Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: Joseph Pulitzer (Author: unknown) and William Randolph Hearst (Author: J.E. Purdy)
In Part 1 of this tangent we looked at* the very nature of writing itself. And didn't find much there.
Which is good. That is the way it should be.
Before we go any further, however, let's proceed by taking one step back. Prior to point, it is important that we take a look, even if cursory, at the nature of the content; more specifically, the form - or type - of content written.
There are six forms of writing (IMO)** that, in regards to sports at least, can be provided a reader:
(in order of perceived frequency of publication by Mainstream Media)
1. editorial opinion and other speculative fictions
2. reporting of events and updates of same
3. access to subject of interest via interviews and other devices
4. historical and storyline narration
5. data and the analysis of data
6. unrepentant, usually semi-fictional, entertainment
Most of those are self-explanatory and I am fairly confident that there are only The Six (please note that I am not yet referencing quality; that is a discussion for a later time).
Most of these forms will have overlap. It is not uncommon for a game event to be have a preview, followed by the actual game coverage - with quotes - followed by a narrative article that includes much editorializing (usually in a season-to-date format).
Event reporting comes in at #2 simply because every event generates several other editorial/speculative articles leading into or coming out of the actual occurrence of the event.
The historical/narrative article is an interesting form in that it should - to properly qualify in the category - actually be a historical or narrative writing. A stricter reading of that would disqualify many an article.
Falling far behind the first four types of article are those that focus on a particular subject and use analytical tools in the process of doing so (#5) and those that are written purely for the purpose of entertaining the reader (#6).
Don't kid yourself; blogs follow many of the same tendencies as the MSM. The differences can be summed up neatly (still just looking at frequency):
Blogs will have far fewer 'access' articles
... because bloggers don't, generally, have access.
Blogs will have far more 'analysis' style articles
... because bloggers tend to have those skills (know many lawyers and 'numbers guys' who turn into journalists?)
Blogs will have more, and purer, historical narrative articles
... because bloggers have space to publish said articles.
Blogs will have more 'entertainment' style articles
... because bloggers face few or no repercussions for writing such articles.
A MSM and Blogosphere Rant
For when nothing but a rant will do...
Why is the reading of editorial content an exercise in journalistic manic depression? Reading Garrioch right after reading Duhatschek flips the stupid switch on so fast I self-concuss. The blogosphere isn't any better for the most part, but do bloggers have the cause or requirement to be? Perhaps 'yes'? Think hard.
Why is it every 'access' item reads so infected with team, player or writer bias that it takes an amazing amount of reading to actually read something worthwhile? Yes, I know that self-interest is the name of the game, but I am not asking that 'why' - take care of the independence issue and you take care of the rest of it.
Why is the MSM so focused on the event? That form of coverage is provided by everyone, instantly, so how special is it anymore? Answer: not at all. The one thing media does best is the one thing we need more of the least. Think harder. Ask honestly - why is the media so focused on the event?
Why is it that statistical (hard numbers) and solid legal analysis is almost solely the domain of the blogosphere? Why can't the MSM be more accurate in what they do report? Do their readers really care so little about accuracy? Do they even know what they are missing? Ah. The rub.
Why is it that I get more historical and storyline narrative out of Allan Mitchell (Lowetide) and Pat McLean (Black Dog Hates Skunks) and Bruce McCurdy (here) than I do out of almost any sports writer that I can think of? Who can actually write a story anymore? Does one have to be old (you know, like Allan and Pat and Bruce)?
Why is it that almost no one can write the good semi-fiction stuff? Don't get me wrong here - not a lot of writers, of any stripe, write in this category at all. Bill Simmons (ESPN Page 2) and Pat McLean (BDHS again) are the only two I know of who write in this category with any frequency. Is it that hard to do?
Past the Rant
Okay. Lets think a little more about some of these topics. A lot of crumbs throughout the article so lets see what we step on.
Note that I mentioned 'space' at one point in time. Media everywhere have been cutting back on everything - fewer writers writing fewer columns with fewer words. One would think this would encourage quality but... well... Garrioch. That's all.
Further, as has been noted, few are trained in numbers or legal work. Even if there are a fair number of court reporters out there, how many are competent enough to dissect legalese? Just a guess... far fewer... and too valuable to have sit on sports files.
(I am not condoning the MSM coverage of the Khabibulin summer btw - that was truly awful. And pathetic. Heck. What is worse than pathetic?)
MSM media do not have anonymity. They don't. Most bloggers do. I just revealed my actual name four years after I started blogging, and more than ten after I started posting on the internet.
(FTR - I may go back to YKOil; it just feels more natural to tell you the truth, but I won't hide my name again. Don't go thinking nobility btw... this is the internet, I couldn't even if I wanted to)
For writers who happen to be reporters, a great deal of energy is spent working leads and contacts and covering the actual events - whether it be the game or the press conference or whatever. How many hours in a day should they be working? Work is work after all.
Tacking back the other direction now - how much work do they do? We can tell by how often we see AP and CP that actual event coverage by individual press members is less than it ever was. We know that fewer press means a larger beat for those who are left, but does that excuse the lack of quality? Of course not.
(Going to cut it a bit short here*** but read what I wrote. Okay, one more, just for you, blogging is interactive)
Different writers have different strengths and different standards, and to expect every writer to be both a journalist and a reporter and a novelist is asking a bit much.
To give credit, can we not agree that some provisions are more a treat to be savoured than a meal to be expected? It is also true that, like anything great, we know it is out there and we all crave all the more.
Provision of the different forms is, then, the job of the Corporation.
But I thought you said that this was about the writer?
It still is.
* Did you see what I did there? Good. Ride your line as you may. With luck we will get a chance to discuss it one day.
** At some point in time I am sure you have thought to yourself: "that is just your opinion". To which I can only reply: "yes". My hope is that you have taken the step further and noted that ALL of it is just my opinion. I can also hope that you have engaged your thoughts on the matter and looked not just at difference but also at degree. Quibbles 'n Quips. I'm full already.
*** What??? Look, I don't want to dictate. I want to incite. THINK. To the extent that you are annoyed by the lack of disclosure, well, fair enough. For that I apologize. My hope is, rather, that you are nudged from the rut.
Have a great evening everyone.