As a sports blogger, I suppose it's my duty to stay firmly entrenched on my side of the inexorable struggle between the new sports media and the old. But, as with most inexorable struggles, the longer you look at the struggle, the harder it becomes to draw clear lines of good and bad.
To be sure, there are a lot of sports journalists who got lazy and basically resorted to parroting university news releases and press conference soundbites. I'm not so sure that trend is much of a factor in the financial difficulties newspapers are facing. At the end of the day, giving away content, regardless of how good it is, for free isn't a very good business model--something bloggers know all too well. (Also, I think the reporting-by-news-release model of journalism is mainly a turnoff to die-hard sports fans, which I would wager make up a relatively small percentage of newspaper readers.) But it certainly hasn't helped.
The danger is painting all journalists with a broad brush. The Big Ten media days have reminded me that MSU fans are fortunate to have one very good mainstream media source for information on Spartan athletics. [Insert drumroll as you click through the jump.]
Joe Rexrode is a journalist who gets it. He gets what real reporting is. He gets what a blog is for. And he gets what makes sports fans tick. (Sidenote: I have to confess I rarely read his work in the hard copy of the Lansing State Journal. I generally refuse to read the LSJ due to its overall abysmal level of journalism. Since I'm a resident of Lansing, this means I never have any idea what's going on in my own hometown.) Rexrode's blog is, simply stated, an invaluable resource to Spartan fans. Looking at his posts from Chicago, he's provided timely reporting, commentary on comments, detailed analysis, and a concise summary of the major takeaways.
The fact that Rexrode is in Chicago makes me much less disappointed that neither LVS, Pete, nor I could attend the media days. I don't think there's been any appreciable loss to our readers in terms of getting new information. (Sidenote #2: As a general rule, I don't link to Rexrode's stuff here, on the assumption that anyone who reads this blog probably reads his.)
Bigger picture, I certainly think TOC can play roles that none of the MSM sites can--obsessively analyzing the trivial, injecting some humor into the proceedings, and providing a community in which die-hard fans can converse with each other. But I'm also not going to pretend that we're doing the job of the mainstream media. Frankly, there's no way we could do that job. And we're fortunate to have at least one guy who does the job pretty darn well.
P.S. Since I'm fawning all over a MSM writer, I'll go ahead and throw in an attaboy for ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg, too. I'm disappointed that he hasn't followed through on his early foray into linking up with Big Ten blogs (a function of the Worldwide Leader's corporate policies, no doubt). But he provides a unique and worthwhile resource: a one-stop shopping experience for keeping up with all things Big Ten football-related. And he obviously works pretty hard at being able to comment authoritatively on 11 different college football programs. Kudos, I say.
P.P.S. More succinctly: Reporting about the sports world for a corporately-owned entity doesn't automatically mean you don't know what you're talking about. It just doesn't automatically mean you do know what you're talking about.