As none of you probably know, I was a philosophy major in college (go Bulldogs). While I love sports I also love philosophy (and quite frankly I’m sick of dissecting stats), so let’s bring the two together for a little exercise I’m calling football philosophy (not to be confused with the awful Phil Simms pun of the
same name). Admittedly what is about to follow is only tangentially about football, but just pretend.
This could go really well or it could be a complete and utter disaster (let me know which, without feedback I am lost), either way it’s going to be interesting - or at least different.
“It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.” - John Steinbeck
I’m just going to put this out there, there’s a lot, and I mean a lot, of bad information being spread through what passes for journalism generally and professional sports journalism specifically.
When you’re facing a news cycle that never lets up, that gives no quarter or respite, often your only recourse to stay relevant is to produce opinionated tripe at a rapid rate (Skip Bayless being perhaps the most prolific and visible example of this). The people demand it, and we as writers are, after all, a
service to the people.
I would love to stand on a soap box and denounce this reality as the pestilence of our time (journalistically speaking of course), the disease festering under the rotting surface of our collective sports media dermis, but the reality is that this fuel on the fire driving us down our descent into collective ignorance is perpetuated and even necessitated by the insatiable need for information that has become a requirement of the modern age. It’s not an invention of the writer but rather a survival response in an ever changing market of mass consumption.
Newspapers are dying because instant gratification is no longer a desire, it’s become a right, an expectation bordering on pathology, and even a single day between news updates feels burdensome. Without constant newness we fail to feel informed, and without constant information an Internet writer
is dead; stay current or find another job, thoroughness and fact checking be damned.
Ultimately though the bond between a writer and his readership should be a sacred one, not to be denigrated or discarded. Without the reader the writer has no voice, he is akin to the tree that falls noiselessly in an empty forest, a mad man shouting at the wind, the exercise an end in itself, nothing
gained but frustration and disillusionment. Regardless of any virtue the writing might possess, without an audience it’s tantamount to a diary, valuable perhaps as self-reflection, but worthless to the world.
So it is that we must cater to the wants and predilections of our readership, beholden to the standards they allow and expect, rather than the quality they should demand. It’s a timing game, everyone fighting for the scoop, that extra call to verify a fact the potential difference between first billing and just
In the twitter age of instant news, expediency trumps integrity nearly every time; if you’re not first you’re as good as last. A story that’s 12 hours old might as well be a week. It’s been reported on multiple times, opinions have been formed and disseminated, and a new story has already taken its place. That doesn’t seem like a timetable that lends itself to the rigorous vetting of pertinent facts.
The real question is, do we care? Is it simply enough that we are entertained? Does the quality of the
information actually matter?
I am certainly not immune to this dilemma of content versus convenience. Even now I find myself hours past my deadline, fighting that inexorable internal struggle that tells me to simply put word to page, maintain the release schedule, content is secondary, page hits are king (I’ll be the first to admit I often
lose that battle).
While I’d love to see a world where sensationalist garbage is punished rather than rewarded, where sports media is more Pulitzer Prize than Daily Post, where celebrity gossip is an amusement not a religion, and where integrity and truth in news are valued over headlines and entertainment value, but I
am not naïve enough to believe that such a world is possible, the free market wants what it wants.
What I do believe is that in the right situation and with the right persuasion, a microcosm of that world can exist. There are still readers - and I number myself among them - who care about the important things, even if it means getting your news a day later.
PAY THIS MAN - integrity - wisdom - a bent for writing! LOVE THIS SHIT BEST AUTHORITY WRITER BAR NONE
Interesting read. I don't think it's necessarily an either/or proposition though. I, for one, have some sites/sources I go to for immediate gratification of up-to-date news, and others that I go to for more in-depth/quality coverage. And some sites are able to be both. I still get SI, because I still love the depth of the reporting and writing, even if the news is a few days old.
And hopefully, if news sources that are racing to be the first to break something screw up or provide crappy journalism, they ARE actually punished in the form of a loss of readership. I, for one, stopped reading little Bradley Wells and his child's blog for just that reason -- even though the one thing the blog does really well is provide up-to-date news on the team. Now I refuse to read anything on the site because I don't want to give him the page hits. But you're right, overall the immediate gratification element of our society has, at least in some ways, had a negative impact on the quality of journalism. That was made abundantly clear when multiple news networks screwed up the reporting of the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision because they wanted to be the first to announce the decision.
@zgs1288 To your point on BBS (which I cannot help but address), it's partly why I wanted to write this. It's no coincidence that the most sensational articles and absurd headlines get the most comment traffic. Sure most of the comments are in protest but it doesn't change the fact that people like to read them and commiserate over their anger, it plays on fundamental aspects of human psychology. Controversy is effective because it engages the reader, but in the end, controversy for the sake of controversy really benefits nobody.
To quote Thomas Perry (the novelist, not the Mormon) "Reading a novel in which all characters illustrate patience, hard work, chastity, and delayed gratification would be a pretty dull experience." Which I certainly understand, I just wish journalism was more about news and less about entertainment. People read and listen to more news than ever before and yet seem less informed than ever before. The source of the information has become part of the story instead of simply reporting it.
@Colt_Following "People read and listen to more news than ever before and yet seem less informed than ever before. The source of the information has become part of the story instead of simply reporting it."
couldn't agree more. and it also seems like the social media age has reduced everyone's attention span to the length of a tweet.
@zgs1288 I do hate the twitter-fication of modern reporting. I can't deny the value of the medium, information can be spread at a truly astounding rate (for better and for worse, unsubstantiated rumors spreading faster than ever before as well), but it's frustrating to feel like you HAVE to participate in it out of necessity. I suppose that's just life in the end, change happens when it happens, get on board or get left behind. I'm certainly not opposed to progress, I just wish we did it more responsibly sometimes.
@zgs1288 I'm not going to lie, I shoehorned this a bit. Sports is perhaps one of the few mediums where instant news is kind of okay, though that too has it's limits. Just look at the way the NFL lockout was handled, all the media outlets trying desperately to scoop each other, the end result was bad information and misunderstandings.
I'd also be lying if I said I am above the desire for instant news. I too follow all the usual suspects on twitter hoping to get up to the second information on organizational stuff, which I think is fine (as long as it's not just rumor mongering). I honestly feel bad for those guys though. I've heard Adam Schefter describe the thrill of being the first person to break a story and just how important it is, nobody credits the second guy. When you incentivise speed over accuracy you are bound to have mistakes.