Blogging & Accountability In Sports Journalism

I was in the process of writing an article on Minnesota's fall from grace and its effect on the Wild culture but that can wait for another inevitable loss. Instead, please stand by for a post on sports media and accountability.


Yep, there's nothing on the Minnesota Wild or their prospects in this post (or another one later this week).

Earlier this evening all hell broke loose on Twitter and the Twin Cities blogosphere when Phil Mackey of ESPN1500 caused an uproar in a series of tweets. In them, Mackey stated that "sports bloggers want to be friends w/ players and think they can be GMs" and "I appreciate the work of some sports bloggers. But at times I think some of their platforms are too large in 2012. No accountability." He wasn't alone as other media personalities like Fox Sports North's Robby Imcmikoski chimed in as well.

While the message was directed at a few Minnesota Twins bloggers who have seen their influence grow in the last few years along with advanced stats, it can really apply to anyone who tries their hand in sports journalism. It's something that makes me think because I straddle the line where with one team I'm credentialed and with another I'm not.

Sports journalism is constantly evolving. From a half-dozen newspapers fighting over the same story in one city to competing radio stations to television to the internet, the media gatekeepers of yesteryear are not the same today. In an era where anyone can share their opinion in 140 characters or less or can, the lines are even more blurred. People have made money on sites that solely rumormonger.

I can see an argument there. It's impossible for anyone covering a team to make up or write anything without merit because they will be called out on it by the team's players and PR staff. Same goes with the company they represent. However, the issue with Mackey's statement is that as much as he's correct that anyone writing (whether credentialed with a team or not) needs to have accountability, at the end of the day a lot of that accountability with the viewers or readers come from having legitimacy.

And non-credentialed writers can get that. It's tough (the dirty little secret of blogging is that many times your best work is read by dozens of people) but over hard work and persistence it's more than possible to have a byline that people trust. It may not be as easy to get as a newspaper (which have been around for centuries) beat writer but it's a lot faster to lose.

Here at First Round Bust our goal is to cover a niche of a niche (the Minnesota Wild and prospects) that many overlook and provoke thoughts and entertain. Whether it's an interview with those who cover the Wild prospects, first-hand accounts or just random thoughts on the team, we're building credibility with you, the reader. Sometimes we do have new information and through doing this and other jobs Dan and I have networked and grown our lists of sources. We don't try to go break news - if anything, that's a pitfall of not being credentialed for a NHL team - but as new media takes over, others may take over (some of that is already being seen with Twitter).

At the same time, I am credentialed for the Gopher hockey team. I write the same and have written positively and negatively on the team as the situation sees fit. There are differences between the two - namely controlled access like having material prepared by the team and being able to ask questions and quotes (despite being an "outsider" on that end it doesn't deter what questions to ask) but there are more similarities.  Both the credentialed and non-credentialed media need to do their research and present facts and information in a way that does not misconstrue the situation.

With the proliferation of internet, companies like SB Nation (in full disclosure, I'm an assistant editor at their Minnesota regional site and a NCAA Hockey Featured Contributor at sbnation.com) and podcasts, that's becoming more possible. In some cases the lines are becoming blurred.  More internet writers have non-traditional sites yet more sources and reliable news than mainstream writers and mainstream television programs getting away from interviews and focusing on debates fit for a message board.

Hell, I have editors over at SB Nation -  there is accountability on that end for a large internet platform (many who are credentialed). They've earned it by building communities and embracing technology with blogging, comment sections, social media and now video. Few companies in the old media can state that; oddly one of the few who've combined old mediums with new is Mackey's employer 1500ESPN and he was able to make his points off the radio and on his own accord.

No one knows where the next 20 years will take us in sports journalism although it's hard to see us going back to the days where Sid Hartman both owned the Lakers and was a newspaper writer. My guess is that the internet and individual will continue to grow over large companies but it's just that, a guess.

One thing for sure is that I'm always disappointed to see this debate of accountability and blogging come up. It's disappointing to see mainstream media members fail to evolve (whether it's social media or the internet) and even more disappointing when they fail to acknowledge the good many of the big non-traditional sites have done because many in the community were inspired by those same mainstream media members. I know it takes time for acceptance and am not afraid of that but it's disappointing nonetheless.

Everyone in sports journalism needs to grow (and this includes First Round Bust - we always try to evolve and grow) and build their reputation and credibility on hard work across all mediums.

Regardless of where they work.

You're now returned to your regular First Round Bust programming...

2 comments:

  1. Hey Nate great article, as a fan, I like to read both what bloggers and journalists write. Both perspectives provide great information. Like Lavelle said, fans come out ahead in the end. Just started reading your site and really appreciate the work on the Wild's prospects, looking forward to seeing these guys in the Wild sweater in years to come keep up the good work!

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  2. Everybody who has an audience did something at some level to earn that audience. Bottom line. (Tho it is also true that some people/sites deserve a bigger audience than they have.)

    The old school gatekeepers know they are in a competitive fight too --don't think they don't. They know there are people who are doing a fair fraction of what they do for free or chump change, audiences are finding them, and it scares the bejebus out of the old school types for their future at making a livliehood (insert Mel Brooks doing his phoney-baloney jobs bit from Blazing Saddles). So smacking down the competition is part of the story too.

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