September 16, 2010

I Don't Get It


Wednesday was Bruce Dowbiggin's turn to spank bloggers. Not only that, he essentially put a bounty on their -- our? -- heads. What's ironic to me, and I think most people that read and/or write blogs, is that everyone, I believe, wants the same thing: accountability.

Even more ironic: while the lines between traditional and new media continue to blur, they've already intersected. For good. Take a look at the sports sections of your favourite newspapers; everyone is blogging. The debate has been pitched as mainstream media (MSM) versus bloggers, but so many in the MSM are blogging, that the entire conversation doesn't make a lot of bloody sense anymore. To me, at least. The Toronto Star's Damien Cox "asked the question" in his blog The Spin, for Christ's sake. And I'm not going to bother with Dowbiggin writing that bloggers need to "face their subjects from time to time." That's laughable, after the Cox fiasco. We bloggers wanted Cox to head to the SkyDome and face Bautista. We specifically asked that he go and do just that. Instead, it was Bruce Arthur who went and talked to Toronto's Home Run King about the allegations being bandied about. Thanks, Bruce.

Sorry, I lost my train of thought. Jose Bautista has a tendency to make that happen. His swing, so violent and dreamy at the same time. Anyway: the MSM, they're blogging. Cox's colleague Richard Griffin's got his own blog, with its own weekly mail bag feature. And where he sometimes rips Cox. (That was fun!) The Globe And Mail's Michael Grange has got his own blog, From Deep. Jeff Blair goes on blogging runs every now and then at Unwritten Rules. Doug Smith at The Star's been blogging for years about the Toronto Raptors. Go to espn.com; Jayson Stark, Buster Olney, and Keith Law all have their own MLB Blogs. Pierre LeBrun blogs about hockey for the Worldwide Leader. The esteemed Elliotte Freedman blogs, and I can't wait for hockey season to get underway so his 30 Thoughts feature will once again be a part of my life. I can give you a ton of other examples, but you get the idea. And I'm a lazy blogger.

I've worked in broadcast journalism, with TVO's The Agenda With Steve Paikin. As an associate producer at the program, it was mandated that we write a blog post for each segment we put to air. It was mandated that we get on Twitter with work-related accounts, and tweet about story ideas, and future programs. Steve Paikin's got his own blog. Mike Miner, a producer at the program, has his own technology/media blog, The Fifth Column. Those are mainstream journalists, blogging.

When it comes to sports blogs, which I know are the main tenet of this discussion, if the press box is such an issue, the MSM can keep the press box. Look, I've been up there. Once. For a Toronto Maple Leafs game. And I'll be honest: it wasn't all that. Look, much love and respect to Jonathan Sinden and the Leafs for inviting me up there. Of course they were going to invite the guy who travels the Toronto sports blogosphere leaving "Playoffs!!!" in his wake. As they should. But on my one night up there, planning to live blog the affair, the wireless internet didn't work. It was, as the kids say, a live blog fail.

Now, this may surprise you, but, believe it or not, I went up to the press box that night in November not wearing my Tomas Kaberle jersey, or my customary Toronto Blue Jays hat. And I didn't cheer like a fanboy. I didn't cheer at all. I didn't have a sign stuck to my back that said "Blogger!!!1" Everyone up there went about their business, as did Jonathan and I. We chatted Toronto hockey. (I wept, but only briefly.) We talked about the Maple Leafs being more proactive on the social media front. I took notes about how the Leafs disappointed me that night. And, once the game ended, I went home.

I didn't even ask Jonathan if my invite upstairs included an invite downstairs, into the locker room, or to Ron Wilson's press conference. I'll be honest: the thought never even crossed my mind. Had I been invited to Wilson's presser, was that fateful Monday night the night he would finally be honest, and say that even though Jonas Gustavsson was the losing goalie, if it was up to him, he'd never play Vesa Toskala again? That Toskala had a lot of nerve to question the advice of goalie guru Francois Allaire? That against a team like the Buffalo Sabres, a Maple Leafs team with Matt Stajan as its number one centre really didn't stand a chance? No, it wouldn't.

Was that the night Francois Beauchemin would, in the locker room, tell me how much of a nightmare the first two months of his life as a Leafs defenceman had been? That Mike Komisarek was trying way too hard out there? No, it wouldn't.

We've all watched the excruciating answers players, and coaches, give journalists in press conferences and in the dressing room. And we've all played sports. We know what a guy can and can't say. More than half the time, we could do without the charade, without the references to 110%, which isn't even bloody possible.

I'll be the first to agree with Dowbiggin and tell you that a hockey blog "that resembles Hockey Night in Canada meets TMZ" shouldn't be allowed in the press box, or in the dressing room. Who the hell is arguing that it should? But the press box isn't hallowed ground. Certainly not worth a $10,000 bond. Let's stop treating it, and the experience that comes with it, like it is.

Image courtesy of this isn't happiness.

8 comments:

Clayton Hansler said...

Outstanding.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Well said. I expounded myself on the Cox flap and the blending of MSMs and bloggers and how they can't have it both ways. If they want to wear the mantle of professional media men and women, then they have to adhere to the facts and not speculation without sources or backup. The average reader turns to these so-called professionals for news they can trust, right? Isn't that the difference they always throw in our blogging faces? You can't do it both ways. Or you can, but if you do, then cut the crap and let everyone know that we are all now on equal footing. At the very least, you have to separate and label what is news and what is commentary, don't you?

I personally don't blame newspaper writers. Their world is a scary place right now. Facing such end-of-the-world futures, I would get a bit defensive and high-minded too. But if they could just take a step back, they would see that they've turned a corner and there's no going back. They are bloggers...just like the rest of us.

Ian H. said...

Navin, this is a sick blog post my friend. Great stuff.

Honestly, I'm perfectly happy with the way things are. I don't think I could do the job of Jordan Bastian or Richard Griffin because you're in the clubhouse day in and day out, and as a journalist you have to put your fandom aside. I honestly don't think I could do that.

The one time I was actually in the Jays pressbox, I saw Scott Rolen hit a home run and my first instinct was to stand up and cheer - but I had to stop myself because all the press guys were around.

I don't think the bloggers need full access to the clubhouse because maybe we don't necessarily want it.

Archi said...

True story: The first time I set foot in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse and interviewed a professional baseball player was the moment I knew I no longer wanted to work in 'sports journalism'.

mike in boston said...

great post, well articulated.

as commenter Lt67 said over on TSM, new media are separating the men from the boys, or, as i would put it, the hacks from the people who are earning their paycheque.

it's pretty clear that some people employed by mainstream outlets feel threatened because blogs out-write them and twitter out-scoops them, while others have embraced the challenge and the diversity and managed to produce good content across the board.

my suspicion is that the blogs v MSM debate will be over (at least in sports) soon, because the people who keep stoking that fire won't have jobs anymore (hopefully). it's a death throe on the way to obsolescence.

blurr1974 said...

Great post. You gave this one 110%. :)

The Ack said...

This may seem odd, but I don't now and never have considered myself a "blogger", like it's some title I've earned. I'm just a fan who likes to bullshit on the internet, occasionally provide a chuckle (I hope), occasionally bring The Serious.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I don't have aspirations to take his job. Dowbiggin needs to chill and realize the "behaviors" he accuses the blogosphere of are happening at least as egregiously amongst his peers.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

@ Clayton: Cheers.

@ William: I absolutely agree. The MSM can't have it both ways. I even emailed Bruce Dowbiggin about his piece. He appeared as a guest on the show I used to work on. I'm hoping he responds. And I agree with you on your last point as well; it really is a strange time to be in the print media. But instead of looking down at bloggers, more attempts need to be made at coexistence. A backlash against having bloggers in the press box ... how does that help?

@ Ian: Thanks for the kind words, mate. Personally, I think there is a "fan" switch, one I honestly believe I have the ability to turn on and off. Let's call it the Objectivity Switch (I'm copywriting that shit for the book I one day plan to write on the topic.) And you're bang on with your last point. It's not that we necessarily don't want clubhouse access, we 100% don't. The fact that it's perceived that we need it, that we can't be trusted without said access, is completely wrong. As I pointed out, what's so special about the lines athletes spew? They get media training, for Christ's sake.

@ Archi: I'm glad you had your moment of clarity.

@ mike: Thanks. I agree with LT67, and good on the accountable bloggers that are taking those who aren't doing their jobs to task. It will indeed be interesting to see how it all plays out. I think we'll see more of the Down Goes Browns of the blogging world appearing in our newspapers. And as long as the quality remains high, how is that a bad thing?

@ blurr: Thanks, Blurr. I went in with a game plan, you know. And I just tried to execute. I stuck to the fundamentals of blogging and just left it all out there on the keyboard. But I couldn't have done it without blogger, and my internet connection, and the coffee I was drinking at Starbucks. It was a real team effort, and, you know, if I continue to blog this way, only good things can happen.

@ The Ack: Listen, buddy, you're a blogger. And a damn good one, too. I think your point speaks to the larger one though, and William touched on it. It doesn't matter that you don't consider yourself a blogger, but because you blog, you're a target. You have to be thought of as someone who wants that newspaper job. It's a crazy time. The landscape is literally changing before our eyes, and that's what I tried to point out using my experience in broadcast. We were mandated to blog as broadcast journalists. And get on Twitter. And a few of the journalists did question whether it was worth it. A journalist's job became producing television, and producing a blog post. We weren't paid extra to do it, either. It became a part of our job. It was added to our plate. Very interesting times.