If the pen is mightier than the sword, the ultimate weapon must be a message board.
Nowhere else can you so quickly and effectively shape public opinion in the world of sports. If I could capitalize on free, worthless information, I would be posting this from my Destin beach house!
Let’s just face it, newspapers are the worst. Right? If you are a sports fan (of any team) you have likely convinced yourself that your local newspaper is owned by your rival.
(This article originally ran in RebelNationMagazine.com)
It’s one of the only things that Ole Miss fans have in common with all other fans. We all think the newspaper hates our team. It’s a clue to the fact that all fans are the same, fanatical to a fault and incapable of objectivity.
If you are a real, “degreed” journalist you likely scoff at the idea that the public would dare question your integrity and professional ethics.
Today, large newspapers are filled with ambitious 25 year olds that have likely never visited your college campus prior to being hired by your local paper. The idea that there is some sort of given bias for or against your school is really just a fantasy in your mind.
Your beat writer doesn’t hate your school. He is just being honest and that does not align with our base sensibilities.
Reality is a bitter pill and truth is no one’s friend. While those sayings are constant and 100% true; being brutally honest doesn’t really sell papers anymore.
Since the advent of free websites and keyboards, people have more options to read than fish-wrap to read every morning.
When I became a sports fan in the late 80’s there was virtually zero information during the summer about my favorite team. Recruiting was followed by the coaches that recruited. I assume beat writers prior to the 90’s had the same schedule as school teachers and great golf scores.
I longed for the Athlon’s and Lindy’s preseason magazines and would read them over and over during the summer until I basically had them memorized.
The information coming from a college town during the summer was slower than Billy Brewer’s drawl. The less information that got out during “arrest” season, the better for the coaches and the writers back then made sure to protect those relationships.
Now, stories are broken by college kids with a twitter account that saw the cops arrest the athlete in their dorm, complete with video of the arrest and extended commentary afterward. You no longer have to wait for the SID’s press conference 10 days later regarding “internal punishment” and all details have been expunged from the record.
Recruiting “gurus” have further turned the profession on its ear. Recruiting “news” is the exact opposite of what vetted news was like 20 years ago. The fewer details and the more exaggerated the claim the better actually. At some point; the more the sites unfairly hyped players, the more money the “gurus” made.
I don’t know when the tipping point was reached but 2015 is clearly beyond the control of the beat writer. At the Clarion-Ledger, both MSU and Ole Miss beat writers have been roundly excommunicated by their fan bases for essentially reporting the news. (Riley Blevins and Mike Bonner many times)
I know every Ole Miss fan thought Rick Cleveland was secretly a fan of MSU or USM back in the day but oh how we long for a Rick Cleveland today. We will never have that familiarity from a beat writer or editorial staff again.
On one hand, we have never had a time when the beat writers were more honest and un-biased towards our respective schools but at the same time; subscriptions have never been lower.
I am not blaming the current newspaper staff. Nor am I saying they could even do anything to change their fate. This is just where technology is taking us today.
People want to get mass quantities of information and ideally with a tinge of propaganda, and if they can’t get that they will at least settle for negative news about their rival. The money spent on website subscriptions justify this form of journalism. It’s what the market demands. It’s what the people want.
Fox Sports Regional websites have seen heavy editorial layoffs. ESPN is slashing budgets in half or even deeper, Gannett has been liquidating their most top heavy talent from USA Today and replicating that process down to even the smallest market of Jackson, MS.
If you are looking for the worst examples of what passes for “journalism” today look no farther than fan sites such as Maroon and White Nation or Elite Dawgs. In the world of sports writing it is the Highlights-for-Kids equivalent. I have a hard time even saying they are MSU based outlets because they have as much Ole Miss related content as MSU.
But this is what fans like. M&W Nation was the #1 read Fansided blog last fall. This type of ridiculous, fan-centric, click baiting is what most fans read. Apparently.
The big generic corporations can’t or either refuse to adapt to the blog site format. The audience is too fractured, there are too many outlets and fans certainly don’t care about the opinions of talking heads from New York or DC. There is no money to be made from twitter users. Why would they pay a subscription fee when they get their high fives and chuckles for free on a blog site or a message board?
So what is the future? Where is this going?
In the past we had very few media sources. Now we have too many choices. Perhaps the future is the laziest option possible; being force fed information without paying or even searching for it.
The “Team Stream” concept from Bleacher Report or ESPN which aggregates news and social media and sends it to your phone at a moment’s notice as twitter and game scores break. Of course it uses mainly computer algorithms and very few flesh and blood experienced writers to put out an enormous amount of content daily.
It is likely this type of zero-effort social media content will also spell the end of the micro-market subscription sports services and message boards as well.
I guess you live by the sword and you die by the sword, but I won’t cry when M&W or Elite Dawgs dies.