1. Slugger O'Toole said...

    Jason is right on as usual. I think that most of the newpaper writers will fail to adapt however. If you have become accostumed to the type of anaylsis and research done by writers such as Jason or THT staffers you probably have noticed just how lazy the beat writers and sports columnists have become in their approaches. They have the team access and connections within the sport so most ( though certainly not all) are content with grabbing a few quotes and putting their spin on the info. At a time when tools such as hittracker, pitch f/x and win shares are readily available the shallowness of mainstream media analysis is shocking.

  2. Grant said...

    Two things:

    1. What is it with baseball writers and bad chain restaurants? P.F. Changs? yeesh.

    2. Wooden – Past does not predict future in this case. Just because great sportswriters in the past have worked for newspapers does not mean the will in the future.

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    That’s a rather subjective standard, there, Wooden, as any name offered could be met by you saying “that guy isn’t great.”  Indeed, the concept of “greatness” is often entangled with longevity, and I’ll grant you that there aren’t many guys who have been writing for a long time who didn’t get their start in papers.

    But the notion of someone who “never worked on a newspaper” is a meaningless point, isn’t it? No one is really claiming that some sort of professional purity is required here (at least I’m not).  The idea (at least working off of Slugger’s comment) is that there are many people working outside of newspapers now who do great work, and that newspapers have been slow or in some cases totally unwilling to adapt to the new world.

    Posnanski is a newspaper guy, but he’s doing most of his best work outside of the KC Star now.  Marchman worked for a paper for a while but doesn’t now, and I think he does very very good work. Neyer never worked for a paper, nor have Keith Law, any of the Baseball Prospectus people, the stat analysts here on THT or Fangraphs, or half a dozen excellent bloggers I could name.

    “Great?” Eh, tough term, I’ll grant you. But I think it’s rather beside the point. I’d offer “vital” in return.

  4. YankeesfanLen said...

    I will agree with Jason and am sympathetic with Hal’s point of view.
    Now we have to bring up that old story about Ronald Reagan on WHO in Des Moines re-creating games from the newswires.  Bloggers can use this in a more modern way given the state of technology, and what readers want is:
    Insight, which Hal has great amounts of, and
    Interaction, allowing for a broad range of opinions to instantly appear to be debated by the stay-at-home fan (read:armchair quaterback). 
    Everything has its limits, though, and some have to be reigned in, LoHud sounds like a barroom brawl most of the time.

  5. Slugger O'Toole said...

    Craig, you hit the nail on the head. The analysis style may be a chicken and egg type of quandry. I love Posnanski’s writing on the web (I don’t know him as a newpaper writer very well). For some writers like him, it may be their newpaper editors rejecting analysis heavy articles, still, many others probably don’t understand or care much about the type of work people like Neyer and Law are doing. Ms Roberts is a perfect example, calling a best selling author a “fringe” writer because he never worked for SI. The death of her type of sports writing will not be mourned by me.

    Also, did Bill James work for a newpaper previous to his self-published (“stapled”) Abstracts?

  6. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Slugger—James has no journalism background that I know of. He was actually a night watchman at (I think) a Van Camps bean cannery or something and just sort of decided to do his abstracts on a DIY basis.

    I have a feeling that as the newspapers realize that print is dead and move into a primarilly web or kindle-based world, that minds will open up.  Because it’s not necessarily a fact that the people who run newspapers “don’t get it.”  It’s that the convention of manufacturing a large printed product every day dictates so much of what goes in the pages.  Word count and column inches matters a great deal because they have to fill up actual hard space in a predictable fashion.

    The result is that guys have been forced to write 750-1000 word columns even when the concepts contained therein only justify 200 words (that’s how you get the Plaschke-like one-sentence paragraph and all of the other fluff).

    Another result is that graphics have to be simple, so no tables like you’d see here.

    Another result is that you have to put a hard deadline on things and really only update once a day even though news happens all day long, much of it after deadlines.

    The tail wags the dog in the newspaper business. Once the reliance on the actual printing press is dispatched with, don’t be shocked to see newspapers—such as they are—leap forward, because they do have a lot of other things going for them.

  7. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    Emphasis was put on sportswriter for a reason, which I *knew* would escape folks, which is: A writer that can and does write about a variety of sports in whatever format is necessary: column, game story, feature, second-day, etc.

    These are the things that you learn while working at a newspaper (or a magazine, though I don’t know of too many magazine folks who didn’t cut their teeth elsewhere, like, um, a newspaper) and while it may not be tied to today’s medium, the simple fact of the matter is that you do not acquire those skills without formal training (in English, Journalism or Communications) and structure (read: editorial oversight)

    I’m not quibbling with the idea of bloggers doing excellent work and/or analysis in a given niche, which for us here is baseball. But calling them sportswriters is an insult to those who have done and those that are doing it, and it’ just plain ignorant of how hard that is to do and do well.

  8. bpasinko said...

    It’s taken a while for just on base% to become somewhat mainstream, I think it’ll be a while longer for pitch f/x and what have you to get bigger as well, obviously. 

    People that read THT certainly want that level of analysis, but I don’t know when, if ever even, that newspaper readers will want that.  A ‘sportswriter’ for the paper can still be great and tell me how the clubhouse culture has changed during the course of the season or something, but for my money nothing beats the analysis you can get on the web.

    Your conventional sportswriting is dying, but that doesn’t mean all of it is.  Maybe when everyone owns a kindle, the NYT can constantly update and break sports news and analysis on an ever changing front page throughout the day…but until that point I feel the people that read online will say it’s thriving and the people that primarily read the paper will claim it’s dying.

  9. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    I guess if you’ve never done actual sportswriting, you’re not in a position to understand what it is.

  10. bpasinko said...

    Nope, I’ve never done actual sportswriting…

    All the actual sportswriters that have been let go should create a blogging network, nobody could doubt their credibility.  You could have access to beat writers from every team all in one place, and it doesn’t just have to be baseball.

  11. Aaron Moreno said...

    I guess if you’ve never [blank], you’re not in a position to understand what it is.

    We’re channeling Joe Morgan now?

  12. chuck said...

    another case of not keeping up with the times.  he probably still sits in the press box with his manual typewriter and a half eaten cigar sticking out of his mouth, crying that today’s players can’t hold a candle to yesterday’s. 

    all of these newspapers are trying to catch up with the,, and yahoo.coms of the world.  each recognized a new and cutting edge revenue stream which to stay in business. 

    most newspapers failed to realize that their customers want and need the immediacy of the internet for their news.  they are reacting like they did when the latest invention the television burst onto the scene in 1950. this internet “fad” is obviously not going away.

  13. Michael said...

    Sportswriting in newspapers is dying (like the papers themselves). It’s also dying at SI, which has become a tabloid.

    Vive le Web. The Hardball Timeses and Baseball Prospectuses (Prospecti?) have smarts that would have prevented them from getting a newspaper job – thanks to the audience they’ve cultivated by treating their readers like adults, they even get part-time gigs at ESPN and NBC online.

    Note I said “thanks to the audience.” If it wasn’t for the increasing number of fans who turn to smarter writing, Peter Gammons would still be dismissing them as crazy math geeks.

  14. Sara K said...

    Wooden – I agree with your call for oversight.  One of the big problems with the designation “bloggers” is the idea that they are all equal, which they obviously are not. However, until there is an established internal standard against which they can be judged, credibility issues are going to plague the medium.  It would be a good thing, I think, if there were some kind of BBBAA with its own membership standards, its own HOF, etc. 

    I am curious about your other point, that there are a set of competencies that cannot be attained without training.  Perhaps you could offer a few examples of what a trained journalist would know/understand that an untrained person could not?

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