Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sportsnet personality speaks out on journalistic independence

With regards to the title, he's also a Toronto Star writer.

Not surprisingly, the good guys over at the Puppets have already taken Damien Cox to task for a blog post he put on the Star's website Tuesday morning, before the Star took down a paragraph and he yanked the whole thing. Being the Internet, the thing exists in perpetuity along with every naked picture you've ever taken of yourself in a mirror.

A line PPP didn't get to, though, is this one:
The teams and the league love to daydream of a day when the independent media has been drowned out by their propaganda and fans don't see the difference.
For how much the blogosphere rips apart Cox, and for how badly Cox chose his words, he is right.

The word "propaganda" has serious overtones, and I avoid using it in any context wherein human lives are not on the line. Also, organizations, not just in sports, have been trying to craft the message put out by the media since the beginning of media. Just because organizations now have websites and have to deal with crankier reporters doesn't change any of that. With video highlights from websites of the major sports organizations, I can quickly get video of the games I'm interested in without turning on TSN or The Score. With players blogging on their teams' websites and tweeting, their personalities doesn't need to be opened up on a broadsheet page. Standings and stats can be picked up online in greater detail (and usually including the most recent results) something that you can't get in the Globe and Mail.

Independence is tough. Unlike any other beat, no sportswriter wants to be the one who breaks the news that the hometown team was cheating, or, hell, the one who blew the lid off of your home team's top home run hitter being on steroids.

For a man of such conviction, Cox seems to forget that he enjoys press box giveaways, works for a sports news organization that owns a Major League Baseball team and employs a 'reporter' who moonlights as an in-arena host. Cox seems to think that independence involves admitting repeatedly that you aren't a fan of the team you're paid to cover and believes in the archaic "no cheering in the press box" mantra which is causing more fans to turn to fan blogs (and, gasp, team websites) for their game information.

If Cox is truly worried about journalistic independence, he'd stop trashing Tyler Dellow for uncovering that Colin Campbell plays favourites, and he'd probably have told the story about the Toronto Maple Leafs' players helicopter trip that he alluded to a year ago. Cox would also probably join the Professional Hockey Writers Association boycott in NHL Award voting over the New York Islanders' treatment of Chris Botta.

So, while Cox brings up a legitimate issue, he is part of the problem, and posting silly stories online with no real research isn't going to help his cause.

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