Summer Hoop Scoop Story Lures Old Media into Old Arguments

(via Alex Bellink)

I was going to link to the Summer Hoop Scoop story without comment, really I was. It's not so much about sports as it is about new media and old media, and we've been there and done that ad infinitum, right? But it's summer, and when there's not much else happening, then a defense of blogging brethren against off-the-cuff but ill-advised comments is warranted.

If you haven't heard about Summer Hoop Scoop and Jonathan Paige yet, the gist is that some guy set himself up as a fake basketball recruiting guru through the use of the internet, some people linked to him, retweeted him, or even outright believed him, and now he's essentially ridiculing those who did so.

Really, I was going to leave this alone, but then I saw this, from John Pennington at Mr. SEC:

There’s little doubt "Jonathan Paige" and his experiment will get quite a bit of coverage in the coming days.  His experiment has proven — again — that we’re in a dangerous new age when it comes to information. 

Everyone
is the media these days.  But not everyone took media ethics classes in college.  And not everyone who did take ethics classes took to heart what they were being taught.

So "Paige" is right that readers should be careful when it comes to trusting sites.  We suggest you trust sources that have proven over time that they’re not just after pageviews.  We also suggest you trust those sites that have proven over time that they have no bias toward or against a coach, a school or a conference.

Before I break out the Fiskers, I want to get on the record that I like Pennington and Mr. SEC. When I first started reading Pennington's stuff at GVX, I thought it was brilliant. When I heard him on the radio, I thought he was great, both hilariously entertaining and informative. He wrote an excellent article for the first edition of our Maple Street Press Tennessee annual. In the past couple of years, though, he seems to have taken some reader criticism too personally or something because the attitude that now sometimes taints his writing makes it difficult to read. But if you can get past that, he still writes well, has well-formed opinions, and is quite prolific and entertaining.

Today, however, he said something that was both wrong and hypocritical:

 

Everyone is the media these days.  But not everyone took media ethics classes in college.  And not everyone who did take ethics classes took to heart what they were being taught.

Is it possible that Pennington honestly believes that the only way to understand media ethics is to take a media ethics class in college? Really?

Yeah, everyone is media these days. Sorry if the pajamas crowd has crashed your party, guys, but the bouncers standing at the door to the club aren't checking for a journalism degree anymore. It's nobody's fault; it's just the way it is.

I understand how infuriating that must be for someone who's paid tuition to get a degree that has diminished in significance. But honestly, we're not talking about medicine or law or accounting or something that requires an education to qualify for an exam that will get you the license that (in theory, anyway) demonstrates proficiency in a pretty important endeavor. No, we're talking about sports writing, and folks are quite able to decide for themselves whether something is worth reading.

I can't believe we have to go over this again. Yes, there are guys actually in their skivvies, actually in their mothers' basements, actually publishing lies on the internet for kicks. There are also a lot of so-called new media members, the education of which vastly outranks those with journalism degrees. As a single example, SB Nation is replete with lawyers and other highly-educated individuals with not just bachelor degrees but graduate degrees to boot. We have an actual rocket scientist who blogs on our network. No kidding. But it doesn't matter really, because you don't need an advanced or even a journalism degree to write well. You can have a journalism degree and not write well at all, and you can lack one and write extraordinary things.

And about that ethics class J-school majors took but we didn't? Well, if you're going to try to distance yourselves from the rabble by lecturing them from behind the podium, you better have clean hands. You probably shouldn't be completely scraping content from bloggers all over the SEC unless you have their permission. Come to think of it, if you're going to caution your readers to trust only legitimate sources (as opposed to new media), why would you even have an automated Best of the Blogs section on your site? Is all of that stuff vetted and confirmed, or are you doing what you just complained about, simply republishing stuff you find on the internet for the benefit of your readers? There's nothing wrong with doing that in truncated or paraphrased fashion, but saying that there is something wrong with it and then doing it, well, you know. ([Note by Joel Hollingsworth, 06/22/11 12:09 PM EDT Note that it appears the site discontinued this practice about six months ago. Good on them for scrapping the scraping, but babies and bath waters and all that.]

And if you're going to ask readers to "trust sources that have proven over time that they’re not just after pageviews," then you probably shouldn't have made a name for yourselves with Erin Pageviews Andrews.

I'll give you this. Mr. SEC is objective. But it's funny, because laboring under the pretense of objectivity really doesn't matter much anymore. One can actually be credible while acknowledging and even embracing his biases. Journalism heresy, I know, but it's true. Being a fan doesn't mean that you can't see things clearly.

I've been aware of all of that for years, but I haven't mentioned it because, one more time, I like John Pennington, and I like Mr. SEC. We are, in my view anyway, on the same stage, and Mr. SEC is free to operate according to its own principles. It's one of the many advantages of the internet. I continue to hope that someday members of the old media will stop trying to relegate members of the new media to the basement and treat them like the new colleagues that they are. In the meantime, though, they should not expect a hypocritical lecture about media ethics to be well-received.

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