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A good reason why a lot of smart Americans are getting turned off by the media

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Alma, Aug 18, 2006.

  1. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Re: A good reason why a lot of smart Americans are getting turned off by the med

    I don't think Frau Mahler-Gropius-Werfel, aka Alma, would gather us here simply to dry-snipe Mr. Mariotti - it being too easy after all - and am saddened to see the thread take that predictable turn.

    This isn't just about Mr. Mariotti rattling the BB of his thesis in the empty tuna can of his skull - that's what he gets paid for. Nor is it about the quality of his writing, which is no better and no worse than most of what gets printed these days on the sports pages in our larger papers.

    Rather, I presume that Alma is trying to describe for us yet another step taken in newspapering's ever-accelerating race to the bottom.

    What has Alma's richly embroidered liederhosen in a bunch is the emptiness and cynicism of the very premise of the piece in question. Even taken as entertainment, this piece is perfectly dishonest in every respect.

    And taken in tandem with the TJ Simers thread last week - on which half of us posted thumbs up to his insider's shtick, and half thumbs down - we can see pretty clearly the phenomenon of which we're being warned here yet again. The dumbing down of thought; the ratcheting up of noise; and the contempt on the part of the writer for the possibility of sentient, if not always sophisticated, thought on the part of his own reader.

    This is a much bigger problem than whether or not Mr. Mariotti shaves his widow's peak for his appearances on ATH; or whether Mr. Simers is so tightly blindered by his own shtick that he can no longer see past it. Instead, that these men are at the top of their/our field raises for me this question: Is this the best we can do? Is this the best thinking and writing we can find to put in the paper? Are these the writers and the strategies we hold up for young writers to emulate?

    If so, as I said on the Simers thread, newspapers will get everything they deserve in the next few years.

    As to the grand jury and the Chronicle writers? It's the writers job to print leaked documents if doing so furthers an important story. It's the court's job to send them to jail, however briefly, for doing so.
  2. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member


    Thanks for narrowing in on the point. You've done better than I have.

    I should have linked another column to start this thread, say, the one by Gene W on ESPN, which said the same thing.

    What concerns me is watching reporters and columnists essentially become the Greek Chorus, idiots who sway with every twist of the plot. "I hate you....I love you!" "He stinks...he's great!" "This team's in the toilet...this team's just won it all!" "Oh the humanity...oh, what virtue!" I scan the Web and must find 20 Sports Hinderburgs every day. Max Mercy was a figure of scorn in "The Natural." We've got hundreds of them now.
  3. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Those papers will probably get exactly what they expect to--loyal readers who might not even pick up the newspaper but for sports, and those columnists specifically.

    Mariotti's paper knows its readership....they don't want eloquence or grace or sophisticated wit. They want a loud belligerent voice who can either piss people off, or rally them to riot. He accomplishes that, like it or not.

    We can wring hands over the screaming and histrionics...but the average Joe sports fan is barely picking up the paper as it is. You can look down on those readers, and say they not 'smart' enough to know what's good for them...if you're willing to concede their readership. I don't know of too many newspapers willing to do that at this point.
  4. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member


    And the average Iraqi Muslim feels trapped and angry, so Al-Jazeera shows Al-Qaida footage some late nights. Or replays of dead Lebanese bodies from Q'ana.

    It pisses a few off. It rallies others to blow themselves up. Until then, they're loyal viewership.
  5. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    You have to forgive me, but you've been gone a while and I'm out of practice....let me go bang my head against the wall for an hour or so, and get back to you. 8)
  6. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Re: A good reason why a lot of smart Americans are getting turned off by the med

    21 -

    You make my point for me.

    With Mariotti, Simers and several hundred other barkers, drumthumpers, thimbleriggers and their imitators writing this way for the last twenty years, this generation of sportswriters has presided over the near collapse of newspaper circulation.

    You look at Mariotti and say, "He's the reason half-a-million Chicagoans take the paper every day."

    I look at Mariotti and say, "He's the reason the other four-and-a-half million don't."

    The point Alma's trying to make this week, and I was trying to make last week, is that we put a lot of stuff in the newspaper that just isn't very good. It isn't good as journalism and it isn't good as art. It isn't even work done in good faith.

    As I said of Simers - it's not even "writing" in the way I understand that word. It's sports talk radio in printed form.

    The issue is not the small readership this kind of writing has managed to keep subscribing, but rather, how much better we might be doing if we had held ourselves to a higher standard. Again, that Mariotti or Simers or Albom or Lupica or a score of others often spoken of here are held up as the best and brightest, men at the top of their field, is a clear indication only of how low we've set our sights.

    The failure of newspapers is, in some measure then, our own failure to imagine them being better.

    As circulation plummets, you can't explain the success of other voices in other places - like Bill Simmons online - simply as a matter of new delivery systems. There are readers out there by the millions. But they're reading someone/something else because the newspaper no longer has anything to say to them.

    And until we're willing to understand our own complicity in the failure of the sports page as it now exists, we'll never be able to stop the bleeding. Nor do we deserve to.
  7. Nicely said, jg.

    It used to be, or at least my impression is that there was a time when newspapers were able to establish a certain tone of public discourse that improved the level of conversation on a given subject, but now it seems we fell we've been taken over by radio yakkers, bloggers and TV talkers to the point that, out of desperation to be heard, we've concluded the best thing to do is replicate them and maybe someone will read us again.

    Instead, those who do must be thinking, "Same old crap."

    Circling the drain, as it were.
  8. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    I can only speak from my own experience at my own papers. I would love to raise the level of discourse with my columns, but with rare exception here is how my columns evolve:

    Cover practice as assigned.
    Interview coach for 10 minutes after practice.
    Interview as many players as possible for 20 minutes after practice.
    Write feature or mainbar as assigned.
    Write notebook as assigned.
    Write a "leave-behind" column for two days later, because I'm off the next day or will have two more bylines the next day.

    I'm sure there are people who can gain insight, perspective and depth of thought and crank out three well-written bylines, including a column, but I'm not one of them. Not surprisingly, I'm getting lots of angry e-mails today because I wrote a column about the team's scrimmage, which was closed to the media, and in the column I basically said, "Don't look to me for any info. I didn't see it. I can tell you what they told me happened. That's it."

    That's what my paper -- and, sadly, my readership -- gets for asking me to bat out a column as almost an afterthought at the end of an eight-hour shift that included proofreading five pages and writing two main pieces.

    I'm fucking fed up with it, and if I could find anything else I'm qualified to do, I'd do it. I made seven requests for a one-on-one with the head coach over the last two weeks, and I'm still waiting. I'm thinking maybe I'd have had a better column if I'd been granted that access.

    Columnists who get to work on their columns and ideas and not have to proof pages and write news and notebooks? Guard your jobs with your lives, because those of us who have to wear a lot of hats would kill to have the kind of time you do to weigh in on the issues of the day.
  9. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    This is so far after the fact, and I really don't like Mariotti's style, and I really respect Alma, but as far as columns that are rip jobs to be rip jobs go, I don't think this golf example was that big of a deal. I mean, nobody would seriously be rooting for them, or expect them, to duke it out in the fairway, would they?

    I'm not saying that's not a big reason for concern in this business. I just didn't think this was as good of an example as others.
  10. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    People will have less need for opinion in their newspapers in general, I think, because it is so easily available anywhere and because, except at the best five or six papers, a layman's knowledge in the subject matter has been enough to qualify as a newspaper food critic, sports columnist, rock critic, book reviewer, etc. Our standards of expertise have not been especially high, and this is not a recent thing. But that isn't good enough anymore, not in an Internet world that has made instant contact with true specialists easily and cheaply accessible. Say you want to cook something -- are you going to go to the newspaper food section, where the editor may or may not have taken a few cooking classes, or are you going to visit the Web site of a famous chef? If you want to know about a new book, are you going to seek the insights of the local paper's Joe Rim Rat, who reviews the book in his spare time in exchange for a free copy of the book, or are you going to go to The New York Times, where freelance non-fiction reviewers usually have considerable expertise and academic credentials in the subject matter? If you want expert knowledge of the local NFL team, are you going to assign credence to someone who parachutes in sporadically, opining about baseball one day, college football the next, and then the NFL after having covered only one pro sport before becoming a general sports columnist? Are you going to rely on national NFL writers at ESPN.com, who can't be everywhere at once? Or are you going to seek out writers who are with that team every day?

    When the dust settles and consumers understand that opinion is available everywhere but informed insight isn't, we in the business will realize that the only advantage newspapers have over other media is the vast advertising support that enables us to outstaff every competing medium and beat them on local coverage. We have no advantage in being shrill, angry, cute, funny, sarcastic or opinionated because every other medium can be any or all of these things -- faster and cheaper. What they can't match is our depth of coverage because they can't afford a staff of that size. I am hoping we will see a reallocation of resources to hard-news coverage of local news, local business, local sports and local arts, and a reduction of resources to criticism and opinion. Also, I hope we will see newspapers stop allowing writers to dilute our advantage by freelancing for companies like ESPN.com. We need to start seeing national Web sites as competition, not as promoting our product. Imagine how much it would cost ESPN to hire a full bureau in every major city once we stop subsidizing their content.
  11. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Re: A good reason why a lot of smart Americans are getting turned off by the med

    Holy crap, this is a good thread. I'm going to have to re-boot my brain and see if I have anything worth even adding.

    But as Doc Holiday says in Tombstone when he walks in on one of the cowboys humping two nekkid ladies:

    "By all means, continue."
  12. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    OK, if this is an example of our lowered expectations ... and I tend to agree with Alma and jcmacg that it is ... do we HAVE any examples of what we can aspire to?

    Because if we don't have a launching pad, there's probably not going to be any flight.
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