The Decade in Sports Media: A Referendum

↵I'm not even sure I'm a skilled enough writer to adeptly get this point across. But hey, it's the internet, so nobody really cares if I'm that good of a writer anyway. As long as we attach a few photos of scantily clad women or throw some unsubstantiated rumors about athlete infidelity in this post, I should be fine. ↵

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↵That's actually not fair. There are more great writers than ever, and the way we communicate (with the all-encompassing social media) has given us – really in just the last 10 years – the ability to consume so much more than we ever could before. Think about this: 10 years ago I didn't know who Joe Posnanski was. The only time I would pay attention to an out-of-market writer was if he or she showed up on The Sports Reporters. Dick Schaap was my weekly window into national stories with a local perspective. Sure, there were a ton of national voices who all got their start at the local level, but most of them were on radio or in (gasp) print magazines, and still it was nowhere near the number of people we are able to read, listen to and watch today.
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↵And none of this is to say that the internet didn't exist 10 years ago, but it's more to the point that most of us were trying to figure out how to download Metallica songs for free off Napster without getting banned. There was a Wild Wild West-ish quality to the internet a decade ago. Shoot, 10 years ago today we all thought our computers were going to explode in a few hours and banks were going to start eating our money – and only one of those things, a decade later, actually came true. ↵

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↵As I said, the internet has given us more great writers than ever. Without the internet, we wouldn't know that Mike Tunison is anything but a Metro reporter in D.C. or that Spencer Hall was anything more than a decadent fella with a penchant for wearing white suits. Darko would have never been so stylistically freed and nobody would ever have thought about firing Joe Morgan in such a clever manner. The internet, by and large, has made sports a more coverable, and therefore more transparent, enterprise. And that's a good thing. ↵

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↵What's not good is the fact that our landscape is shifting so much – going from print to web and from once-a-day deadlines to a 24-hour cycle – that nobody is really sure what's going to make it and what's not. We're right in the middle of a 10-year shakeout period, and nobody seems all that comfortable where we'll end up. Remember how preposterous it was just two years ago that blogs were being blamed for the death of the newspaper – trust me, we spent many hours on my show (the next medium, in my opinion, to lead to the death of a more traditional form ... watch out radio, 2010 is the year of the podcast) talking about this with people on both sides of the 'blog wars' – when clearly the death of the newspaper should have always been blamed on the people who run newspapers. They were unwilling and unable to keep up with people flocking to the web and needed someone to blame, so why not those who were already there? When that didn't work, most newspapers did the smart thing – finally – and got rid of all the old writers who were making far too much money trading on their names and phoning in their jobs for years. The line at the press box buffet got a little less jovial when people starting wondering if their days of free food and front-row seats to write a half-hearted game story were dwindling. ↵

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↵We could write that kind of crap from our couches. And many of us did just that - and better - because we cared more about the teams, and about being a fan. We started to provide readers with a perspective they didn't get from the old stodgy writers they read all those years. We showed people there is, in fact, a better way to consume news and opinion. ↵

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↵But you know what happened? Others in the industry got better too. Actual paid reporters got better at their jobs and those who were better than us all along were finally given more opportunity to show us how much better they were (see Posnanski, Joe). So the internet wasn't the blame for the downfall of newspapers. The dedication and quality those internet writers put forth with nothing but their passion for a favorite team – or passion for writing – made the industry better. We forced newspapers to do something it took them far too long to do – get with the times. ↵

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↵Which unfortunately leads us to the Times. While some newspapers have figured out a way to stay afloat and are finally coming to grips with the fact that news doesn't happen at six in the morning when the paper smacks against your storm door, others were never able to adapt. The Washington Times was one of the latter, and starting Monday, they are reformatting their publication and eliminating the sports section. Everyone will be gone. If you weren't following the TWTSports Twitter feed, now might be the time ... while they're still around. Here are a few recent posts: ↵

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↵⇥True story: With the "you're getting fired" packet, @washtimes was kind of enough to give a PINK sheet of paper with open jobs to apply for. ↵⇥

↵⇥Teams that won: Unification Church RT @dcsportsbog Teams that lost their last home game with TWT beat writer: Skins, Caps, Wiz, Terps BB, FB ↵⇥

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↵The writers in the sports section of The Washington Times are smart, fast and understand the new media landscape. It's too bad their owners (see the above reference to the Unification Church) couldn't figure it out. Steinberg has more on this as well, so make sure to read his detailed thoughts on the situation. As a decade ends, even more solid news reporters and columnists are looking for work. ↵

↵There are more great writers than ever. Let's hope the next decade finds enough jobs for all of us. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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