And in this corner … (A media battle for the ages)

May 2, 2008

Tyson and Holyfield can’t hold a candle to these guys.  All earlobes remained intact, but the fur was definitely flying as editor and writer Will Leitch squared off against author/journalist Buzz Bissinger on HBO’s “Costas Now.”

In the sport blogs v. mainstream media battle that ensued, Bissinger did not conceal his contempt for bloggers, like Leitch, and the Internet.  Simply put, Bissinger accused bloggers of dumbing down our society.

The author of “Friday Night Lights,” Bissinger threw all bloggers into the same pot of vulgar, profane, offensive, unethical, uncredentialed, dishonest, cruel, journalist-wannabes who, by the way, can’t write.  (Did I miss anything?) 

There are a few problems with that assessment.

First, I don’t think most bloggers are trying to pass themselves off as professional journalists.  They are simply finding their voice and making themselves heard.  The Internet enables them to do that, and more power to them.  (Note to Professor Sledzik:  I really did learn something from reading “The Cluetrain Manifesto.“)

Second, is what it is, which, to me anyway, is a gossipy, raunchier (especially because of the unfiltered comments), online sport version of the National Enquirer.  Deadspin’s banner describes itself:  “Sport News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion.”  It seems that Deadspin does enjoy humiliating celebrities, just as it seems the Enquirer does.  The point is, writing didn’t have to go online to become unprofessional or unethical.  

Bloggers are simply conversationalists. (I read that somewhere. I am far too new at this to come up with anything original.)  They enter the public arena with their opinions, however crass and grammatically incorrect.  But, hey, this is a democratic society, isn’t it?  Don’t we want all citizens to find their voices and get engaged in the debate, whatever the debate may be?  How does this harm journalists?  Maybe because they can no longer control the message?  (Again, thank you Cluetrain authors.)

I understand Bissinger wants to defend his profession against those who fail to maintain its integrity.  I feel the same way about public relations.  Both professions are plagued by people practicing without ethics, skill, professionalism or general regard for the truth.  Unfortunately for both journalism and public relations, you don’t need a license to drive, so to speak.  So it is difficult to enforce journalistic and PR codes of ethics.

But I have to agree with Huffington Post writer, Sarah Schorno, who wrote in a post entitled, “Bob Costas Just Doesn’t Get It,” that we should consider this an evolution of the media:  “Consider it media Darwinism.  The best writers will survive …”  Not everyone is a good writer, but most readers can recognize good writing.  

So, Mr. Bissinger, perhaps you can find some consolation in this:  All journalists can be bloggers, but not all bloggers can be journalists.        






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