On Tuesday evening, Bob Costas hosted a segment on his HBO show Costas Now focusing on the internet and the impact of sports bloggers. The segment featured prominent media types, including Pulitzer Prize winning writer Buzz Bissinger and Deadspin.com editor and author Will Leitch. The fight that ensued was the live version of the slap fight that has been happening between mainstream media and bloggers.
There has been constant and unfair criticism of sports bloggers. ESPN's Michael Wilbon has spoken of his distaste for blogs, while many others have questioned the credibility of bloggers. Costas himself has even called bloggers "pathetic, get-a-life losers". But it's quite clear that these old school media guys are afraid of what they don't understand. And even worse, they don't try to.
During the Costas Now live panel discussion of blogger impact, Bissinger accused bloggers of sloppy journalism while he himself misquoted and incorrectly referenced various bloggers' work. Costas read statements that he attributed to a blogger when, in fact, they were made by a blog's commenter. They generalized blogs as irrelevant gossip without acknowledging the blogs that provide accurate and well written content. Both of these respected and decorated members of the media represented examples of the reckless journalism they claim bloggers bring to reporting. Neither one bothered to understand the very medium they were criticizing.
What they, and most blog critics, fail to understand is that both mainstream media and blogs can co-exist peacefully. Bloggers aren't set out to replace print journalists. They exist to add commentary and color to the news that is reported in print and online every day. Readers don't use blogs to replace the news they get from the mainstream. They use it to add substance.
Blogs aren't going to kill print journalism, print journalism is killing itself. Readers can get more information on NYTimes.com than they can in the paper's print edition. As technology changes, so must the media; bloggers saw it coming and created a new medium.
Consider it media Darwinism. The best writers will survive, regardless of whether their words appear in print or online. What is going to happen is that the poor journalism that existed previously due to a lack of choices is going to fade away. Blogs aren't destroying journalism, they are forcing it to improve.