Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Case Study: Blog vs. Media

Lyle Richardson is a very good hockey blogger. His site Spector's Soapbox is a must read for me every day. He posts his daily musings on the comings and goings in the hockey world of the last 24 hours. Its usually very well written and very informative. He also frequently writes very good opinion pieces about hockey for foxsports. An archive of his foxsports writings can be found here. For completeness, I should also mention that he is also involved twice monthly in hockey chats that can be found at BroadcastMonsters.com which I must admit that I have never listened to. Experimentally, I also learned today that he is a patient man who answered several (likely annoying) emails that I sent him today to try to understand the situation that I am highlighting for this case study.

On Tuesday, my post More Tabloid Hockey Journalism highlighted one of his blog posts. It can be found on March 15th in his archives here. This morning, I first noticed his latest writing on the FoxSports website here. I quickly notice that they addressed the same topic. They both address how the hockey writers have been improperly using the words "scab" and "hypocrite" to garner emotional negative responces against the NHL players in lieu of facts in many articles. Since the FoxSports article did not have the other daily musings intertwined in it and since it wasn't buried in an archives list, I thought it might be better to edit my Tuesday post and give this link .. until I read it more closely. The topic was the same, but what was written was different.

In my opinion, the blog post is actually the stronger argument. The paragraph that I quoted in my Tuesday post (as the strongest one - at least to the point I thought he was making as it related to my point):
The only reason certain reporters bang this story like a gong is because it sells, it plays upon the emotions of angry hockey fans. Welcome to tabloid journalism, stories without substance, provided only to whip readers into a frenzy whilst devoid of facts.
is gone.

It was replaced by:
The reason for that, of course, is because it doesn't sell papers or generate ratings. Few, if anyone, in the media gave a damn about Europeans and minor leaguers losing jobs to washed-up NHL players in the past. But because this time around it's locked-out NHL talent still in their prime taking away those jobs, it makes for sexier headlines.

It makes the same basic point, but it loses the important accusation that this behavior by reported leads to tabloid journalism to whip fans into a frenzy without actually exposing them to facts. It still comes down against the media, but not as harshly. It seemed interesting to me that even one of the people in the media (although not with TSN or ESPN-type exposure) tones down his opinions when they are in the media. This is an example of what I am ranting about. For the readers of FoxSports, the strongest backing of Lyle Richardson's opinions does not see the light of day. They have less exposure to anything that is not in the corporate mainstream.

I exchanged several emails with Lyle today asking about this situation - and he was kind enough to answer - despite the fact I am sure to have been annoying. I learned that he wrote the FoxSports article on Monday night. The topic is one that he felt was important, so he commented further about it in his Tuesday's musings on his blog. On Wednesday, he sent the article to FoxSports. He feels that he can be "rawer" on his blog. He sometimes has to tone down the language for FoxSports and can be more uncensored on his blog.

Clearly, this is a minor example compared to what goes into an article for the mainstream media. I'm sure it gets far more complicated for the more "important" journalists who have more well-established relationships with more of the people on whom they are reporting and have much deeper relationships with their employer. The ways this can influence their opinions and what is written and the way the expectations on them influences what is written, is probably quite complex and quite interesting.

Finally, a note to Lyle Richardson. Thank you for patiently answering my emails. And please object if you think what I have written is not accurate.

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