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denime
08-27-2008, 12:01 PM
Knight: A comment on comments


MLS commissioner Don Garber is tip-toeing north of the border, folks, kicking the tires of potential television deals should his league expand to Montreal and/or Vancouver for 2011.
Given the league's modest broadcast incomes stateside, and that three different Canadian networks are already televising Toronto FC matches, TV money could quickly pose a compelling case for the Impact and Whitecaps to move it on up.
Ah, but when you create surplus somewhere, you often end up with a deficit somewhere else. Canadian soccer talent? It's possible there may not be enough of it to go around. But that should change over time. The steady demands of three domestic MLS sides all but guarantee it.
I want to narrow the focus, away from soccer players to soccer writers.
This nation needs more.
Sportswriting is a different animal in the Internet age. Space and time restrictions don't really exist. And anyone, anywhere, can get their stuff published. The rise of Toronto FC has given us a network of bustling fan sites, filled with raw opinion and frequent bursts of thought-provoking writing.
Right now, you're reading a guy who walked away from journalism completely back in 1986. Just a year out of J-school, and exasperated with the internal politics and hiring practices of a famous national broadcast network that begins and ends with the same letter, and has a different letter in the middle, Citizen Yours Truly packed in the profession completely.


READ MORE (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080827.WBsoccerblog20080827103855/WBStory/WBsoccerblog/)

jloome
08-27-2008, 12:49 PM
Daft. I'd still recommend going to school, and people don't wash out of journalism due to "internal politics." Hell, this industry is loaded with people who couldn't wash their own shirt, let alone wash out of a profession.

What Knight is really describing is the age-old reality that hardcore fans will read anyone as long as they write about their pet interest; I know a guy who was a photographer for years and, in terms of writing quality, couldn't pen a letter to Santa Claus. But he was a video game fan and not many people were writing about it at the time, so he jumped in feet first. Now he's one of the biggest game reviewers on the planet. Seriously. Makes 20 times what I do, in all likelihood.

It doesn't make him a journalist or a good writer (again, terms that are inapplicable to most of the people paid to do this for a living); it just means a lot of people read his material because it's niche.

Knight's the same way, only with some turn-of-phrase, some natural ebb-and-flow. So instead of using his space on a massively read national newspaper's website to actually talk about soccer, we get a lazy primer on how to be a soccer writer.

All right, rant done. Bring on the inevitable onslaught of Knight fan boys.

Beach_Red
08-27-2008, 12:58 PM
Timing is everything. I had a prof in university who said the way to get tenure is to find a subject that's not being covered and do that - his was Carribean literture and I wish I'd got there first! It was kind of nice to hear someone say something other than, "write your passion," but at the time I didn't get it.

At least from now on when sportswriters get hired in this country knowing something about soccer might be a consideration.

JonO
08-27-2008, 01:36 PM
jloome - i read it differently (probably because I'm not in the profession). Personally, I don't see him advocating his route (or any route really), just describing it. In fact he clearly states "There's no one route". I also don't see it as a primer on soccer writing, but a call for discussions in his comments section.

As for politics... we'll there's some in every profession, no? I work at a law firm I there are times I am convinced that your intelligence is inversely proportional to you success... ;)

Roogsy
08-28-2008, 02:09 AM
Sometimes I get the feeling that journalism is just the same as some other professions. They hire you out of university. Give you an entry-level position after some weird process where they "evaluate" whether they should hire you over some other guy. And then they push you up depending on whether they like you or not. Performance only needs to be adequate enough. At this point it becomes about whether the people who are hiring you, like you.

Talent. It's a secondary thought.
Desire. Well...as long as you show yourself to be willing to sacrifice thats all they care about, not whether you actually like what you do.
Uniqueness. Stay away from it.

Fort York Redcoat
08-28-2008, 07:47 AM
J don't worry. We'll still read you both. No need to get in a turf war.;)

alexintoronto
08-28-2008, 08:52 AM
Daft. I'd still recommend going to school, and people don't wash out of journalism due to "internal politics." Hell, this industry is loaded with people who couldn't wash their own shirt, let alone wash out of a profession.

What Knight is really describing is the age-old reality that hardcore fans will read anyone as long as they write about their pet interest; I know a guy who was a photographer for years and, in terms of writing quality, couldn't pen a letter to Santa Claus. But he was a video game fan and not many people were writing about it at the time, so he jumped in feet first. Now he's one of the biggest game reviewers on the planet. Seriously. Makes 20 times what I do, in all likelihood.

It doesn't make him a journalist or a good writer (again, terms that are inapplicable to most of the people paid to do this for a living); it just means a lot of people read his material because it's niche.

Knight's the same way, only with some turn-of-phrase, some natural ebb-and-flow. So instead of using his space on a massively read national newspaper's website to actually talk about soccer, we get a lazy primer on how to be a soccer writer.

All right, rant done. Bring on the inevitable onslaught of Knight fan boys.
He does ~ 20 articles a month - maybe one of them can be spared to encourage more people to write about soccer (even if it's only in the comments section). Just out of curiousity - how many do you do a month? In all honesty I've only read one of yours - and it was a good one (Argos @ BMO).

jloome
08-28-2008, 10:55 AM
He does ~ 20 articles a month - maybe one of them can be spared to encourage more people to write about soccer (even if it's only in the comments section). Just out of curiousity - how many do you do a month? In all honesty I've only read one of yours - and it was a good one (Argos @ BMO).

Given that I'm a comment section editor, not a whole lot. I'm also in Edmonton. The only venue I'd have to write about TFC would be in the context of the national stadium debate, and I've probably used that route up for a little while now.

Not that any of that is relevant to the point at hand, which is that I think he gave bad advice about journalism in general and reflected a growing trend towards the concept that anyone can do this well, which isn't true. It's increasingly rare to find talented, diligent, honest, expressive reporters. But they're still out there and the best way to learn to become one isn't by this route, even if all you want to cover is soccer.

Believe me, the reality is that no one -- no one -- covers this team well right now. There are three reasons for that. 1) You're still facing a sports media establishment that has little time for anything but hockey, NFL, CFL, basketball, golf and baseball. 2) Even the beat writers get very little space due to those aforementioned restrictions, so they're given little room to grow into the job, or gain interest in a sport to which they've usually been assigned. 3) Sports reporting has devolved to pack following, much like legislatures; everyone just drifts to the nearest scrum and writes down what someone important is saying. There simply aren't a lot of good reporters out there mining sources and breaking major stories regularly or -- and this is even more important, and less common -- adding depth and context to the readers' knowledge of the team and sport.

If you want good soccer reporting, the first and last stop is Steve Goff at the Washington Post. The runner up who is the other worthwhile read because he works so damn hard is Ives Galarcep. The third decent guy is Luis Arroyave at the Chicago Tribune, Our guys suck, period, and the lack of personal interest is fairly obvious.

Beach_Red
08-28-2008, 11:19 AM
Believe me, the reality is that no one -- no one -- covers this team well right now. There are three reasons for that. 1) You're still facing a sports media establishment that has little time for anything but hockey, NFL, CFL, basketball, golf and baseball. 2) Even the beat writers get very little space due to those aforementioned restrictions, so they're given little room to grow into the job, or gain interest in a sport to which they've usually been assigned. 3) Sports reporting has devolved to pack following, much like legislatures; everyone just drifts to the nearest scrum and writes down what someone important is saying. There simply aren't a lot of good reporters out there mining sources and breaking major stories regularly or -- and this is even more important, and less common -- adding depth and context to the readers' knowledge of the team and sport.

This is true, of course, but when it comes to the, "adding depth," part, very few sports are well-served. I imagine soccer in Canada now is about where hockey was in the US thirty years ago - let's hope the soccer coverage gets better than the hockey coverage is.

2) seems to be the biggest problem these days. No space, no room to grow.

I sometimes write book reviews for the Toronto Star and they've just cut the books section in half. Most newspapers are doing the same or doing away with the section completely.

jloome
08-28-2008, 11:26 AM
This is true, of course, but when it comes to the, "adding depth," part, very few sports are well-served. I imagine soccer in Canada now is about where hockey was in the US thirty years ago - let's hope the soccer coverage gets better than the hockey coverage is.

2) seems to be the biggest problem these days. No space, no room to grow.

I sometimes write book reviews for the Toronto Star and they've just cut the books section in half. Most newspapers are doing the same or doing away with the section completely.


Beach, it's retarded how poor the quality has become even just in the last three or four years. Most papers are producing nationally distributed pages now to save money and doing away with more and more local product.

It's career suicide, but it's the inevitable result of ad men and businessmen being put in charge of news: their first thought is cost-containment, and the bleed from the internet (my paper has lost about 15,000 daily and we're one of the better off ones) over that period has them doing the one thing guaranteed to drive readers away, which is offering less.

They're then trying to counteract that by adding broadcast media in the form of audio and video clips of stories on their websites, instead of realizing that it's niche interest access that makes the web popular, and broadening their content and delivery platforms accordingly.

It's all quite sad and I don't know quite where it's going yet.

Beach_Red
08-28-2008, 11:36 AM
Beach, it's retarded how poor the quality has become even just in the last three or four years. Most papers are producing nationally distributed pages now to save money and doing away with more and more local product.

It really is too bad and it really seems like the papers are giving away a great opportunity. Nothing serves the local scene as well as a well-written newspaper.

I grew up in Montreal and I used to read Red Fisher and Dink Carroll every day. They were sportswriters in the classic sense. I don't see much like them today, but maybe that's just me being cranky and a little nostalgic.

alexintoronto
08-28-2008, 11:53 AM
I think another problem is the Damien Cocks factor. He, like many others, resort to stirring up contoversy in order to get hits on their blogs or articles. Cathy Kelly calling Toronto FC "The FC" was likely an honest mistake the first few times - but I'm sure he enjoyed links being posted to his articles to get more hits - who cares if the people clicking the links hate him or his articles?

I think it's sad that people that write about sports are being turned into salespeople instead of journalists.

And for the record - I agree with you - a professional sports reporter should be trained. But a non-pro doesn't need to be.

Ben Knight
08-28-2008, 07:57 PM
Okay. Good points.

Listen, I never intended -- never! -- to be anything other than an amateur outlaw journalist. I did my thing in lacrosse, and I loved it.

I have no interest -- whatsoever -- in any opinion that says there is or isn't such a thing as a good journalist, and you have to do A, B and C to qualify.

I don't care about anybody's qualifications, either. Damien Cox was actually a classmate of mine at Ryerson back in 80s. We disgreed on absolutely everything back then, and I deeply doubt anything has changed. But every now and then he hits a ringing high note, and I appreciate it.

I'd much rather read Gian-Luca on the Voyageurs board. He and I don't agree on a whole lot either, but he always gives me something new to think about. And I know what he believes in from what he writes. And that's not a bad working definition of good writing.

My point -- to everybody -- is write what you feel, and find a place to post it. Truth does not belong to the major media. It's in all of us, and we all have a voice that matters.

I'm not trying to be an inestigative reporter. I don't tend to dig into all that much depth most times. I'm out here to get people thinking -- not to tell them what to think.

And as long as you're thinking, why not wander over and put some comments in the On Soccer blog? Just happens to be a unique audience over there, and who knows what piece or idea might change someone's life.

Niche writing? Damn straight! That's the great gift of the Internet, people. You don't have to wait for the rest of the world to stumble over something, misunderstand it and water it down to see it get some ink.

And sure, I do write things Toronto FC soccer fans want to read. but I believe every single word, and there's always room for everyone to have their say.

Rules are guidelines. If I'd obeyed them, no one would ever have read a word of mine. I quit the CBC because I hated what they were trying to turn me -- and my colleagues -- into. If that's washing out, I wish you all a good washout every now and then because it was the single best decision I ever made.

I'm just Ben. Good, bad or whatever. I invite anyone and everyone who loves and cares about the game to come on over and sound off.

And I also think that IS an important soccer story.

Onward!

rocker
08-28-2008, 08:05 PM
this may not relate to anything already discussed, but one of the problems with the mainstream press NOT covering soccer well is that it doesn't let "other voices" in. It depends upon these so-called "trained journalists" who indeed often have no experience with the sport. Some do a decent job but I actually prefer many of the bloggers who have that experience. There's really no difference between a journalist and a good blogger than pay and title.
The fact that journalism always tries to privilege itself as the route to "truth" (whatever that is) is something I'm constantly critiquing. Currently i study news discourse development in history at the PhD level and these issues are central.

btw, I did my MA in journalism and did an internship at a Sun Media paper. Before that I worked at a campus paper and a community newspaper (90% ads, 10% content ;)
I find the bloggers and their audience comments to be a refreshing way to get around the problems of these mainstream entities. And if people comment and enjoy doing it, someday they may get co-opted into the mainstream media -- which is what we want :)

jloome
08-28-2008, 08:10 PM
Not a bad outlook, Ben. The only problem with it is that somebody still owns the vehicle you write for. And if you yourself acknowledge that a reporter has a different skill set, shouldn't that outlet be presenting the best level of research and writing that it can?

It's the journalistic equivalent of bands playing for free. It's harder and harder for a band to make it on any kind of local scene now -- they pretty much have to tour constantly -- because so many bands that don't have the chops to get paid a steady wage for it will offer their services for free.

Eventually, media outlets will learn -- as clubs do -- that the less substantive your offering, the more likely you are to eventually be relegated to the margins. But they haven't yet.

Having said all of that, it's the fault of media companies, not guys like yourself who are just doing an honest job of writing about what they love. I've written for free, or on an off-the-cuff, non-reporting freelance basis plenty of times as well, and there's a lot to be said for that route, because it's where the passion lies.

Ben Knight
08-28-2008, 08:17 PM
Thanks, jloome. I need more disagreement, actually.

I'm the strange case of someone who set all his own rules, and ended up making half a career out of it for the past nine years. As MLS expands, others will follow that route as well, by design or accident.

They're all out there writing now -- and I want to hear from them.

Thanks for you thoughts, amigo. :-)

jloome
08-28-2008, 08:18 PM
this may not relate to anything already discussed, but one of the problems with the mainstream press NOT covering soccer well is that it doesn't let "other voices" in. It depends upon these so-called "trained journalists" who indeed often have no experience with the sport. Some do a decent job but I actually prefer many of the bloggers who have that experience. There's really no difference between a journalist and a good blogger than pay and title.
The fact that journalism always tries to privilege itself as the route to "truth" (whatever that is) is something I'm constantly critiquing. Currently i study news discourse development in history at the PhD level and these issues are central.

btw, I did my MA in journalism and did an internship at a Sun Media paper. Before that I worked at a campus paper and a community newspaper (90% ads, 10% content ;)
I find the bloggers and their audience comments to be a refreshing way to get around the problems of these mainstream entities. And if people comment and enjoy doing it, someday they may get co-opted into the mainstream media -- which is what we want :)

Actually Rocker, there's no difference between 98% of reporters and bloggers other than an education, experience, and the standards of their newsroom as opposed to themselves.

But a) there's a BIG difference between the 2% of the media who still know what they're doing (focus, objectivity, history, scope, motivation, impact, countermeasures, context, deft turn-of-phrase) and bloggers.

b) you're making my point for me. If you see no difference between a trained reporter who knows how to get both sides of a story, do related contextual research, craft a well-written, large-scope feature and do it all under deadline pressure, then you didn't spend long enough interning to learn from the people who know what they're doing.

Twenty years ago, when I started, it wasn't 98% to 2%. It was only 80% of the media that was lazy, untalented, unmotivated etc etc. The other 20% were so hooked on the remnants of the Watergate era that they DID learn how to investigate; they did learn how to craft a snappy lead, how to ghost the structure of a story in advance for cohesion and flow. They learned copy editing for wasted words and passive sentence structure.

But most of that is gone, largely because media outlets in Canada have competed on a "how low can we go" basis for decades.

Advertising lineage rates in this country are still a FRACTION of what they are in the U.S., which is why a paper in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for example, can have a staff the size of the National Post's. And all of that competing comes at the expense of the profit margin, which must then be found elsewhere. Coupled with journalism schools cranking out "reporters" by the score without regard for quality or motivation, and you have a recipe for a truly disintegrating skill set.

In fact, reporters in a lot of newsrooms spend more time shooting video now than giving a whit of a thought to balance, objectivity, and the former pillars of this industry.

But some of us still give a shit.

EDIT: Too much of one. I really should stop ranting about this shit.

jloome
08-28-2008, 08:22 PM
Sometimes I get the feeling that journalism is just the same as some other professions. They hire you out of university. Give you an entry-level position after some weird process where they "evaluate" whether they should hire you over some other guy. And then they push you up depending on whether they like you or not. Performance only needs to be adequate enough. At this point it becomes about whether the people who are hiring you, like you.

Talent. It's a secondary thought.
Desire. Well...as long as you show yourself to be willing to sacrifice thats all they care about, not whether you actually like what you do.
Uniqueness. Stay away from it.

Much more concise than my usual psychobabble but entirely correct. I'm amazed as I get older, in fact, how many people get into this business with the expectation of some day being a PR person, as if that's something to aspire to. PR is actually seen as honourable now. When I started, those people were considered lowlifes, for being paid to spout someone else's opinion.

Beach_Red
08-28-2008, 08:48 PM
Twenty years ago, when I started, it wasn't 98% to 2%. It was only 80% of the media that was lazy, untalented, unmotivated etc etc. The other 20% were so hooked on the remnants of the Watergate era that they DID learn how to investigate; they did learn how to craft a snappy lead, how to ghost the structure of a story in advance for cohesion and flow. They learned copy editing for wasted words and passive sentence structure.

But most of that is gone, largely because media outlets in Canada have competed on a "how low can we go" basis for decades.

And, speaking as a bit of a newspaper junkie, we'll take whatever we can get because the alternative just won't do it. I still read one or two newspapers a day looking for that 2%. And sometimes I find even more than that, so I'll keep buying the papers.

ginkster88
08-28-2008, 11:50 PM
I'll always read the paper, as long as there is something in there that is worth the time I spent finding it. I enjoy the process of it as much as I do the reading; holding the news in my hands instead of scrolling down a screen. Even though the quality of the medium is decreasing, the medium itself is important to me, and surely many other readers.

ochos
08-29-2008, 12:17 AM
j et al.. glad you and others are willing to point out that bloggers talents shouldn't go unnoticed; especially since I'm doing construction part-time now, and having to put up with arguments made credible by Joe Blow Warmington makes me appreciate well written opinion pieces.. now matter how much I disagree

TorCanSoc
08-29-2008, 12:42 AM
I not tho thmart thith thread maketh my hed hert.

My opinion. Ben's a fan first. Nothing wrong with a reporter loving the team he reports on. That level of interest and love of the game (or subject) makes for better journalism no? Digging deeper, always looking for information, nothing really gets by a fan-first journalist, no?

I'm not in the journalism business, I'm no expert at all. My 2 cents, a journalist without a dedicated following is a crappy journalist no, or a fake fan.

Ben, I saw a picture of you and holy crap, did you used to do the play-by-play for the Toronto Lynx way back when on Cable 10 Toronto?

Roogsy
08-29-2008, 12:51 AM
I not tho thmart thith thread maketh my hed hert.

My opinion. Ben's a fan first. Nothing wrong with a reporter loving the team he reports on. That level of interest and love of the game (or subject) makes for better journalism no? Digging deeper, always looking for information, nothing really gets by a fan-first journalist, no?

I'm not in the journalism business, I'm no expert at all. My 2 cents, a journalist without a dedicated following is a crappy journalist no, or a fake fan.

Ben, I saw a picture of you and holy crap, did you used to do the play-by-play for the Toronto Lynx way back when on Cable 10 Toronto?

I believe that was Ben yes...

Ben Knight
08-29-2008, 05:55 AM
Yep. And Toronto Italia for two seasons at the end of the eighties.

I almost got the radio play-by-play gig for the Toronto Rock lacrosse team two years ago, but the team pulled the plug on the broadcasts before the season started.