Monday, November 05, 2007

Above the Fold - Chris McCosky vs. Detroit bloggers

I debated over what I wanted to cover in the latest Above the Fold, as it was a monster weekend of football in Michigan. The Lions had their most impressive victory in years, slaughtering the Denver Broncos 44-7. There was also the Michigan - Michigan State battle for state superiority, a highly entertaining game that featured both teams losing big leads, along with a 4th quarter comeback by the Wolverines, giving U of M a 28-24 win.

But in the blogosphere, all that was overshadowed, thanks to a controversial column by Detroit News Pistons beat writer Chris McCosky, "Bloggers just aren't journalists." The column was nothing more than McCosky taking one potshot after another at the Detroit sports bloggers. It appears that he holds a huge grudge he against blogs in general, while condemning bloggers because they aren't trained "Journalists." Which is odd, as that's something bloggers never claimed to be in the first place.

What upset bloggers most about McCosky's tripe was the blatant lie that the bloggers were "Having a field day" spreading false rumors regarding Joel Zumaya's shoulder injury. In fact, not one Detroit blogger did anything of the sort. (In fact, as many bloggers pointed put, Lynn Henning, a News columnist, did say, in so many words, that "Questions were raised" because of the injury timeline)

Let alone there was his false claim that most bloggers don't give attribution to where they gather their info. I've NEVER seen a reputable blog take their own credit for information they get elsewhere, be it from another blog or, where they often do, the MSM...Including McCosky.

The column spread like wildfire throughout the Detroit blogosphere, and by Sunday afternoon, Deadspin, Baseball Primer, The Big Lead, Can't Stop the Bleeding, to name a few of the nationally focused blogs, had picked up on the story. But it's the sort of story that is nothing new to bloggers, just more of the same old crap coming from a different disgruntled MSM beat writer.

The first blogger to let everyone in the local blogosphere know about McCosky's lies was Bill of The Detroit Tigers Weblog, one of the most respected baseball bloggers around. Bilfer takes down McCoskey's rant point by point, ending with this...

If I had to pick my biggest beef with this whole article is that it is hypocritical. McCosky slams blogging as a whole, only cushioning it with the this isn’t true of everyone crap. And yet he doesn’t bother to provide any sort of guidance to the reader in terms of the good blogs, or the bad blogs. Or which bloggers were running rampant with the motorbike rumor. Instead he assigns that crap to all of us. Which is why I want to make it clear I’m not slamming the mainstream media. I’m slamming this piece of drivel written by McCosky.

D-Town Baseball joined the fray, making the great point that the MSM will "lash out in their columns in ways that, frankly, seem more appropriate for a blog than for even a journalistic opinion piece." That describes the offending column to a T. He does understand why the print media have issues with blogs, but they have no right to make such sweeping generalizations.

I would be equally annoyed if I felt threatened in my job but the key is to adapt rather than to attack. Most print publications are online where they do have to compete with a number of other outlets, blogs included. The public will gravitate to those with informed ideas and opinions without regard to how they were formed. For instance, I read and follow Lynn Hennings’ articles and chose not to follow Rob Parkers’ pieces. My reading includes a large number of journalists and an equally large number of bloggers that provide me with a wider-reaching and more informed opinions about all subjects baseball related, and sometimes not, than I have ever had.

Unfortunately, Mr. McCosky chose to attack an entire nation of bloggers using a shaky and unjustified rationale.

Brian of Tigerblog is more uptight, as all Tigers fans are, over Zumaya's shoulder, but considers McCosky's rant to be "Juvenile."

Chris McCosky must not have been able to come up with anything original to write today so he decided to bash bloggers. Bill handled the attack nicely so I recommend you read his column but it’s too bad because I actually like Chris McCosky and thinks he does a good job. To write something like this is a little juvenile. Yeah, you went to school to do what you do but a lot of bloggers don’t take themselves too seriously (i.e., they don’t come across as pompous asses), so to trash a group of people who are doing something for the love it and not to collect a paycheck is a little low. I’ll keep reading Chris but I view him in a whole new light.

One blogger I didn't realize was back to posting even semi-regularly is Jeff Moss of The Detroit Sports Rag. The DSR has issues with McCosky that goes back years. His post is an entertaining read, as Moss, never one to hold back his feelings, takes a flamethrower to McCosky's column, leaving nothing in his wake but scorched newsprint...

I could go on and on about all of the stories that OTHERS have broken about the team while he has been on the beat, but what do I know? I mean, I just took some journalism classes in college and didn't dedicate my life to writing boring and bland recaps of the latest Pistons-Timberwolves game.

Yes, I love it when "journalists" play this card that only they can report the news. Like they are fucking heart surgeons or something.

Hey Chris, in college I must have missed that journalism class on being a lapdog for team management.

Maybe the class was called "Take Whatever Joe Dumars and John Hammond Say As the Gospel and Spew It In My Paper 101."

And if you don't believe me that you are too close to the team you cover (being an insurance appraiser and not a journalist), maybe you would listen to the many fellow co-workers of yours who share the same damn opinion.

Oh yeah, I can give you a list of all the employees of the Detroit News and WDFN who have told me this privately.

Christy, a respected Red Wings blogger, chimes in at Behind the Jersey, taking exception to McCosky's stereotypical shot at blogger's wearing PJ's in the basement. Considering her schedule, I'd be insulted too...

Yeah, there are so many sports bloggers that sit in their PJs blogging all day making up rumors just to spite reporters. A majority of sports bloggers, I would say, have a job outside sports blogging to pay the bills or are a student, like myself. Unlike sports reporters whose sole purpose is to cover the team or sport at hand, most bloggers do this as a hobby. I take 18 hours of class every week. I work 15-40 hours per week depending on how many Wings games there are that week. I blog when I can. Yes, I do make some money from advertising, but we blog because we felt something was lacking in the coverage of the team and wanted to add our own opinion to the mix. I think the coverage provided by the top sports blogs is truly impressive since a lot of them do have other jobs and responsibilities, but are willing to spend the time and effort to write and analyze their team.

Natalie at Need 4 Sheed is the first of the Pistons bloggers to respond, and she's understandably offended by McCosky's unfounded claims...

I didn't start out doing what I'm doing to discredit anyone or steal their ideas, in fact I get complimented all the time about the websites creativity and what I have been doing with it the past two years. I believe myself to be a decent and honest person with high standards and that's the only thing I take offense to in McCosky's statements. Everything else comes across as if he feels threatened by us. Maybe someone has ruffled his feathers, but I know whatever he's accusing bloggers of, or me for that matter, he should point it out to us. Because throwing out veiled references just makes him look like he's pouting like a spoiled child.

It was interesting to read the viewpoint of bloggers who have been on the inside, getting the "Access" that McCosky finds so dear, that have journalistic training, and have worked as credentialed writers.

If you listened to Detroit sports talk radio anytime between 1995 and 2005, you'd recognize the name Gregg Henson. Though he's no longer broadcasting in Detroit (Which would be good fodder for a post at another time), Henson keeps a close eye on the local media, and has dealt with McCosky in the past while the PD and morning show host at WDFN. He takes issue with McCosky's column in his blog, thinking the column was "Insulting" to his readership.

Bloggers are simply people with something to offer; they create content that the audience finds valuable and/or entertaining.I think most journalists are smart, hard working and dead serious about their craft but let's face it, there are also a lot who are lazy, arrogant and have an agenda. Do you think there would be such interests in blogs if Journalists weren't seen as one-sided and lazy? I doubt it. In sports journalism there are way too many writers who are boot licker's, they fall for the team spin all the time or their access to the team is SHUT down!

Kurt of Mack Avenue Tigers is also a writer for a newspaper in Marquette, The Mining Journal. He's not just your run-of-the-mill blogger. Just to be sure about the rumormongering, Kurt did the research, and "I clicked on as many Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes links as I could find. No dirt bike." So much for our having a "Field day" with Zumaya's injury. Kurt also takes McCosky to task about bloggers "Reporting."

Chris says we don’t do reporting. Blatantly wrong. We may not report roster before they happen (wait, neither do the Detroit papers!) or player reactions, we still report information not found in your daily neswpaper. That’s fine. You know what a blog is suited for? Analysis. And the Fourth Estate has no shiny key unlocking the Great Tower of Analysis. Anyone who understands the sport and has the tools can do that. If they do it poorly, no one will read them. If they do it well, they’ll gain respect of readers and fellow bloggers. Online, the cream rises. That is not true of your daily newspaper.

Ian of Bless you Boys has journalistic training, also having covered the local pro teams as a credentialed member of the media. He knows more than any Detroit blogger how tough the job can be...

I'm not saying it's easy. To ask a sharp, probing question face to face, and risk an angry response that could affect everyone else trying to do his or her job in that clubhouse, can be a difficult situation to deal with. I've had Dmitri Young, post-rehab, tell me to my face that he wasn't talking. And I didn't push the issue because it wouldn't have mattered.

But Ian also points out why there are blogs to begin with, as he tells the MSM to look in the mirror.

That brings up the ugly truth about the sports blogosphere that the mainstream media doesn't want to acknowledge. They created us.

Fans are increasingly not getting what they want and need from the conventional outlets of newspaper, TV, or radio. So we, as readers and fans, are either going to seek out the kind of information that's more in line with our thinking, that gives us another way of looking at the game, or just create that material ourselves. Along the way, we might even find something that we hadn't previously considered, and that feeling of discovery is a refreshing bit of flavor among all the gruel we're consistently served these days. And if many other fans weren't beginning to feel that way, McCosky wouldn't have felt it necessary to explain that his job is more important than our hobby.

As you can see, bloggers have a "Circle the wagons" mentality when it comes to the MSM. If you read McCosky's offending column, that mentality is for good reason.

If you are going to rip on bloggers, you best have the facts to back it up. Because there no bigger self-policing group around than the bloggers themselves. You screw up on your blog by not giving proper credit, plagiarizing, misstating facts, or you just write something outright stupid? You will get called out on it by your readers (Who often know just as much, if not more so, than the blogger), and other bloggers.

McCosky is being treated exactly how a blogger would have been treated if they had written such an ill-informed post. He's been deservedly called out for what was a lazy, under researched, and stereotypical column full of lies and cheap shots.

That's Above the Fold for Monday, 11-5-07!

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