Athens, GA (April 30, 2008) - In watching the video of last night's live anti-blog tirade by Friday Night Lights author H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger on Costas NOW, my jaw dropped. Here was the boarding-school raised, Ivy League educated, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist teeing off on Will Leitch of Deadspin with enough foul-mouth profanity that a sailor might even blush. The blogosphere was abuzz (sorry for the pun) with deep and vitriolic reaction to his behavior.
The sad thing is that many of his points were valid, but any validity was lost in his behaviour. And to add insult to injury (and make me think the whole thing was pre-scripted on the part of Bob Costas and Bissinger), the PR department at HBO sent out an email this afternoon saying the following:
Last night’s highly charged COSTAS NOW town hall meeting that explored the sports media landscape will replay this evening on HBO in case you would like to view it.
Much of what Bissinger said is correct, as Keith Thibault of the Sports Media Journal writes, for some blogs out there. However, the same thing could be said for print journalists as well. In a recent issue of Basketball Times, I found two huge errors of fact in columns written by print journalists. Where is the self-criticism in these cases?
As I have invited people before to read, I again invite readers to read my column in the February 2008 edition of the United States Basketball Writers Association "Tip-Off" publication that focuses on bridging the divide between sportswriters and bloggers.
Here is the bottom line. Any web site or blog that has to use scantily clad women and sensationalist headlines to draw readers is not worth the screen it is displayed on (so to speak). Any web site or blog that either uses profanity in their posts, or does not censor profanity in the comments is irresponsible at best. At the same time, public figures like Bissinger and Costas have an obligation to take a higher road. Otherwise they are no better than the targets of their criticism.
And finally I have a message for the Bissingers, Cowherds, and Wilbons out there. I turned 46 yesterday and I have been reading blogs for the better part of 5-6 years now. They have become essential tools in my work as an information technology consultant. So please don't call it a generational thing. You need to get off your high horses and join the conversation. Otherwise you will, if you have not already, become irrelevant. If you do not read what is being written, you will not know what your audience is thinking or wants. Braylon Edwards was the only honest person in the whole discussion last night in saying he does read what is being written, though he does not take it to heart.
Take a cue from Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star, who I have come to know as one of the more reasonable sportswriters when it comes to discussions of blogs. On his Kansas City Royals blog, he writes:
...I was also bothered by what appeared to be an ambush on Deadspin editor Will Leitch, where Costas and Buzz Bissinger were ripping Deadspin's readers posts like this was the reason blogs are killing society.
A lot of the comments at the bottom of online newspaper stories (including my favorite newspaper) are just as bad.
The fine people who run kansascity.com are making steps to improve that, and they're making progress, I just think it's unfair and dishonest to act like the only inappropriate, sexist, racist reader comments occur on blogs.