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Raptors Radio Analyst: Eric Smith on Mainstream Media vs. Bloggers

Mainstream Media vs. Bloggers
April 7, 2:05 p.m.

Without any real “new” info on Chris Bosh (yet) I wasn’t sure which direction to go in today …

So let’s leave the Raptors and Celtics alone for a moment and take a look at an issue that always seems to generate discussion:

Mainstream Media vs. Bloggers

I have said this on the radio before and I have written about it as well … but I have had a lot of people asking me about “blogs” over the past few weeks, so let me weigh-in again.

An internet connection and an opinion can be a dangerous thing.

Being a “fan” of a certain sport or a certain team is fine. Wanting to write a blog or online diary about your love for that team/sport is great. But assuming that the mere presence of your words online should grant you the same access to games, players, and coaches that a legit member of the media has is another thing. Further to that, getting your voice out there – to the public – is your right … however … your readers must understand (and many times they don’t) that your information or expertise is little-more than an opinion that is based on what you see on TV, hear on the radio, or read in the paper as a “fan”. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with a “fan’s view”. But an opinion should be based on facts … and a blogger at home – without a press pass – often doesn’t have all of the facts. Talking to scouts, coaches, assistant coaches, players, general managers, assistant general managers, presidents, former players, employees within the organization, other writers and broadcasters from around the league, agents, players’ friends and family members, business reps, NBA staffers, etc ALL help to form an opinion or formulate a legit story.

Background. Research. Reliable sources. Contacts. Credibility! Many blogs could be questioned on some or all of those factors. And I didn’t even mention other keys like training, schooling, experience, and respect.

Some bloggers work at their craft much harder than others. Some take it more seriously than others. Some are former Journalism students who, unfortunately, couldn’t get their shot in the business. But many are fans that simply want an outlet for their “voice” to be heard. In those cases, facts are often overlooked or skewed – or they’re simply regurgitated from something that was already reported by a member of the “mainstream media”. And that’s where the line can get blurred for some folks — ’cause a less savvy reader may take the opinion of “Joe at home” with the same weight or importance of someone like (for example) Michael Grange, Doug Smith, or Paul Jones. And that’s not right.

Like it or not, “membership has its privileges” … and in this case … the privilege of being an accredited member of the media is that access to information, sources, and knowledge that Joe Fan doesn’t have.

Knowledge is power.

If you – as a reader – only care about checking out what everyone’s OPINION is … then jumping from bloggers to mainstream media guys is completely acceptable. It’s great to check out what everyone is saying about your favorite team or player, etc. However, if you’re reading blogs to get a game story or to look for breaking news, you’re not getting the full picture because, again, talking to the players, coaches, and so on before and after a game helps formulate how a story is written and it helps give credibility to what is written about why (or how) things did or didn’t happen in that game or practice or what not.

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A perfect example of everything I’ve just said might be Holly Mackenzie at The Score.

Most people first learned of Holly when she was a “blogger” with SLAM Magazine. However, calling her a “blogger” may not have been a true reflection of what her job entailed with SLAM. She was working for a legit company/magazine — not a domain that she set up on her own in her home. But more importantly, she had a group of peers working around her all of the time and … EDITORS. Like I said earlier, if a blogger (like Holly) is/was writing an opinion … all is good. But if facts were on the line, Holly had to answer to her editors at SLAM and have her sources and facts checked and re-checked.

Personally, I didn’t consider her a blogger. She was one of the lucky ones; she landed a job in the business. And I certainly don’t consider her a blogger now — given that her work at The Score brings her to every practice, every home game, and some games on the road as well. She’s plugged in. She has those sources – and that “knowledge” – now and I can all-but guarantee you that Holly would be the first to admit that the “access to information” that she now has as a member of the “mainstream media” has made her a BETTER writer and journalist. It hasn’t tainted her (some folks out there think the mainstream media doesn’t “tell it like it is”) or changed how she writes. I guarantee it has improved her writing and her appreciation for the intricacies of the job and the sport.

Again, given that Holly was already working for an industry-leader in SLAM, I really don’t put her in this theory I’m about to mention … but … this The’s “Sports Federation” is walking a fine line. On one hand, The Score is trying to stay ahead of the game (the industry) by using new media and social media to expand their coverage of certain sports. On the other hand, they’re giving their NAME – and what “The Score” stands for as one of the top all-sports networks in Canada – to a group of Joe Fan bloggers. Again, some of those bloggers are better and more “professional” than others, but is their new-found credibility legit, and should it put them on the same level as those that are writing or broadcasting for TSN, Sportsnet, The FAN 590, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, National Post, or Toronto Star?

In business there’s a line: “Buyer Beware” … and I think that could apply to this overall blog issue as well.

Have a good one.

E. Smith
Raptors Radio Analyst

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