Friday, March 27, 2009

More media thoughts

A couple of random thoughts on the media, since Nery got me thinking about the media.

- There are only two American writers who traveled to El Salvador for a World Cup qualifier, Paul Oberjuerge and Andrea Canales. While I'm very excited for both of them since I know them both personally, I think that it is a bit upsetting that only two media people went. I don't think that's a good thing. There will be dozens of writers and media people in Tennessee on Wednesday but that's here, that's a given.

The press corps is scant in a qualifier that will be important, the full team will play (it's not Game 9 after the US has already qualified), and it's on a Saturday to boot (seems it'd be easier to travel for a Saturday match). In my case, I'm a freelancer like Paul but I couldn't justify going there (yes, I did look into the cost) because I wouldn't have made enough off the game to cover my expenses. Not sure about Paul's situation but he recently did some work for the International Herald Tribune, perhaps he sold stories to them. But I really don't know, just guessing.

I guess it speaks to the level of interest the media at large has in this match and in this team, which is not good.

I'm guessing a good number of media people will travel to Mexico City, some may go to Costa Rica but it's still not a good thing that the media is scant down there.

- Bruce Arena was asked recently what he thought of the media in the US recently. It was during the Landon press conference, as a follow-up to Landon's thoughts on Germany and the environment and all that. Bruce said he thought the media here was too negative.

I don't have the full quote but he want on to say that he wished it were more positive but that he's used to the negativity.

Strange how people perceive things. I thought he always got a pass for a lot of things when he was US coach. I wrote a not-so-nice piece on him, just broke down his coaching record and all that, nothing personal of course, and then I got some heat for it. But whatever, people are going to interpret the media how they see fit, whether it's in Mexico or the US or anywhere.


Anonymous said...

I'm always amazed how sensitive media persons are to overt or implied criticism. Journalists seem to be able to voice criticism, but are unable to take it. Ask any set of soccer fans whether the media are more negative or positive to our game and nearly everyone will say it is too negative. Ask them if they wish it were more positive and nearly everyone will opt for the more positive option. Does this mean that we are attacking you or any other individual journalist for stories you might write about a team, a player, or a coach? Of course not. Such criticism is an essential part of the journalist's trade and important to us readers. What we are objecting to, and probably Bruce Arena, is the dismissive and hostile tone adopted by many in the media. I would like to point out that you questioned Arena's statement (by your own admission) without having read the whole statement or interview. Please don't assume that any and all criticism of a specific journalist or of the media in general requires that you immediately counter-attack. The journalists creed is based on free and open exchange of views. Let's try to keep it that way.

Patrick said...

"I guess it speaks to the level of interest the media at large has in this match and in this team, which is not good."

Actually, it speaks to the dire financial straits in which American journalism now finds itself. And it's only going to get worse unless somebody figures out how to make this whole Internet thing work -- figuring out how to turn content into real money, the way it worked during the print age.

You give away content on your blog. You're a professional writer and you're handing the stuff away. I'm not arguing that you shouldn't, necessarily; your choices are yours to make. But a whole Internet full of "handing content away" ultimately diminishes the value of any single given information source -- like a newspaper, magazine, etc. These businesses no longer generate the sort of money they did when they were the exclusive providers of information. It's not surprising when stuff like trips to El Salvador start getting cut from budgets.

And it's only going to get worse. I know a lot of people act happy about the demise of the news media. (Suddenly everyone acts as if they have some score to settle: See "Anonymous" above.) But the reality is that sports fans are about to get a rude awakening as the whole thing starts falling apart. A lot of the sizzle is going to be gone from the whole thing when the press isn't part of the equation.

L.B. said...

Patrick, you're right. I do hand the stuff away for free. It's something I struggle with a lot, free work. In some ways, it's a way to get stuff out there that's on my mind or things that didn't get into the paper/web site/whatever. But it's free work essentially.

Now, the vast majority of things that I put in here I can't sell to anyone but it's info I'm putting out that may or may not compete against a writer that is getting paid to produce the same stuff, and in that sense it could be a bit of competition. And you're 100 percent right, if there is a lot of info out there, a lot of competition or whatever, then it does diminish the value of things.

I don't like working for free and I think one day this working for free thing is going to get to me and it's going to spell the end of this blog and anything else I do for free. On the other hand, blogs are where a lot of people go to get a different kind of angle on a story, more opinion, less straight news, etc. It's an issue I deal with.

Anyway, the media situation is troubling.

And as far as anon saying I didn't read the whole statement or interview, i was in attendance and heard the response and paraphrased it. Grahame Jones asked him that question as a follow up to a question I asked to Landon Donovan about differences in Germany and MLS, and Landon mentioned the media as part of the pressure Bundesliga players face. So although I don't have the exact word-for-word quote, I feel fairly safe to be able to paraphrase it.

El Hocicón said...

I don't see how Arena feels the media in the US is too negative. Throughout his whole tenure as USMNT coach he barely got any criticism from the media. He was practically untouchable, even when the US had bad games under him. The only time the media called for his head, was after the 2006 World Cup. You'd be hard pressed to find anything before that, that had any criticism or negativity directed towards him and the team.

L.B. said...

Andrea Canales, actually, was one of the few who dared to criticize Bruce Arena before the 2006 World Cup. I'm not sure if it was one of her usual fluff pieces like someone else commented on this blog recently, but she wrote a not-so-nice column on Arena before the World Cup and took a lot of heat for it. Another person was someone from 90 Minutes magazine, Mark Lincir wrote something else that was critical of Arena.

But yeah mostly nobody was writing anything negative about him.

Patrick said...

Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Luis.

I know it's a conundrum for many writers: They've got a built-in drive to communicate -- that's why they became writers in the first place -- and so the Internet is almost irresistible. Yet that same Internet is the very thing that's eroding the ability to make a living.

I guess it's just a personal choice we all have to make: How much free ice cream should we give away without giving away the whole store?

I do think the media's growing struggles are really going to hit home with sports fans at some point. There was a big piece at SI the other day about the loss of baseball beat writers, and how it is starting to affect the news and coverage fans have taken for granted for more than a century.

And surprisingly, unlike the reaction to many press death-watch stories, the reader comments that followed were actually sympathetic. I think the erosion of sports coverage might be where the average American really starts to understand what we're losing as we lose newspapers.