your basement and clack out whatever comes through your head, right?  If I rip somebody, or if I get something wrong, who cares?  Nobody will see me.

I can name a dozen blogs guilty of everything mentioned.  I can also mention just as many if not more that have higher standards of fairness, consideration, accountability, and striving for accuracy than I dare say more than a few newspapers and the like.  It's too bad Mr. McCosky chooses to ignore the latter while lambasting the former.

A lot of times these bloggers use the work of legitimate reporters.  They will lift facts and segments of stories and cut and paste them onto their blog.  Rarely, if ever, though, do they bother to credit the source.

They will write something like, "I am hearing the Pistons are going to start Antonio McDyess this year."  Well, wonder where you "heard" that.  It was reported in the darn newspaper.  Yet, the same blogger will go out of their way to ridicule the source they stole from.

Excuse me for a moment while I rescue the baby from going down the drain with the bathwater... again.  Are there blogs guilty of some or all of the above?  Certainly.  There are just as many if not more blogs that unfailingly assign credit to a story's source, or as is the case with this blog doesn't insult its readership's intelligence by pretending a passed along news item was created by yours truly.  It is regrettable Mr. McCosky is both neglecting to report the whole truth as well as failing to document his accusations by providing examples.  In other words, he is writing in the same manner as the blogs he is criticizing.  The blogging evangel covers you as well, Mr. McCosky.  Never become what you profess to oppose.  Yet this is precisely what he has done.

Bloggers are having a field day speculating on how Joel Zumaya really injured his shoulder.  Nobody believes a heavy box fell on him.  So the Internet is rife with stories about how he fell off his dirt bike.

Now unless one of these bloggers knows Zumaya, or has seen him or knows somebody who saw him crash his bike, they don't know anything.

But because there is no accountability, because there are no repercussions for being wrong, because they will never have to look Zumaya in the face, who cares?  Make up whatever you want.

If I get a call from somebody who claims to know somebody who saw Zumaya fall off a bike, you know what?  I can't use that as a basis for a story.  I have to have more proof.

That's the difference between journalism and blogging.  It might be fun to read about Zumaya falling off a bike, but, until proven, it's fiction.

All I am saying is this: You don't have to believe everything you read in the paper.  You shouldn't, actually.  But you do have to know most reporters at legitimate news sources work hard to deliver fair, accurate and pertinent information.

And what they do is vastly different than what the clever dude in his pajamas is doing on his computer, down in his basement.

I don't know about the "clever" dude in his pajamas.  I don't have a basement, either.

I make no effort to defend bloggers whose shortcomings were outlined by Mr. McCosky.  I also strongly resent any attempt to marginalize, classify, stereotype, and tar all sports bloggers with the same brush.  If the defendant is guilty, feel free to throw the book at them.  However, just because the jury is made up of the defendant's peers does not mean they also deserve to be thrown in jail.

Get all your facts straight next time, Mr. McCosky.  Perhaps then more might be inclined to listen.