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My USBWA Column on Battle Between Sportswriters and Bloggers

Thursday, January 31, 2008 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:00 AM, under

Athens, GA (Jan 31, 2008) - I would like to thank the editorial staff of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) for giving me space in their latest issue of "TipOff" for a 600 word or so guest column entitled "High time for bloggers, mainstream media to find common ground".

The back and forth between bloggers and traditional media is not new, and I have been personally involved in this type of argument more times than I care to remember. I do not want to provoke either side in this debate, but I will make one thing clear: just because someone has a blog does not make them a journalist, any more so than owning a scalpel would make them a surgeon. On the other had, just because someone has a by-line in the mainstream media, does not make them the world's greatest writers either.

If a blogger does not publicly post anything under his or her real name, and accept any consequences for what they have written or posted, they are not journalists. If they do not credit sources, they are potentially hurting others, without owning any responsibility.

Journalists who blast bloggers are not professional. Journalists who lift material from blogs without attribution are stealing ideas, and are not professional. Either party that launches personal attacks should suffer the consequences. And yes, Colin Cowherd should have been at least suspended for the "denial of service" attack on The Big Lead. That will be discussed later. In the meantime, here is the article as published in the current issue of USBWA's TIPOFF:

High time for bloggers, mainstream media to find common ground

A few years ago, when reading the news site of a global network, I was stunned to find out that a family member had not been killed in a Middle East bomb blast, "as had been reported earlier." If I had indeed seen the earlier article, you can bet your britches that phone calls would have been flying fast and furious to family members. Of course, one of those members would have ended up to him, sitting in his Washington, D.C., office, at the time of the blast.

This man shares an emotional feeling that many sportswriters have: he hates blogs. The reason he hates them are the same that I hear and read in different forms. Bloggers are not trained. They have no contacts. There is no accountability. Once an incorrect story is out there in the blogosphere, there is no way to correct it or pull it back. And the list goes on. Of course, it was not blogs reporting that he had been killed. It was the mainstream, trained media that did not even bother to find out if he was indeed out of country.

For many people who write blogs and do not fit the working media view that they are miscreants sitting in their underwear and eating Doritos while they write their thoughts, this type of gross error is of course very aggravating. It is even worse when the mainstream media totally misconstrues what a blogger has written or said for its own purposes. A perfect example of this is the October 2005 Forbes Magazine article, "Attack of the Blogs." While I should have been flattered to be mentioned in the article, I knew what the agenda of the author was. So when he had "interviewed" me under duress the previous spring, I demanded he do it by email. I did this because suspicion and mistrust cuts both ways, and I needed to protect myself by posting the entire, unedited interview online.

Yes, it is all about trust and people wanting what they consider to be unbiased, unfiltered information. They do not feel they can get it from the mainstream media, whether it is because the media outlet is owned by some corporate monster or the outlet is perceived as too close to an organization or person. There is also the feeling that the mainstream media cannot get basic information right. A perfect example is that for over a week, the college basketball standings on the ESPN web site listed Louisiana-Monroe as a member of the SEC West. It would be easy for you to say that it was a just a technical error and you should not be worried about it. It is time for a reality check. How about at the beginning of the current NCAA basketball season, when Georgia suspended three players for violation of academic policy? Instead of reporting that, the print and over-the-air media reported that they were suspended for missing classes. Guess where the correct reason was written?

Instead of looking at blogs and bloggers as the enemy and spitting at them with venom, perhaps it is time to sit down with them and talk.

Why not reach out in your community and have an open workshop or forum? Find out where there is actually some common ground and find out where the differences are. Instead of sending them emails, as one well-known sportswriter did, saying that "The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler's time on earth - I'm sure he would have eliminated all bloggers." When you stoop to this level, you are the one who is going to lose. The bloggers have nothing to lose, and you have everything. They will look for your mistakes and missteps. In the process, they will rip your reputation to shreds, reducing your credibility in their eyes, and the eyes of anybody who reads their writing and passes it on, even more.

The times are changing, and you are being forced to do much more with a lot less resources. You can choose to resist the changes and give yourself an ulcer. Or you can get on board and accept that the rules of the game are changing, like it or not.

Your thoughts, comments and questions are welcomed. If you would like to read more about my first hand battle with a print journalist, I invite you to read "On Why I Responded to A Forbes Interview Request" over on The Business Controls Caddy.

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