Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Dumb and Damien

17

The Score takes a look at the “battle” between NHL reporters and bloggers. Its a fun piece, mostly because the bloggers come across so well and because Damien Cox comes across as such a doofus.

Here is what Damien had to say about Tyler’s Colin Campbell scoop:

Should we not ask them for comment and to explain? Is it possible that what somebody is saying about Colin Campbell may not exactly be the truth? If you are a person who wants to do that, all of a sudden you are protecting people. All of a sudden you are not being tough enough. And I just think that’s unfair. And I understand that’s part of what people who consider themselves outside the mainstream media want to portray themselves as tougher, nastier. I understand that that’s what they want to do, um, and to do it they try to tear down other people. And quite frankly that’s a waste of everybody’s time.

Tyler really didn’t say anything terrible about Colin Campbell. Colin Campbell wrote some emails that made him look really bad. All Tyler did was dig them up and publish them. Nobody thinks it is a bad thing to call Campbell and ask him for an explanation even though the emails speak for themselves. If Tyler had Campbell’s number, he might have done just that.

But it is a bad thing if a reporter does call Campbell, hears a weak explanation, and then decides there is no story. That is protecting Campbell because Dellow’s discovery is still a legitimate story even after hearing Campbell’s explanations. Damien Cox might accept those explanations because he knows Colin is a great guy, but most fans don’t accept them.

I’m happy to tear people like Damien Cox down because I think the mainstream media serves the sports fan very poorly. Why did the Star blow this email story? Why did Eagleson get away with his crimes for so long? Why did Gary Bettman’s lockout get coverage that could not have been more favourable if he had written it himself? Why did it take so long for the steroid scandal to explode in baseball? Are sports reporters incompetent or do they deliberately look the other way?

On bloggers being fans, Cox said this:

The basic tenet of sports journalism as long as I’ve been in it is “No cheering in the press box.” And some places literally have signs “No cheering in the press box.” If your primary function is to cheer for the team then you belong in the stands with the fan.

This is the basic tenet of sports journalism? No wonder sports journalism is such an oxymoron. First, bloggers are not in the press box. Second, bloggers are not journalists. Third, this is basically irrelevant. Who cares whether the reporter hopes the home side does well or not? What is the concern? That a reporter who is a fan will be too kind to the local heroes?

Bloggers are generally far harder on the home team than the so called objective media. Tyler Dellow is a big Oiler’s fan, but he has been as critical of Kevin Lowe as I have, and far more critical than anyone being paid to cover the team. Jim Matheson may not cheer in the press box, but he sure delivers a positive spin on everything Oiler management does.

Finally, I would not believe Cox if he declared that he did not care whether the Leafs win or lose. He may not cheer in the pressbox, but a good Leaf team would increase interest in the stories Cox writes and his job is a lot easier and a lot more pleasant when the team he covers does well. If he doesn’t want the Leafs to win, he’s nuts. Why is admitting this a violation of the principle tenet of sports journalism?

Here’s Cox on blogger responsibility and anonymity:

Part of what concerns me about what I see is that there is an irresponsibility and no consequences. I can say whatever I want about anybody and I don’t even have to put my name on it. I can’t see how that’s good.

I am very tired of this sort of unfounded accusation: I want a specific example of blogger irresponsibility. If Cox can’t produce any examples, why does it concern him? It wasn’t a blogger who declared Pat Burns was dead several weeks before he actually died. Were there consequences for that Damien Cox blunder?

That’s something I do hear from people who are bloggers as though what they’ve identified as the mainstream media, um, that somehow they want to suggest that these are all people who have been bought, who are protecting the establishment and are not to be trusted. That’s their schtick and I get it. And to the same extent they feel like they are outsiders and therefore they are the only honest people in the business.

The mainstream media markets the NHL and the NHL narratives. The league needs the media and the media needs the league. Surely there is no disputing this alignment of interests. Maybe Damien can ignore it, but I can’t pretend it does not affect the coverage.

On the idea that Damien Cox – and every other writer – has biases and an agenda:

When somebody says, like that guy [Tyler Dellow], something that is so ignorant and so misinformed and quite frankly so beneath anybody whose been in the business… to even respond to it… all I can really do is laugh.

An obvious truth is ignorant and misinformed? Is Cox stupid or is he being disingenuous?

I bet stupid.

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Comments

17 Responses to “Dumb and Damien”
  1. James Mirtle says:

    I cover the Leafs and really, truly don’t give a hoot if they win or not. Maybe that makes me nuts, but hopefully it means you can do your job properly and with some integrity.

    I’ve had several people suggest to me Tyler should have contacted the NHL for comment on this, but it’s not hard to envision what their response would be. Or lack of response.

  2. Tom says:

    I cover the Leafs and really, truly don’t give a hoot if they win or not. Maybe that makes me nuts, but hopefully it means you can do your job properly and with some integrity.

    I don’t think it makes any difference to your job performance.

    I believe you when you say that you have zero emotional attachment to the Leafs, but you do have a professional one. You don’t care if readership zooms? If the people you cover (and your audience) become more pleasant to deal with? If interesting stories are easier to find? I’m not doing this for a living, but I would much, much rather cover a winner than a loser in any sport. I don’t understand why you would see it differently.

    I can’t speak for Tyler, but I’ve tried to contact the NHL on a number of issues. I never get a response.

    BTW, I thought you came across really well on TV.

    • James Mirtle says:

      Tom, you’re talking about actively wanting a team to win so our job is easier, but people in the media aren’t all on the look out for something “easy” to do. That’s not the goal here.

      I’d much, much rather cover the team fairly, accurately and gain respect from the audience, etc., than deal with pleasant people.

      It doesn’t matter what the story is. That’s not up to me. All I can do is write about it.

      • IAmJoe says:

        In your case being in Toronto, this isn’t an issue, but I would wonder if it wouldn’t be more so in areas where NHL teams are endangered species. If you’re the Phoenix Coyotes’ beat writer, aren’t you obligated to want the team to do well just so you continue to have a job? I think that’s more likely than “I want a more interesting team to follow.”

      • Tom says:

        Tom, you’re talking about actively wanting a team to win so our job is easier, but people in the media aren’t all on the look out for something “easy” to do. That’s not the goal here.

        Easy is the least of it. I don’t think that’s the goal either, but objectively speaking, it is better for you if the Leafs win. You will have more readers, and the readers – and your boss – will enjoy your work more. The Globe will sell more papers. Management and players will be more accessible. Your work environment will be more pleasant and there will be less conflict with everybody.

        Who doesn’t want that in their job?

        I’d much, much rather cover the team fairly, accurately and gain respect from the audience, etc., than deal with pleasant people.

        This isn’t the choice. I accept that covering the team fairly and accurately and gaining the respect from the audience is your most important goal, but that has nothing to do with whether the Leafs win or not. I’m saying that it is a lot more fun and more lucrative to cover a contending team fairly and accurately than it is to cover a losing team fairly and accurately. Why would you not prefer that the home team win? Its better for you in every respect.

        This “no cheering in the pressbox” rule seems like so much meaningless window dressing to me. Whether the reporter cheers has zero impact on the Leafs. It also has zero impact on whether the reporting is fair and accurate. Finally, it doesn’t change the fact that covering a contender is better than covering a loser every day of the week.

        • James Mirtle says:

          All of that’s fair, but if we’re going to talk about what’s what, I don’t get the sense the guys covering the team care if the Leafs are terrible or great or anywhere in between. We’ll all be covering the playoffs, in other cities, if they don’t make it.

          These things are supposed to go in cycles, anyway. (Even if they’re not, lately, in Toronto.)

          You’re right about the “no cheering” rule being irrelevant to the main discussion though. There’s great work being done by fans online and I think it’s terrific there are so many choices for readers now. If someone never wanted to read MSM again, they could pull it off.

          • Tom says:

            All of that’s fair, but if we’re going to talk about what’s what, I don’t get the sense the guys covering the team care if the Leafs are terrible or great or anywhere in between.

            As Damien said, it is a principle tenet of the business, the cultural and social norm among reporters. Not caring is almost a job requirement. It is a tenet that is designed to present the pretence of objectivity even when it doesn’t work.

            It is a meaningless gesture presenting faux objectivity because the reporter’s interest obviously align with the team in this respect and everybody knows it. A Stanley Cup in Toronto? If it happens, it will surely be one of the most memorable couple of months of your career, your life. Convincing people you wouldn’t like to see that happen is a very tough sell. Even if it is true – and I believe you – it doesn’t ring true. Why on earth don’t you want that to happen? Its incredible that you don’t care whether it happens or not.

            I thought Jim Robson took a really healthy attitude toward the conflict. He said something like this years ago: “Of course I preferred it when the Canucks were competitive for many reasons. I couldn’t help but form emotional attachments to the teams I covered, but I could do my best to ensure my biases did not affect my work. I probably got carried away a few times during the Stanley Cup runs, but I think for the most part I called Canuck games the same way I called Toronto games or Montreal games.”

            Why is that attitude unacceptable in the press box?

          • James Mirtle says:

            A Stanley Cup in Toronto? If it happens, it will surely be one of the most memorable couple of months of your career, your life. Convincing people you wouldn’t like to see that happen is a very tough sell.

            Sort of like discussing how the appearance of a unicorn would be good for my career given the likelihood of either happening in the near term…

        • Gerald says:

          Tom, i don’t necessarily agree that a winning team is overall a preferable environment for a writer covering a team. It does affect the mood of the people they are dealing with, just out of human nature. Balanced against that, though, is the huge factor that conflict and/or bad news sells in the media much more so than good news – a truism, granted, but important to remember. i would also suggest that (again, to a certain extent) losing inflames a fanbase in certain markets, which makes for more news consumption, which is of course the point in that business.

          More to the point is the issue of accessibility that you touched on. i would suggest that you touched on it in not quite the best way. As far as I am concerned, access is the be-all and end-all of the media, and they will protect it at all costs.

          As well, while I am prepared to accept that a writer may not have a rooting interest for the team which he is covering, he will inevitably develop a rooting interest (both for and against) based on personal relationships. Writer X may not care about whether the team on his beat wins or not, but he will care if player Y or coach Z succeeds if he thinks that they are great guys.

          The extent to which the media tries to portray itself as an objective disseminator of “the truth” is just silly at best and borderline insulting at worst.

    • Boxcar says:

      Just wondering if you have any comment on the situation in Long Island where the team management has banned a sportswriter from having any access to the team and refuses to say why.
      Guess that’s what happens when you refuse to be a part of the NHL propoganda machine. It’s not like he is a newbie either, he actually used to work for the team.

  3. Resolute says:

    “I understand that that’s what they want to do, um, and to do it they try to tear down other people. And quite frankly that’s a waste of everybody’s time.”

    That was, by far, my favourite part of Cox’s comments. This from the guy who wrote an article implying that Jose Bautista was on steroids so as to generate interest in his own work. If that isn’t someone trying to be “tougher and nastier” or trying to tear down other people, then what is?

  4. Boxcar says:

    This thunderbolt hit me in the shower this morning. “Damien Cox” and his ilk write for other writers not for the “great unwashed” like us. As Van Morrison said “All the girls walk by dressed up for each other”
    Lucky we have bloggers to give us a different viewpoint, and despite what the Cox types say, we can use our tiny brains to filter out what is untrue.

    • Gerald says:

      To be fair, and not in the least to take the side of the hopelessly conflicted mainstream media, I have seen instances where bloggers write for each other in a certain sense (and not merely in the sphere of sports, either).

      Good observation, though.

  5. Good take on the Cox/blogger thing. You know… the more and more this situation evolves (and its always evolving), I’m watching only certain mainstream media types go to the same dead horse and the same ignorant assumptions. Sure, there are guys like John Vogl and Damien Cox, but there are also guys like Mike Russo and Adrian Dater who are much quicker to embrace bloggers and all of social media.

    Just like its wrong to lump all bloggers into the same bucket, its wrong for some bloggers to lump all MSM people together as well. Some get it. Some don’t. Over the long run, the ones that get it will survive… the ones that don’t will gradually fade away until their extinct.

    At least I hope so….

    • James Mirtle says:

      Just like its wrong to lump all bloggers into the same bucket, its wrong for some bloggers to lump all MSM people together as well.

      And yet both happen all the time. All the time.

      I feel like I’ve joined the dark side sometimes!

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  1. [...] Dumb and Damien : Tom Benjamin’s NHL BlogTom takes Toronto columnist Damien Cox to the woodshed over his absurd comments in the recent “newspapers vs. blogs” piece at The Score. [...]



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