Mar 20, 2009, 7:56:29 AM by Rufus Dawes - FAQ
My recent column about the state of Americaís newspapers and how their declining fortunes might impact coverage of the Chiefs resulted in a lot of emails which should be good news to the productís publishers. Still, the purge continues and our daily city newspaper recently trimmed more staff although the losses on the sports side seemed minimal compared to elsewhere at the paper. One could make the case that bodes well for the future and that the paperís fathers believe they know what side of the bread the butter is on, to coin a much overused phrase.
The queries coming from readers opened up the door as to the nature of our Information Age, how much sport is available to the general public, and if this is good for sport and the publicís understanding of it. It wasnít too long ago that baseballís Game of the Week was a major event in the media marketplace. You maybe got the NCAA (as well as the NIT) final or semi-final but that was it. College football was limited to one game on Saturday afternoon with the pros on Sunday Ė or at least one pro game. Newspapers carried in-depth game stories and magazines brought you long features on the gamesí stars. (Do you remember Sport magazine, old timers, or when Sports Illustratedís cover story wasnít about wife beaters or performance-enhancing drugs.)
With todayís proliferation of cable television and radio one has his pick of so many games in a plethora of sports and time zones. Nothing is too far away or too obscure to garner someoneís interest.
Just think how this site youíre reading has changed. How difficult it must be, I thought, to fill the pages of a web site for a seasonal sport every day of the year. And yet, it happens and the information is usually fresh and expanding with video and audio upgrades.
Just last year I was attending some event at the Sprint Center and I noticed former Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards in the crowd as he went to his seat in the lower concourse down near the floor. As he left the building and made his way up the long stairs he was obliged to stop, but not so much to sign autographs, but to have his photo taken with fans who all carried cell phones with cameras. In fact, autographs were in short supply as most of those asking wanted pictures, not words. We now live in a Facebook, YouTube world where images have taken on greater meaning than words.
Likewise, any event where a player or players of our favorite teams are present has the potential to show up on the Internet or even on the news that night provided the person who has the visuals and wants to share them, or perhaps wants the notoriety of having shared them.
But no change has been as far-reaching as the World Wide Web. For starters, it does give us more information even though Iím of the mind that the games and the people who played them actually were more meaningful when much of what happened lived in our imagination not in every detail as they were occurring. So much of what we get today is gossip and even harmful and it encourages people Ė an increasing number of media sad to say Ė to engage in a similar manner. Websites like NFL Talk now carry as much credibility with the public as a mainstream media site. On the other hand, the Internet has done much to save reputations as damage them. Various sites combined to dismiss and disprove allegations involving the Duke University lacrosse players who were accused of rape and also to discredit a major television network attempting to prove that President George W. Bush had received breaks for his military service in the Texas National Guard. In this sense, more information or at least the availability of new information helped to establish the truth.
The mainstream media have routinely focused on scandals or alleged wrong doing, but reporters and editors have always been much more restrained. That they are becoming less so is, to some extent, the result of the success of the bloggers of which they have become competitors, or have sought to become. The restraint they once felt to follow some sort of ethical or fair and balanced guidelines has been shed in recent months as the future of newspapers darkens. There are many different styles of journalism, but it seems to be morphing into one often distasteful mass. If there was a time when the New York Times wouldnít report something and the National Enquirer would, that moment is passing. The mainstream media now routinely cover the same stories as the tabloids and react in ways that they once dismissed as beneath them.
The blogosphere continues to grow rapidly, with people entering the online world daily. With so many different sites and so many new ones joining the ranks every day, the norms of the blogosphere are not stable ones. The boundary between the online and offline is blurring, and it is an important line to understand. Many people are using the blogosphere to simply gossip, make claims they canít prove, pass along wild rumors just as they would do in realspace. People who post blogs fire off whatever half-baked idea happens to be buzzing in their heads at a particular moment and proof is hardly a must for one to blog.
This is a world where there is no editor and no delay. Thereís little time to cool down before sounding off. Just fire off a couple of graphs, push the button and unleash your thoughts to the world. To know that mainstream media are now conducting their business in much the same way sends chills down the spines of old time newspapers people.
Cyberspace has become the new place to hang out and the newspaper bosses know that. Just as people now hear instant analysis on television and radio seconds after a game concludes, they can do so on the Internet as the games are being played. The pressure to fit in, which has generally meant to criticize, is to do what everyone else is doing, and that overrides any concern for the truth.