There’s a good conversation brewing in the comments to the Frank Deford state-of-sports-journalism post from yesterday. Some of it supporting Deford (and going after bloggy enterprises like HBT) and some of it not.
I highlight this post from a reader with first hand experience in all of this who says that the reason the kind of reporting Deford loves is hard to find in print anymore is that the readers simply don’t want it:
I am a sports reporter in a low-level minor league market in the Midwest … I readily admit I have never worked on a national level or in a major market (in 13 years, I’ve covered a grand total of 2 MLB games and 1 preseason NBA game professionally), so I don’t profess to have experienced first-hand the level of journalistic competition driving this debate. That said, I feel I do have insight to add to this conversation.
The space for the long-form human interest sports pieces Deford and his likes championed no longer exists in daily print media, and a large reason for that is the consumer interest in such pieces has largely vanished. As has been mentioned, there are places online to find such material and writers (Passan, etc.) who do excellent work providing that content. There are also outlets that provide the heart-and-soul stories Deford seems to keep himself fixated upon – one such outlet is the Real Sports program to which he frequently contributes.
Deford’s lament is merely the common refrain of industry veterans longing for the way it used to be. His point about “justifying” the journalists’ experience disturbs me. This career is not and should not be about justifying what we do or making ourselves a crucial part of the story. Instead it should be a selfless duty to disseminate information as we observe it. My readers are not interested my experience; they want to know about the teams I cover.
While I’ll defend the bloggy stuff because I have the most experience with it, I really think the key takeaway to all of this is not that one form of sports writing is better than another. I think it’s that, even if you really believe that the in-depth stuff is critical, it’s not, contra Deford, disappearing, rendering the readership “optionally illiterate.” It’s merely changing venues. It may not be in daily newspapers, but it’s on the web and on television.