September 9, 2009

Bloggers Hold MSM Accountable

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Several members of the mainstream media have disparaged bloggers as a whole due to a perceived lack of credibility, due process and accountability for bloggers. During an infamous segment of HBO’s “Costas Now,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Buzz Bissinger, most notable for writing Friday Night Lights, said: “I think blogs are dedicated to cruelty, they’re dedicated to journalistic dishonesty, they’re dedicated to speed.” Within days of Bissinger’s tirade, prestigious publications such as the Washington Post ran articles in support of Bissinger’s stance. Each attack on the blogosphere maintained a common theme: in the absence of accountability, blogs could post falsehoods, use objectionable language and were incentivized to make outrageous posts in the hope of receiving attention.
The irony of it all is that despite the absence of accountability within the blogosphere, blogs have ended up holding members of the mainstream media accountable for their actions. The blogosphere is ready to pounce whenever an announcer makes an unsubstantiated claim, a newspaper article contains an illogical argument or an analyst fails to accept advancements in the general public’s understanding of sports. Bloggers are typically the first to take more prominent media members to task for shoddy work.
In recent years, sites such as “” and “” have gained notoriety for their witty attacks on poor work turned in by the mainstream media. When ESPN analysts Harold Reynolds and John Kruk made convoluted arguments that it is either more difficult (Reynolds’ contention) or easier (Kruk’s) for baseball teams to score runs when they have more confidence in their own pitchers, FireJoeMorgan’s writers degraded the dubious theories. When ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd used a self-described “gut feeling” to condemn Sean Taylor’s “bad judgement” days after Taylor was murdered, AwfulAnnouncing was there to call him out. When Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman defended Jimmy Rollins’ MVP award based on “extraordinary initiative and leadership,” FireJoeMorgan pointed out the lunacy in the logic. Whereas in the past there were few consequences for a writer who failed to stay at the top of his or her game, with the advent of the Internet, sports fans now have somewhere to turn if the mainstream media lets them down.
The greatest benefit of the blogosphere is its ability to provide an alternative to poorly-thought out analysis in the mainstream media. Previously, sports fans’ main sources of insight were their local newspaper columnists and sports radio analysts. Fans now have an option if they do not like the coverage they are receiving. Most professional sports teams are currently covered by dozens of blogs that are easily accessible via the Internet. Sports fans can simply choose the source of analysis they would most like to frequent, thus the local newspaper’s monopoly on sports coverage has finally been broken.
The product of the expanded number of outlets from which to read a breakdown of the happenings in the sporting world is a meritocracy. With so many options to choose from, only those with worthwhile insight will garner readership. Blogs have provided the first true competition to traditional journalism in generations. Newspapers may challenge the credibility of blogs, but they do so in part because blogs have pushed newspapers to either improve the quality of their work or fail.
While traditional journalists may question the lack of accountability in the blogosphere, the reality is that blogs have acted as a check upon the mainstream media. Should the newspapers fail to deliver quality coverage of their local teams, fans will flee the paper in favor of superior blogs. Should well-known analysts offer opinions that are either illogical or are based on inaccuracies, blogs will be there to point out the mistakes. Instead of deriding the quality of blogs, maybe the mainstream media ought to focus on improving the quality of their own product so that fans will no longer need to seek alternative coverage.