I love writing.
Seriously, it might be my favorite thing to do. Right up there with sports and reporting. It’s always been that way. So, at 13 years old, I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I decided being a sports journalist was the job for me.
That was eight years ago. Between then and now, I have learned a lot about writing and reporting. But in that same time span, so has just about every other journalist. Over these last few years in particular, sports reporting and journalism in general have taken a hard dive into the cyber and social media worlds.
The quick turn in the journalism game forced people in the profession to adapt their styles and processes just to keep up, some that maybe had been in a routine for years and years. For better or worse, this change in journalism is real, and the effects are becoming potent.
This summer I got the opportunity to meet and speak with ESPN Senior writer Jerry Crasnick about this exact change in the field. Crasnick got to the point about the whole change of the landscape, and how some of the most beautiful parts of sports reporting – building relationships with people – were being lost. At one point, he told me to remember, “Be a journalist, not a Tweeter.”
“When I broke in as a sportswriter in the 1980s, we understood the importance of building relationships and trust in developing sources,” Crasnick said. “Now it’s more about tweeting news flashes, asking questions later and reporting in bite-sized chunks rather than giving readers something of value.”
Right around the time I was talking to Crasnick about that problem, a golden example popped up before the Major League Baseball trade deadline. New York Post baseball insider Joel Sherman reported and tweeted on July 29 that New York Mets infielder Wilmer Flores had been traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Turns out, though, the report was wrong, leaving a notified Flores – mid-game at shortstop – crying for the whole world to see. It was an image that will not be forgotten by sports fans any time soon.
Breaking a story is great. As a journalist, it’s one of the best feelings to have the story before anyone else. But in this day and age, with social media being so prominent, corners get cut. And that can lead to the disruption of those ever-important relationships Crasnick told me about.
The problem is, and will continue to be, that the fans just simply do not care. They want their information fast. They do not care how, or whose feelings get hurt in the meantime. They just want what they feel they are entitled to.
“I think it’s (Twitter) produced a lot more errors and inaccurate reporting than we used to see,” Crasnick said. “And there are typically no consequences when someone reports something that’s flat-out wrong.
“But I do try to constantly remind myself that there’s a difference between real reporting and noise,” he adds. “I hope that readers can discern the difference, but I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore.”
Whether or not it’s a good thing for the field, this is the world of journalism we all have to live in now.
Dennis Chambers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DennisChambers_.