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Monday, December 15, 2008
This is news?Since when does ESPN run descriptions of short TMZ.com video clips as news stories? And if you're an ESPN reporter who breaks his or her butt calling sources and landing interviews, don't you feel a bit silly for not having thought about changing your beat to the valet line outside of fancy restaurants? Much easier gig, I'm guessing.
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 1:32pm
Thomas J. Comer said...
Posted 12/15 at 09:31 PM
I am surprised, actually. To begin with, I think we can agree that Barry Bonds’ assertion that he is not retired is of interest (to some), and is newsworthy. Thus, your complaint largely rests on the source of that information. And it surprises me that, as a user/advocate of one newly-emerging medium, you would be snobbish about another newly-emerging medium. Frankly, this post kind of sounds like the BBWAA members who sniff and turn their noses at blogs.
Posted 12/15 at 09:56 PM
Craig Calcaterra said...
Floyd—Actually, I won’t grant you the first point, partially because of the second.
Barry Bonds has long said he is not retired. Thus, unless and until he says something different, a reiteration of that point is not terribly newsworthy. Genralisimo Francisco Franco is still dead and all.
The context matters, though. Paparazzi sticks a camera in someone’s face and they say something. That’s fine. It’s a free country and all. But how much weight should we give that? What if Barry is seriously thinking of filing his retirement papers tomorrow? Is he going to decide to just jump the gun and announce it in the valet line? If he does, how do we know he’s not messing with us on the spur of the moment? Maybe, maybe not, but we don’t know, and part of the reason we don’t know is because it’s not a setting in which a followup question can be asked or demeanor all that accurately gauged.
But I also take issue with the accusation of snobbery. I think the medium of blogging is great. I think the medium of reporting is great. I think the medium of citizen photo journalists armed with cameras and no fear is great. In other words, it’s all good. The thing is, each medium has it’s strengths and weaknesses.
Traditional reporting, for all of its excesses, is still pretty damn good at getting the story. As I mentioned last week when Dugout Central jumped the gun on the Veterans Committee vote, the MSM checks and double checks, and while that sometimes makes them slow, it usually makes them accurate.
Blogging lends itself best to opinion writing. I don’t have sources and I wouldn’t know if someone feeding me a tip was feeding me baloney, but I’ll sure as hell tell you how I feel better than some balance-obsessed reporter.
Video journalists, paparazzi, TMZ, etc.: a picture tells a thousand words and a video may tell 100,000. Immediacy and visceralness (sure it’s a word) is the calling card of this medium. Sometimes the images are the whole story, sometimes they’re not, however, and there has to be some level of editorial voice on the scene lest we be misled or be shown only a partial truth.
How does this work in practice? Well, if the story is that Bonds got into a fistfight outside of a restaurant, I would hope and expect that the TMZs of the world would be on the scene and have the best story, because in that case, the best story would be photos. I’d credit (and link) that video way before some reporter’s take.
Let’s say Bonds’ legal team issues a 10,000 word defense of his career and attempts to refute the accusations of PED use. I would expect a blogger with both time and critical thinking on his side to tear that fucker to pieces, and I’d find that more valuable than that wire report talking about the release or video of Bonds’ lawyers making a canned statement about the document.
Finally, if we’re talking about an assertion of fact floating out there in the ether—Bonds has retained the great grandson of Clarence Darrow; Bonds is pleading guilty tomorrow; Bonds is announcing his retirement—I would expect that a reporter (or someone who exercises the level of care a reporter typically does) would be the person I’d turn to, because checking facts and sorting it from the baloney is what a reporter does best.
It’s not us against them. It’s not bloggers vs. MSM dudes. It’s not words against video. They’re all tools in the media’s toolkit, and they’re all essential to giving the fans and the public the full picture of what’s going on in the world.
In this case, I think ESPN relied on the flat side of a crescent wrench to do to pound in a nail. Rather than merely run a transcript of a TMZ video, they should have used it as the basis to ask Barry or his reps a couple of questions: is it true you’re still wanting to play? Have you talked to anyone? Have you been working out? Or other stuff that would render Barry’s assertion more or less believable depending on his answers. They didn’t do that, however, and I find that rather lazy.
Posted 12/15 at 10:21 PM
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