Don't buy what Cuban's smoking

Not long ago, we were talking with a professional sportswriter--a good one, with national name recognition--who didn't have any special, anti-blogger axe to grind.

Of course, we asked Writer X for his opinion anyway.

His experience was typical; he'll check blogs to monitor rumors and feels the pressure of an ever-faster news cycle. But Writer X was generally underwhelmed; a few times, he's checked into a blog's story of a pending trade or player news, only to learn it was just Internet hype or fiction. Meanwhile, when Writer X's slipped once or twice--as we all do--bloggers jumped all over him.

So we pressed him: Do these guys belong in the same locker room as you?

He didn’t think so. According to Writer X,

"Being a journalist is like being a doctor or a lawyer. It's a trade. You can go to school for it, you learn it, you get better over the years...I'm better now than I was 10 years ago, and hopefully I'll be better in 10 years still. These [bloggers]...they don't have that. They can write about [a proposed trade that was never discussed] and it doesn't matter."

It's a common opinion in the MSM, and Writer X expressed it more logically than most.

Too bad he's wrong. There's a reason citizen journalism is a reality and citizen surgery isn't.

True, the average piece of Washington Post political analysis is incredibly incisive, cogent, and clear-minded. Hundreds of WordPress posts on the same topic--nominally--don't come close.

But for a would-be writer with talent and drive, the learning curve from awful to OK isn't that steep; at the least, it's quicker than mastering laparoscopic surgery or understanding legal torts. Besides, plenty of reporters are awful writers and many columnists are annoyingly bombastic--it's just all ironed out by the newsroom, thanks to editors' rewrites and organizations' limits on what they can cover and argue.

Really, reporters only have three things that bloggers don't: Access, editors, and consequences.

But access--long the biggest barrier to legitimacy--isn't a problem in Dallas, thanks to Mark Cuban's decision to allow "all bloggers" to apply for Mavericks media credentials...regardless of age, affiliation, or experience.

Angry that his blogger ban was overruled, Cuban's clearly thumbing his nose by not establishing any ground rules--possibly hoping the policy will blow up.

Call us cynical, but it will. Access doesn't necessarily grant consequences, after all.

It won't go bad right away. But eventually, someone--with nothing to lose--will think he's making a name for himself by asking embarassing, inappropriate questions. Maybe he'll take and post pictures of players' body parts. Something bad. It probably won't be any blogger we've heard of, either, but someone who set up a blogspot address for the stunt appeal. And under Cuban's policy, only 30 seconds--the time it takes to register a free blog--separate any fan from the locker room.

Look, we need to be protected from ourselves. We've already demonstrated bad behavior, on a much smaller scale; after the experience below, do you think Sam Cassell is eager for more non-traditional interviews?

We love the Wizards but certainly don't expect credentials for WRG; the site's infrequently updated and has a small cadre of readers. Other bloggers don't want credentials, either; one Bright Side of the Sun poster just wants to keep writing in his pajamas, commenting on Phoenix without bias.

And we're not alone in responding cautiously. Over on Hardwood Paroxysm, Matt (and commenters) urge bloggers to self-select whether they have "something to offer" before applying for credentials, and to behave once they're issued.

We'd go farther in our advice for the rookie blogger who wants a press pass: Spend some time building a website and readership; write enough posts until you iron out the kinks. By the time you've earned an interview, you'll be a better blogger for it.

But unfortunately, "earning an interview" doesn't matter anymore.

Until today, it took talent, drive, and luck to get in that Mavericks locker room. Now, that's only true for the 15 players who actually work there.

Labels: , , ,

posted by Crucifictorious @ 15:03,


At March 28, 2008 at 6:38 PM, Anonymous Robbo said...

Sam Cassell is a good guy. Wow, what a jerk.

At March 29, 2008 at 4:05 AM, Blogger Truth About It said...

This says it all:
Really, reporters only have three things that bloggers don't: Access, editors, and consequences.

That d-bag with Cassell could learn some professionalism.

At March 29, 2008 at 8:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who was the reporter?

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