June 18 2009 09:00AM
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Why can't we be friends?"][/caption]
Without completely being able to explain why, the expression “Shut up” has always seemed nearly as offensive to me as the other two-part exclamation that starts with a certain four-letter word and ends in “off.” And no, the first half of the equation is not “take” or “buzz.”
But man is it ever tempting to give the old S-U to those people who have suggested that an Ottawa newspaper reporter’s recent rant against Dany Heatley and the New York Islanders somehow swings the balance of power in the battle for smug superiority between the blogosphere and the mainstream media.
Hey, rail against the reporter in question all you want but please don’t drag all the other members of the profession into this. Forget this guilt by association business.
I may have missed a couple of meetings and I may have forgotten how to use my NHL beat writer’s secret decoder ring, but not once over the years do I ever remember nominating Don Brennan to represent my views or the views of all ink-stained wretches. Nor do I recall handing any proxy votes to Al Strachan, Bruce Garrioch, Jim Kelley, Adrian Dater or anyone else for that matter.
I’m exaggerating only a little when I say that Brennan’s smear piece being used as evidence of the genetic inferiority of so-called mainstream writers is about as ridiculous as saying the article provides conclusive proof that reporters of Irish ancestry are all incompetent, irrational boobs.
Any writer worth his salt, regardless of the medium, should want to be judged solely on his own merits and it seems immature and insecure for anyone to retreat into their little us-vs.-them world and mindlessly toss grenades at the other side when one of these blazes erupts. The fact the writing profession is populated by blowhards, rumour mongers and truth-distorting hacks says no more about an individual in that line of work than the fact hard-working, thoughtful, responsible and/or entertaining wordsmiths such as Kevin Dupont, Eric Duhatschek, Michael Farber, George Johnson and Pierre Lebrun have by-lines that grace various mainstream publications.
Same goes for the independent Internet hockey chroniclers. No individual blogger should get any credit for those individuals who are producing amazing and well-researched work, nor should they be automatically dismissed with prejudice because of the dubious postings of a certain blogger who shares a name with a Flyers forward from the 1980s.
All the people who follow my work closely — hi there, Mom; how’s tricks, Uncle Marcel? — will be tired of reading me write about this topic but the mud-slinging between the two sides continues to strike me as ridiculously silly.
After all, should there really be two sides here? Aren’t we all writing about the same sport? Shouldn’t we all be united by our passion or at least our interest in the sport? Does one group really need to push down the other in order to make themselves look good by comparison? And how many rhetorical questions are permitted in a single paragraph?
What’s really funny is that the so-called mainstream media (to be referred to as SCMSM from now on) and the blogosphere are getting closer and closer all the time. Every year the Professional Hockey Writers Association discusses the possibility of including independent bloggers for membership. Regardless of progress on that front, certain NHL clubs — most notably the New York Islanders — have issued credentials to unaffiliated bloggers.
Meanwhile, virtually every traditional media outlet on the planet now has a blog arm as part of its team coverage. Some of the blogging done by the SCMSM is pretty pedestrian but because newspaper space is shrinking rapidly in this dreadful economy, some writers have learned to use their cyberspace writings to supplement or even replace their traditionally published work.
Come to think of it, the animosity the SCMSM feels for the independent bloggers may stem partly from their own blogging experience. Many SCMSM members had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the blogging world. Why? Often it’s because the writers were being asked to produce on-line material without any reduction in their normal sports section-filling workload. That’s the reason some of the SCMSM work was so poor, especially in the early going. From my personal experience, I can tell you it is very difficult to be insightful or interesting or even relevant in a blog when you’ve already written 3,000 words (and on some days, traveled 1,000 miles) for the newspaper.
Too often, filing a blog entry was a chore and that’s simply not very conducive to quality work. That said, I must say I personally found the process much easier once I realized the medium’s potential. As a newspaper reporter, you’re always bound by certain just-the-facts-ma’am conventions of the industry. But in blogs, it was possible to approach the subject matter from a different perspective and speak to it in a different voice. It was easier to be irreverent, silly even. It took a while for the fog to lift but I know progress had been made when I received a kind note from a certain Flames blogger — initials MF — noting the fact that the blog entries no longer had the charm and potency of lukewarm dishwater (except he put it much more nicely than that).
Anyhoo, enough soapbox preaching and apologies for the diatribe. Now would be a good time to break into a chorus of Give Peace a Chance, but it probably would be easier to convince Gary Bettman and Jim Balsillie to share the Honeymooners’ Cabin on a trans-Atlantic cruise than to get bloggers and the SCMSM to get along. Ah well, let the battle rage on.