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Utne: Does sports journalism suck?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Michelle Hiskey, Apr 15, 2008.

  1. That's the lead of this piece on the Utne Reader website:


  2. Clever username

    Clever username Active Member

  3. Stone Cane

    Stone Cane Member

    michael rowe

    condescending arrogant fucking haverford prick

    i don't disagree with everything he says, but what an unlikable elitist douchebag the way he wrote it
  4. gingerbread

    gingerbread Well-Known Member

    I began gritting my teeth at this sentence:
    "Sportswriters don’t deny me this material outright. It’s simply the case that I have to wade through creeping sludge—predictable opinion, endless stats, finance-obsessed business news, empty profiles, and repetitive analysis—to read the kind of investigative and narrative reportage that appears sometimes in, say, Play, the New York Times’ prestige sports magazine. Nevermind that Play is a quarterly—an island in a sea of dead, beaten horses."

    It's ridiculous to compare Play, a magazine with unlimited resources, a magazine in which the reporters and editors have months to prepare a story, with everyday sportswriting. It's ridiculous to compare bloggers who, according to this writer, "bow down at the altar of each others’ opinions, which typically concern the bureaucratic minutiae of draft choices, business rumors, and team finances," to everyday sportwriting.
    Just once -- just once -- I'd like to see someone who knows what it's like to get their hands dirty write about this so-called death of sportswriting. Someone who has dealt with the grind of a beat, who files coherent earlies, running and subs on deadline, who daily has to navigate locker rooms and press rooms, who doesn't wilt when the desk is screaming for copy because they have five minutes to get off the floor, who the next day can shrug off smart aleck rips by bloggers and inane, borderline-libelous anonymous posts by readers and do it all again.
    Until then, spare me.
  5. Stone Cane

    Stone Cane Member

    thanks, ginger ... well said

    i was too angry to put together anything coherent
  6. gingerbread

    gingerbread Well-Known Member

    This subject brings out my inner bitchiness.
  7. jfs1000

    jfs1000 Member

    Agree some with the premise, but once again, it's focusing on national writers and national stories.

    ESPN isn't sports journalism. ESPN is certainly not ground zero for sports writing. I am sick of people taking what ESPN does and assuming that is what every writer aspires to be. I aspire for the paycheck, not the forum. I don't think the ESPN format allows your talent to breathe. But, i would do it for the right price.

    Edit: Too much generalization. Maybe instead of railing against sports journalists he should shut off espn and actually read some non-espn copy.
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I think it's fine in the context of who they're writing for. It's a magazine I wanted to like for a bunch of years, but at some point I realized I was reading one or two stories per issue and the rest of it bored me, so I finally gave up unless there's an especially interesting cover. It's sort of like when my wife joined the Green Party. She liked what they stood for, but after getting to know them, she decided she'd much rather admire them from afar, very afar. This is meant for a smug audience that probably eats a lot of fiber but still usually looks like it hasn't taken a good dump in a week and is a bit peeved about it, if you know what I mean.

    What's somewhat ironic is that the Utne Reader was basically a true weblog before there was a Web. It rounded up "the best of the alternative press" and cherry-picked what it thought was interesting from other people's work instead of doing the work itself. It gathered the navel-gazing and general bitchiness in one spot for people who like that kind of thing, thus pumping up the volume, which is what it seems to be criticizing here.

    I agree with some of it, though. Most of the opinion I read about sports doesn't do anything for me. There's too much of it, everywhere, and I've spent three decades watching how the sausage gets made, so I don't get much of a kick out of the yadda-yadda-yadda local-team-blows yadda-yadda-yadda. It's not the fault of the people writing it, it's the fault of the news executives who think it's the best way to fill a product. I think it starts to play itself out in five years or so.
  9. All of the stuff he talks about in his lede is the stuff I hate writing about. But every day, I have to feed the beast. Which means emptying the notebook, slapping together player features out of whole cloth, etc., etc. On a lot of days, I hate it. It feels completely superficial.

    But I don't know what the alternative is. Fans have an insatiable appetite for this stuff nowadays. It's one reason I kind of want out of newspapers/daily journalism. Just not enough time to do more. And it's not a matter of "making time," or "making something interesting out of nothing," so spare me that lecture. I have made the time, quite often. And quite often, the logistics of beat coverage, because of all sorts of circumstances, force you to just crank, crank, crank.

    But at some point, you begin to lose interest in the mundane. At least I do. Some people love it - the daily challenge. But it often feels like you're writing the same story again and again and again. Just dropping in new names, new people telling you that they, "Just want to help the team win."

    It doesn't surprise me that readers tire of it, too.

    I don't think it's an indictment of sports writers, though. Or shouldn't be. More of an indictment of the system. Again, I don't know that there's an alternative - other than having more writers to distribute the work into more manageable bites.

    Hey, stop laughing.

    EDIT: Just finished the piece. I thought it made some good points, though he fell short in acknowledging that there actually is a ton of that out there - just look at how tough it is to place in APSE each year. Look at the recent Ann Arbor News series. Sports Illustrated regularly runs features about pigeon racing or Mexican high school cross country teams or Amish basketball coaches. The stuff he's looking for is definitely out there. And it's interesting that he compares this to celebrity journalism, because I recall once, while contemplating a switch to news, saying, "It just feels like I'm doing celebrity journalism a lot of days!" I particularly felt that way once when I covered the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
  10. Simon_Cowbell

    Simon_Cowbell Active Member

    Any tonic for that, gin?
  11. Twoback

    Twoback Active Member

    Does sports journalism suck?
    Not as much as this piece does.
  12. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    He's an intern with no experience in the business he's writing about.

    He's a guy walking out of the movies, standing in line at the urinal, talking about what he just saw.

    He wanted the movie to be great all the time. He wants every movie to be great all the time. He doesn't like wasting his time seeing bad movies, but he loves telling you how bad they are. He'd like to direct movies someday.

    He's writing the same story that gets written every year ever since Alan Richman wrote his "Death of Sportswriting" story in Esquire after he left sportswriting to write about eating food. He doesn't know this.

    He got a byline.

    Now he can send out his resume.

    I want the Utne Reader to be great all the time.

    It's not.
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