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The MSM And Blogs: Why The War?

Those of you who aren't aware of Pulitzer-winning journalist Buzz Bissinger's complete and total freakout on Deadspin editor Will Leitch can get caught up to speed here, here and here. I don't want to waste a lot of your time with this one, but I do want to ask a question that has plagued man since he first learned the use of primitive tools: Where's the beef?

For the last couple of years, at least, there's been this shrill back-and-forth between members of the mainstream media (newspapers, television, etc.) and blogs. Bloggers regularly accuse sportswriters of being lazy and unwilling to embrace new ideas, and sportswriters in turn accuse bloggers of dumbing down everything and living in dank basements.

As someone who has a foot planted in both mediums, I'm inclined to see this as a dying empire clashing with a rambunctious up-and-comer. The newspaper business is slowly going to the way of the dinosaur, and the TV news business is increasingly guilty of the same sort of dumbing down that Bissinger venomously accused Leitch and others of doing. The bottom line is that many of these guys have been doing this for years, have perfected their craft and either cannot or will not accept that readers may want something different. Instead of attempting to change, however, many just fling out angry barbs at something they don't understand. It's neither constructive nor mature, and Bissinger's rant is a sad reminder that even the most highly-regarded professionals are often just angry children in disguise.

For my part, I don't really understand the venom. The smartest newspapers (such as the AJC) are blending newsy blogs with their coverage and increasingly looking toward the web, where this business is headed in a hurry. Bloggers and commenters who take every opportunity to e-mail nasty things to sportswriters who cross them aren't really helping, either, as the Bissingers of the world just get more ammunition for the next misguided artillery strike against the blogosphere. The best medium of all, in my humble opinion, is one that mixes the necessity of news and honest reporting with analysis, humor and the freedom to give opinions on matters that are important to us as sports fans. If those reporting refuse to move with that tide, the sportswriting business as we know it now will likely be extinct within ten years, replaced by some form of blogging or online media.

So I guess my own clarion call would be for everyone to relax, even if it's just a little. Nobody who implies that myself or my readers are sunless Gollums who take breaks from the Internet only to write Roger Goodell fan fiction is grounded in reality; similarly, nobody who thinks that all sportswriters are archaic dinosaurs who serve no useful purpose is reading them at all. What we could really use is a civil discussion on where this strange new world is headed and how best to get there.

It makes me a little sad to think we might not get it.