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The Blogger's Role, Part 2

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Just like last week, I'm going to go a bit off topic to talk about sports blogging as a whole. I've been thinking this week about some of the good and bad that comes with blogging.

Good:

Anybody can do it

There used to be a time when getting your voice out there required sitting for years in a newspaper office for years doing grunt work, move on to writing stories about things you weren't necessarily interested in, and then maybe you'd get a chance to cover the beat you wanted. That's not how it works anymore. Anybody can blog. It gives people who wanted to be sportswriters a platform for their views. You don't need to have a degree in journalism and sit in that office for years to be a good writer and insightful. My degree is in economics, and I did very little for my college newspaper. That doesn't make my opinion any less valid than somebody who did. Some professional reporters may not want to hear it, but that's the way it is. If there ever came a day when SB Nation decided it wanted to go in a different direction, you'd probably see me reemerge writing about the Jets somewhere else. Blogs are an outlet that allow anybody to share their opinion.

You can write what you want to write about

In MSM sports jobs, you write about what your job says you have to write about. There are a finite number of jobs. If I went into the newspaper industry, I may have ended up covering the beat for the Vancouver Canucks if that's where the job is. People are better writing about stuff they're passionate about.

More after the jump.

You can write what you want

There are certain standards I have to comply to as an SB Nation writer, but the guys here give me an incredible amount of editorial control. I don't have to worry about somebody going over my shoulder. You get my full opinion, not some watered down piece to play some angle that will stip up controversy or readership.

You can cover new angles

Newspapers have finite space. Some angles get shortchanged. Blogs have unlimited space. That's why your newspaper may have told you about the trade for Braylon Edwards, but we talked about what it meant for the future, how it affected other players on the roster, and the press conference.

Some teams also get shortchanged. SB Nation has a blog covering Northern Illinois University sports. Are you telling me NIU fans get their need for information satisfied by the Chicago media? That's the great thing about a site like SB Nation. It doesn't matter how obscure your sport or team is. If you write well, you will be considered for a writing job here.

No outside agenda

As lifelong fans, writers for a team blog only have one agenda, hoping the best for our team. We may be critical, but that's only because we want the team to do well and feel like it's justified. We're not going to try and stir people up to draw attention to ourselves like Mike Francesa.

Again I'll go back to beat writers. Many who cover the Jets do a great job. Do they care as much as we do, though? I know they may have some friends on the team, but have they gone through the emotional ups and downs through their entire lives as fans do?

Take Rich Cimini, a popular whipping boy around here. It's easy to see why when he says stuff like this.

The Jets’ passing attack will improve in 2010 simply based on the presumed development of Mark Sanchez, but it also will take a philosophical concession from Rex Ryan. “Ground & Pound” gets you only so far. Problem is, defensive-minded coaches like Ryan are reluctant to open up the offense because it puts more stress on the defense. It can become a philosophical tug-of-war, and I can see this becoming an issue next season. Mark my words.

Let's ignore the ground and pound can only get you so far nonsense. Any style can win if executed well enough. What is he basing this fake controversy on? Yes, Rex became more involved with the offense and insisted on greater use of the run game, but that was because Sanchez was hurting the team with his turnovers. Sure, Rex signed off on trading up to draft Sanchez and give him $50 million, but he doesn't think a passing game is important. It's a sweeping generalization based purely on conjecture. This is lazy writing just trying to stir up a controversy.

Bias

Every single news agency operates with some sort of bias. It's human nature. Everybody has their own perspective. The difference between blogs and MSM sources is we admit it. This place has a pro Jets outlook. We try to offer informed analysis, but we don't pretend  we're totally objective. MSM news agencies pretend to be objective, but any observer can see bias for certain players and teams. If you don't believe me, explain why the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports" a few months ago had on the front page of its website multiple articles discussing how good a certain basketball player would be if he took up football as a tight end because of an offhand comment by said basketball player.

Lack of access

This is obviously changing in some areas, but there's something to be said for the outsider reporting. It plays into a few of the earlier points. Bloggers don't have to pull punches. They aren't friends with a player who might not be pulling his weight. They don't need to make nice with the general manager for a given interview. Access can definitely enhance a blog if it is used correctly, but it isn't essential.

Direct interaction

I speak with you guys directly here. You have a direct pipeline to me. I have to defend what I write. I'm not insulated in an office.

Bad:

Anybody can do it

Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others. Yes, blogs offer qualified people who otherwise would be shut out a chance to express their opinion. They also offer people who maybe lack a platform for a reason. For every good blog out there, plenty offer nothing.

You can write what you want

Another thing that is good when in the right hands but bad when not. Take a blog like Kissing Suzy Kolber. I know they have a lot of readers. I know a lot of you like the site. Some of their stuff is a little funny I guess. They've done some pretty messed up stuff in the past like posting embarassing pictures of Peter King's daughter over some imagined feud they have with the SI writer. What punishment did they get for that? A little bad PR, but people still go there.

I don't have anything against the writers on their site. I've heard from some people who have met them that they are pretty nice guys. That site serves a purpose. Even though I don't get what's so great about the third grade bathroom humor they use, they're doing something right to build such an audience. I just don't really see what they add. Stuff like they did with King makes it that much more difficult for good bloggers to gain credibility. Saying that site and the ones on SB Nation are both blogs is like saying the National Enquirer and Time are both magazines, but blogs are still new enough that a lot of people are willing to lump us all in one group.

Lack of fact checking

Although this is sadly becoming extinct in the MSM these days, a real news organization usually has rigorous standards when it comes to what it can print. That's not the case with blogs. Bloggers don't have to answer to anybody. They can print whatever they want and face no retribution.

A guy named Mike Florio has built a name for himself sometimes making dubious connections with circumstantial evidence and other times just flat making stuff up when it comes to NFL matters. Some of the stuff that appears on his site is just ridiculous. Maybe this goes deeper than bloggers, though. A major network now gives him facetime to spread his garbage. NBC should be ashamed of itself.

Editing

Bloggers usually don't have a staff of editors. You see more grammatical, typographical, and spelling errors on a blog than you'll usually get with MSM sources.

Pay

Most bloggers aren't paid and cannot dedicate their lives fully to studying what they write like reporters can.

 

Blogging is becoming more accepted these days. Blogs are slowly driving newspapers out of business. In a decade, it's likely the only remaining newspapers will be the really big ones like the New York Times and the Washington Post. There are a lot of reasons for this from cost of production to advertisers moving to blogs for some of the reasons mentioned above to younger readers coming to blogs. I'm not sure that's entirely a good thing. Newspapers bring a lot to the table. If you're going to Gang Green Nation as your only source of Jets news, you may never stumble upon an enlightening article on health care reform that you would in a newspaper. Think of some of the contributions newspapers have made to our society. Without the fact checking, will there ever be more people like Woodword and Berstein with the credibility to draw the nation's attention to a wrong and have people believe it?

It is clear that blogging is becoming more and more mainstream. That's good and bad. It's good on a site like SB Nation, where writers have autonomy. The head honchos here get blogging. They form partnerships with as many MSM companies as possible, but these companies have no input on content. Some MSM companies are trying to make their blogs newspaper lite. Take AOL. They launched their Fanhouse in 2006. It was a great idea. It was like SBN. Regular fans covered their team. It seemed like the company was ahead of the time. That didn't last. It has evolved into an oasis of regular reporters who aren't fans like Jay Mariotti.

Those who do get it like SB Nation and Pete Abraham (before his betrayal) to name two are poised to be the ones dominating the landscape in the future.