A few weeks back, I saw ancient muckraker, serial divorcee, and non-journalist, Larry King (that’s him to the left, after he was arrested for grand larceny and passing bad checks in the 70’s) interviewing Roseanne Barr. She asked him if he had ever Googled anything in his life.
King: I?ve never done it, never gone searching.
Barr: Oh my God! It just opens up the whole universe. It?s so awesome. You would love it.
King: No I wouldn’t.
I was quite alarmed by this. First of all, because what sort of rock would you have to be living under to have not used the internet yet, and second of all, what sort of JOURNALIST hasn’t looked something up on Google to fact-check or confirm a source or… look at porn?But Larry King doesn’t have the slightest bit of interest, let alone knowledge, of how the internet works.
King: The wife loves it. I wouldn’t love it. What do you punch little buttons and things?
Barr: You just click on this thing. The thing is you got to be able to read, so you have to have strong glasses when you’ve over 50 and then you just scroll down and click. It’s not that hard. I can show you how to do it.
King: No, thanks.
Wow. What sort of luddite wasteland must a guy have to live in to have his own national TV show, yet be scared to type in his name on Google?
Obviously King, as senile and oblivious as he is these days, is an easy target. This is the guy, after all, who’ll bring us exclusive interviews with such celebrities as Jerry Lewis, as if we never left 1962.
But there are a load of other journalists out there (and I use the term losely) who are not only scared of the internet, but absolutely paralyzed with fear at the prospect of blogs being given any credibility at all.
Witness this priceless example of curmudgeonly fist-waving, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune’s NBA beat man, Sam Smith.
…I don’t read any blogs. I find itinteresting the way the national political campaigns (my first love andjob) have hired people to interact with the blogosphere. You may sayI’m old, out of touch and cranky, and I probably would have to agree.I’m also probably resentful on some level as I see thisunsubstantiated, personal opinion passing for journalism and weep forAmerica and the world. People do seem to read this stuff and equate itwith what we do at The Tribune or other media and don’t make muchdistinction.
By the way, you can find the Chicago Tribune’s blog right here.
How is it Ican work for decades developing contacts around the NBA and travelingregularly around the NBA and talking with the decision makers and someguy in his basement in his underwear is writing something that hascredibility?
Oh, you see what he did? Bloggers are ‘guys in their basement in their underwear.’ Oh, hilarity, thy name is Smith. I’ve NEVER heard that one before!
But hang on a second - to generalize every single blogger as being at the level of their lowest common denominator, isn’t that a little… umm… integrity-free? Isn’t that something that they’d teach you not to do at journalism school, though admittedly Sam Smith hasn’t seen the inside of a journalism school since the days of chalk and slate.
If we’re going to generalize, is every journalist as bad as Judith Miller, or Jayson Blair, or Sean Hannity? Why do journalists like Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly and James Carville and Bob Novak do such a god awful job? Are all journalists paid hacks? Do they all lie to promote a political agenda? Why do they only care about Anna Nicole Smith? And are they all as insanely free of integrity as Larry King and, dare I say it, Sam ‘making up trade rumors to stay relevant in a changing world’ Smith?
As close as I can figure, these bloggers are theelectronic version of the neighborhood tavern. You used to go in andhear people wailing about sports or politics and offering opinions onall the major issues. We did our man in the street interviews when suchissues came up. Now, these people we used to ask for opinion startedthese blogs and are supposed to be experts. How can that be? I neversee any of them, I never hear the coaches and general managers andplayers I talk to saying they talked to them. So where do they gettheir information?
I can’t talk for every blogger, but I know this little blog gets its info from several sources.
1) Other news outlets. 2) Team management. 3) Players. 4) First hand accounts.
See, I may be just a blogger, but I’m a blogger who sits next to the thirty-year veteran journalist from the big city paper at every game and shares information with him.
I’m a blogger who goes down to the locker room after a game (and sometimes before) and interviews the players - and I have NO word count limit, so I can print the entire damn interview - or three interviews, if I so choose.
I’m a blogger who knows how to use Google, so I can get stories coming in from all over the world, and use more of them than the guy who has to limit himself to 400 words per day so the advertising department can slot in a half page of car dealership adverts.
I’m a blogger who has been going to ballgames every damn day for the last four years, who has counted coaches as friends, who has stayed in touch with old players, who has corrected the journalists in the press box when they have a stat wrong, who has talked to host families and girlfriends of the players and families out from New Jersey to see their kid throwing their first professional pitch, and has a bigger readership than some ‘legitimate’ outlets.
I’m a blogger who doesn’t have to convince an editor to allow a controversial story out, or cowtow to a sales department if something I’m writing is pissing off an advertiser.
So how is it that I have better information than the Sam Smith’s of this world? Simple. I have better tools, more freedom, and I GIVE A CRAP about what I’m writing.
I’m fortunate on somelevel to be getting close to retirement because if these blogs arecredible sources of information, there’s no point in spending all thetime on the road that I do.
In other news, an interview with Larry King in the LA Times last weekrevealed that, all those quotes you see in his name on movie posters -he doesn’t actually say a lot of those, but he agrees to have the studiosput his name to them because "I want the movie to do good."
Such journalistic integrity is the stuff of Leni Riefenstahl, and if that’s the ‘credibility’ that Sam Smith is so concerned about saving, he can sod off to retirment now and let those of us in our pyjamas take over.
PS: In a bizarre twist of irony, Patrick Goldstein, the LA Times journalist who was interviewing Larry King in the above piece, is every bit as much an awful journalist as both Smith and King are. I once sent him a confidential source for a story he was working on about film studios posting fake reviews of their films to websites to hype them up, and despite his guarantees that he would keep the source’s name quiet, he went ahead and blurted it out to the first studio head he talked to. That guy was duly fired and blackballed from the film industry, while Goldstein’s puff piece was quickly forgotten.
Ah, integrity. Ain’t it something?