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The Big Debate: Journalists vs Bloggers

June 3, 2011

Envision your own career. Think of the hours of work you’ve put in. Recall the time and money spent studying, the agony of job interviews, and the battle to reach the top of your chosen career path. Chances are, it’s taken years, and whilst you may not always love your job, you’re proud of what you’ve achieved. Now imagine meeting a new colleague. He’s young, unqualified, and he’s passionate about your job. Your clients love him and he’s working his way up quickly to the top. Worst of all, he’s doing it for love. That’s right, this colleague works for free.

This is the kind of situation journalists in sport are currently facing. The growth of the internet has meant that now anyone can get their work published online. All you have to do if visit wordpress.com. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s free. Until recently though, amateurs were kept separate from the professionals. You could write about tennis all you wanted from your lounge, but it was the journalists who were actually at the tournaments, interviewing the players, and getting the inside scoop.  However, recently a number of bloggers have managed to get press passes to sporting events. They turn up with their laptops, their Twitter account, and their passion. They proceed to churn out articles that cover not only the matches, but the fashions, little-known gossip, and insider information.

Bloggers have found themselves a niche. By being fans themselves, bloggers have worked out what the public is missing and they’re catering for it loud and clear. They don’t claim to be unbiased, and they’re unapologetic for their fandoms. In this way, they’re communicating on the level of fans. By combining tennis analysis, predictions, and gossip, bloggers are fast becoming popular. Some, even more popular than journalists.

It is no surprise that many journalists don’t appreciate this. Some feel threatened by these new care-free colleagues who are joyfully free from deadlines and hard-nosed bosses.  ‘Fans with laptops,’ they’ve been called. Certain journalists would stop bloggers getting press passes if they could. ‘No degree, No access’, they might cry.

Unfortunately for them, blogging isn’t going anywhere. Yet it’s hardly viable to let everyone into the press room. There’s still undeniably a need for professional journalists, and I’m willing to bet that despite all the blogs out there, tennis.com still gets the most hits. So how can journalists find a way to survive without shutting blogs out? And who should be getting those coveted press passes?

First and foremost, journalists need to recognise bloggers as competition. They need to see them as colleagues, as equals, and treat them with the same respect they would any professional journalist. After all, most bloggers want to work alongside journalists, not against them.

Once they’ve put aside their prejudice they need to look the competition square in the eye… and take them on. This doesn’t mean legally – taking down transcripts off websites and banning bloggers from the press room isn’t showing respect. No, they need to take them own at their own game. Writing. After all, isn’t that what journalists say they do best? Journalists can start by running their own blog much like Steve Tignor and Peter Bodo do over at tennis.com. Chances are, they’ll find a lot of people want to read their professional opinion. Blogs allow quick and free access to the public. That is what this generation is all about – I want it and I want it now.

Secondly, the public need to rediscover their trust in journalists. Sensationalism might earn you a lot of blog hits, but people are more likely to see through you now more than ever. In fact, distrust is why many fans were upset with the removal of transcripts from the Roland Garros website this year. Fans didn’t believe they could trust the journalists to put quotes in context without any melodrama. Journalists need to realise that they’re now writing for Generation Y – a generation that has learnt not to take anything at face value.

Bloggers, meanwhile, need to use some tact. In my opinion, if they’re trying to get accredited, it should be to kickstart a career, not to have some fun as a fan. Having a blog is actually almost essential if you wish to be a journalist today, and they can absolutely double as a portfolio. However, if you’re not really all that serious about it, perhaps you should leave this one to the pros.

Bloggers and journalists can work side by side. Eventually, they may even be one. Journalists need to see their competition as exactly that, and grow from it. Like the Federer/Nadal situation, journalism should only grow and improve with its new rivalry.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. tinica permalink
    June 3, 2011 8:50 pm

    I’ve discovered many wonderful and disparate tennis bloggers via tennis.com – all listed on your blogroll. I might not visit them every day during smaller tournaments, but I do during the Masters and slams.

  2. flo permalink
    June 4, 2011 12:15 am

    Blogs cater to the audience that want more than just the match coverage and analysis. It’s really for devoted fans who want pictures of practices and some words about the goings on in some player’s personal life. The asset of blogs is that it can be super partisan and just focus on glorifying one player and being a place of worship and just commenting with likeminded fans. Being part of some fandom. The legitimate press like to have this veil of objectivity. The fans and commenters will still accuse them of bias and favoritism but the idea is that they are reporters and temper their biases in their writing and try to achieve some journalistic standard. So I see different audiences and it’s unlikely blogging will go away. So naturally they (the pros) need to adjust and find a way to co-exist.

  3. evie permalink
    June 5, 2011 10:02 am

    Nice post. There should definitely be more respect between the groups. One of the things I like about blog coverage of a tourney (esp when they attend directly), though, is seeing it from a tennis fan’s perspective, not just from an “impartial” journo. That’s why I think the two groups complement each other — they are covering tennis from different perspectives.

  4. o0brian0o permalink
    June 7, 2011 6:21 pm

    Well written post! I think of the blogs as a natural extension of the news. I scan most of the formulaic news stories but I take time to read some tennis blogs.

  5. June 16, 2011 3:15 pm

    My blog tries its darndest to bridge the gap. Best of both if you will. Phenomenal and insightful article – brava!

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