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Wilbon: "There's not as much good [sportswriting] as there used to be."

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Double Down, Nov 28, 2012.

  1. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I think this is worthy of discussion. I disagree with great intensity, but I value Wilbon's opinion, experience and his wisdom. I know he had his thing with Dan Steinberg awhile back, and that was a little uncomfortable, but I think most people agree Wilbon is a very nice guy, very kind. So I don't want this to seem personal.


    Is he right? Is is out-of-touch? Unwilling to acknowledge -- or unaware of its existence -- a lot of the great stuff that exists from a younger generation of writers?

    I'll cede the floor before sharing some thoughts.
  2. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    Old Man Thinks Things Were Better Back In His Day.

    YGBFKM Guest

    I think it's interesting in an age when writers have multiple platforms to make a name for themselves and spread their brand that their names don't mean nearly as much as those of the well-known writers of the past. More exposure has meant less respect, IMO.
  4. Too late, Mike.

    Not sure how much of a discussion there is here... It's old guy lamenting the good old days.

    There's lots of great writing out there. And great writers.
  5. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    That is the inescapable and entirely correct first impression, yes.

    I don't know how he would come across that opinion by editing BASW. How many BASW stories come from press row and are affected by beat writers having to tweet? I'm going to say that number is pretty close to zero. So he may have had something to say about the industry as a whole and picked whatever forum he had to do it.

    I do think writing has become less stylized. We hear it all the time, and people say it on here -- get out of the way of the story. It "writes itself." The writers he mentioned, none of them were too much about letting the story write itself.
  6. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    Wilbon could be entirely right and wrong simultaneously. After all, the issue is "what kind of sportswriting is Wilbon reading to make such a statement?" And the answer almost certainly is the kind of big metro newspapers he's been reading all his life, plus Sports Illustrated and probably out of duty ESPN.com. And I believe there is little doubt that the quality of writing in big metro sections has declined since, hell, 2000, let alone 30 years ago, as collateral damage to their overall shrinkage in space and personnel.
    That doesn't mean there aren't as many good writers as there were before -- just that they're in different places than Wilbon was looking. Which is not his fault. There are literally too many places to look to find 'em without luck.
  7. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    He's completely wrong. Embarrassingly wrong.

    Not only is sports writing better today, there is also infinitely more variety. You still have your S.L. Prices writing takeouts and Austin Murphys penning a great game story. But you also have essayists over at Grantland making 3,000 thought-provoking words read like 750. And sites like Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus helping us see the game in new ways. And magazines like The Atlantic and The New Yorker providing serious sports coverage - not just Roger Angell waxing poetic.

    This is a golden age.
  8. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I don't see how he could be wrong.

    Obviously, there is a lot of great stuff out there, but there's just less of it. But how many newspapers still put an emphasis on features or enterprise, the kind of stuff that would typically merit BASW attention?

    You have ESPN.com and The Magazine and the SI and CBS Sports and Yahoo! and Grantland, etc... I was on vacation a few weeks back and the local paper (a very well-respected one) was delivered to the hotel every morning and there was nothing resembling a feature story for eight days.
  9. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    He's not saying there isn't great sportswriting anymore. He's saying there isn't as much.

    When newspapers and magazines have reduced staffs by roughly 30-40 percent over the last five or so years how can there be as much great writing as there was in the late 1990s and early 2000s when most staffs were doing everything they could to get bigger and better.
  10. poindexter

    poindexter Well-Known Member

    Don't think Mike Wilbon is looking to see the game in new ways.
  11. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    I'm going out on the lawn with Wilbon, and bringing my rolled-up newspaper...the one with almost no writing in it, because my favorite columnists received their buyouts or got laid off or took their talents and vacated to Bristol.

    I get his point completely. I don't hear him saying today's work isn't as good, just that there's not as much of it to choose from. Is there a lot of great writing out there? Sure. But the inevitable result of slashed budgets and slashed travel and slashed space and slashed staffs is obvious: slashed quality and quantity.

    I know the age range on this site skews a little young, but I'll wager if you're around around 50ish, if you came up through the ranks in the 80s when sports columnists were freakin rock stars, you probably relate to Wilbon's perspective.
  12. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    What percentage of newspapers routinely produced truly great sports writing in 1985?
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