It’s not uncommon, and frankly it seems increasingly more common, to see in a newspaper or elsewhere in mainstream media some crushing criticism of blogs. The first such criticism I saw in it’s full vitriolic glory was in the Boston Globe.
Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy and Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling haven’t been what one might call friends almost from the moment Schilling arrived from Arizona. Last year, when Schilling started his own blog, effectively cutting journalists out “of the loop” as it were, Shaughnessy went off: Curt Schilling isn’t one to sit on an opportunity to get an unfiltered message to the fans (as though this could perhaps be a bad thing). He then goes on to describe an ersatz (Dan, that means pretend) dialogue between Schilling and fans with screen names such as Sycophant, lapdog, and Suckup.
Presumably only paid columnists, such as, say Mr. Shaughnessy, are able to get to the bottom of the matter and filter content appropriately.
When athletes such as Schilling stake out their own communication media and communicate through those avenues rather than through the media, it limits the ability of media to rail against an athlete who won’t talk to the fans. So, the only place to go is to attack the medium on which the athletes choose.
Do a Google search for newspaper layoffs and you will find a slew of stories about newspapers reducing staff the Boston Globe included. Advertising revenue is drying up as most readers flock to the Internet. Digital media. Newspapers and broadcasting media are currently failing to figure out how to survive and are reducing their ranks in ever growing numbers.
Added to this conundrum sports reporting has been hit particularly hard, which incidentally is that field in which Mr. Shaughnessy plies his trade. The Yankees have the YES Network; the Red Sox have NESN. Their interest is providing content to these media outlets, and it so happens to be at the expense of local broadcasters and reporting outlets. Today, Shaughnessy eulogizes the career of Bob Lobel, with the assertion that Boston’s Channel 4’s buyout of Lobel’s contract was “foolish plan to purge the station of veteran talent and institutional memory and that “Viewer trust will surely follow them out the door.”
Sadly, what Shaughnessy fails to note is that the reason the “veteran talent” is being bought out is that viewers have already headed for the door. Perhaps they’re actually following viewer trust out the door.
Trust me, veteran talent and institutional memory is also expensive talent and not always the top concern when running an organization.
The response is not unexpected: the first response is to ignore, not to give the opposition any credibility; when the opponent has gained credibility, one must now attack. This is the point at which we are now.
It’s not limited to local media types either. Take Buzz Bissinger’s appearance with Braylon Edwards and Will Leitch with Bob Costas. He is an old guard journalist and just now at the point where he feels he has to attack the medium, but he’s taking a more “in your face” approach:
“I think blogs are dedicated to cruelty; they’re dedicated to journalistic dishonesty. They’re dedicated to speed.” As if somehow dedicated to speed is different than rushing to a pay phone in the back of a hall somewhere to file a story before deadline. Speed is actually kind of the point here. Ten years ago, few people had cell phones. Now we can’t imagine life without them. 15 years ago I had a 2400 baud modem; today I have a 3MBS cable connection. I have a cell phone I surf the internet with, send email from, and on which I know exactly where I am on the planet. I don’t feel like waiting for the paperboy or the 11 O’Clock news to find information out.
“It [expletive] the [expletive] out of me. It is the complete dumbing down of our society.” I invite you, dear reader, to re-read that sentence and to please tell me what you see wrong with that sentence. It’s perfectly in context. To preface a complaint of the dumbing down of our society with a couple of expletives, and not even creative ones at that, is the true measure of a dumbing down.
To show his continued disdain, he refuses address Kissing Suzy Kolber blogger Big Daddy Drew by his user name; he couldn’t be bothered to learn the name, is the message. Also note, the lack of out and out vulgarity in this blog.
There’s no outrage from landscapers upon realizing a professional won’t be landscaping the yard when they drop a load of mulch. Sure, blogs aren’t written by professionals; this doesn’t mean that somehow they’re dishonest journalistically. No more than mulching my own yard is somehow dishonest or talking about the topic of the day around the watercooler.
The recording industry failed to take into account the paradigm shift that took place with the advent of peer-to-peer networking and with digital music distribution. Rather than harnessing the technology, embracing it and figuring out a new business model, the industry took the approach of suing their customers, further alienating them. In the meantime, a generation has now grown up getting music for free without any conception that they should pay for it. The industry and it’s various parts were, and truly still are, overly entrenched and that entrenchment has limited it’s vision.
Mass media suffers the same myopia. Fifteen years ago, newspapers had little to fear from the Internet. Broadcast outlets were the only show in town. Cutting jobs and contract buyouts would be unthinkable. These are not nimble industries. They are entrenched and entitled. They have no use for the new media. Shaughnessy and Bissinger are fighting for the what was in place when they started.
Sadly for them, it no longer exists, and if they choose to continue down this path, they will soon be the ones receiving contract buyouts and on the wrong end of a reduction in force.