Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The State of Sports Writing in 2009

Posted on Mediabistro.com's Daily FisbowlNY:

In the Columbia Journalism Review, Gary Andrew Poole (http://garyandrewpoole.blogspot.com) has an excellent essay about sports journalism, where it's been, and where it's going. It's a worthy topic to close out a year that saw the feud between sports bloggers and sports writers both get uglier (hello, Buzz Bissinger/Will Leitch face-off, and Jay Mariotti), even while some MSM increasingly accepts the place of sites such as Deadspin.

Poole wonders what happened to the days when sports writing was "much superior" and "wittier, more emotional, more dramatic, and more accurate," as The New Yorker wrote in the 1920s.

So what's killing sports writing? Hint, it's not Deadspin. It's also not Bissinger and Mariotti.

The author posits that newspapers, formerly the source of long game stories that allowed writers to frame anecdotes in beautiful language, have failed to continue this tradition as space has been cut, staffs have been slashed, and the news cycle has shrunk.

Citing interviews done by sports blogs with great sports columnists including Frank Deford after Bissinger eviscerated Leitch on Costas Now, Poole writes:

Readers of Deadspin appreciate great writing; it's the newspapers that have given up on it, feeling as though they have to chase rumors and deliver a ceaseless stream of chicken-nugget news. In marketing parlance, sports sections have degraded their brand.

So what's the solution? Poole cites ESPN's Buster Olney who offers this advice:

"If I were the editor. I would say, 'Don't worry about beating the seven other papers on the hamstring story; focus on developing your thousand-word game story. Remember the great writing you loved as a kid? Write it up like that.'"

The essay in its entirety is here:

Click here

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