Over the holidays the Delco Times’ Matt Smith (who?) pulled out his big swinging journalistic dick and wagged it in the face of “amateur bloggers and social media administrators.” Smith was perturbed about an erroneous rumor circulated on Twitter:
Here’s a stern message to all amateur bloggers and social media page administrators: Shut up.
Friday night, my Twitter feed (@DTMattSmith) blew up with a rumor that the Phillies were aggressively pursuing David Wright. Involved in the alleged trade-in-the-works were Domonic Brown and Vance Worley, among other prospects, for the Mets’ All-Star third baseman.
The Twitter handle @ThePhillyPhans ignited this erroneous, uh, “report.” What, you were expecting a reputable baseball writer?
@ThePhillyPhans, an account run by, well, Phillies fans, published on Facebook and Twitter that a “source” said Wright would be wearing red pinstripes “very, very soon.” The message spread through the Twittosphere like wildfire.
Early Saturday morning, veteran Sports Illustrated baseball scribe Jon Heyman put to rest all speculation that Wright was on the move.
@ThePhillyPhans might have picked up a few Twitter followers over this incident of amateur journalism gone bad, but real journalism is given a bad name because people can say whatever they want on the Internet.
Actually, the Mets are better off letting go of Wright the same way they allowed Jose Reyes to walk in free agency. The Phillies could afford to take on his $15 million salary, though it’s unlikely New York would trade the face of its franchise to its hated divisional rival.
If the Mets do deal Wright, next time leave it to the experts to deliver us the real news.
I’m glad Smith noted that the message was a stern one – leaving me in awe of his journalistic integrity. Maybe I’d go easy on the guy if he had some writing chops or an expansive resume that garnered some level of respect. It’s too bad Mr. Smith has neither. Matt Smith is a local sports beat writer for the Delco Times – which means he covers Upper Darby girls basketball games. I’m not trying to put him down here either – that’s great, but let’s call a spade a spade, Smith is an entry-level sports writer. He fills in for Bob Grotz when old Bob has to go to the dentist to get a cavity drilled. If Ray Didinger wanted to write a condescending post like the one above, it would still annoy the shit out of me, but it would certainly annoy the shit out of me LESS. Like any vocation, respect is earned. So is Matt Smith to be regarded as a highly respected member of the media elite, or as he frames himself as an “expert?”
You know who has expertise? Let’s see, guys I certainly respect are Reuben Frank (Eagles), David Murphy (Phillies) and the aforementioned Ray Didinger. There are many more. The sports writing profession has changed a lot in the last 20 years. In the dark ages, the hallmark of sports writing was access. When I was a kid, you had to have a premium subscription to the cable channel Prism to be able to watch most Flyers games. To the extent that you didn’t have access to Prism or the wherewithal to actually attend the games, you relied on the sports writer to craft a vivid synopsis of the game in print the next day. The game recap was important and relevant. Today, I really don’t even understand why next day recaps are still front page news. The information age has torn down the formerly impenetrable barriers to admittance to the point where access basically means nothing for a detached, lazy sports writer. Coaches and players are instructed to give the media absolutely nothing these days (ever seen an Andy Reid press conference), and what does the access really matter when said press conference is carried live and later transcribed by the team’s website? Previously, writers monopolized such access and dispatched information as they saw fit. In retrospect there were massive informational chasms at any such time. Good luck getting relevant information on the Eagles during the summer.
And that’s where “amateur bloggers” filled a niche that didn’t exist 10 years ago.
Want daily updates on potential Eagle draft picks in the form of college football prospect write-ups? Iggles Blitz can provide you with that. A site solely dedicated to the Phillies minor league prospect machine? Yep, Phuture Phillies fills that need. The now defunct Iggles Blog provided such in-depth and nuanced statistical coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles that prominent beat writers of local dailies (Les Bowen for one) were basically forced to acknowledge their contribution to the team’s coverage. In a former life, back in 2007, I wrote an analysis that bucked the conventional assertion that the NFC East was the doormat of the NFL. A local beat writer ( I can’t recall who) basically cut and pasted large sections of the article into a blog post without linking the site or acknowledging any type of original credit. I got an apology, but it reinforced the notion that many of these older line guys were still living in the sports writing dark ages. Original thought was not their strong suit.
Just imagine if the masterminds of the aforementioned blogs were given a full-time job (and enough financial enticement – I think they probably would have to take a pay cut) to cover their teams? I’d wager we’d be getting sports writing at a level not traditionally seen in this town.
Now are there shitty rumor-mongerers who’s end goal is a pathetic dream of more “followers” on Twitter? Sure. But providing style without substance won’t garner long-term respect or sports-fidelity. Taking this full circle, the better writers embrace the new media and accept the “amateur” contribution to the craft. The best writers have stepped up their game to levels unknown (ever see a 2,000 word David Murphy blog post in between print articles) to guys like Frank Fitzpatrick and dare I say, Matt Smith.
Fitzpatrick and Smith’s disdain seems to be a defense mechanism for their own insecurities about their “expertise.” True experts don’t have to reinforce or remind anyone of their ingeniousness, it’s all quite obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention.
H/T to @crashburnalley
As a postscript, I’m sure everyone is aware of the report from the San Diego Tribune alleging that Steve Spagnuolo will be fired at the end of the season and that it’s “all but certain” that he’ll join the Eagles as the defensive coordinator. The report is based on “league sources” – whatever the hell that means. Well, yesterday, every beat writer and their mother took to Twitter to report the rumor and discuss the potential implications. Even Matt Smith’s own Delco Times buddy Bob Grotz tweeted the report (Grotz later acknowledged the report as “baseless” – good for him). How is this sort of rumor-mongering any different than the atrocities perpetrated by “amateur bloggers?”