Before I start, please give your answers to the questions posed in last night’s post. I’ve had a few, but would love to see more. https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2016/07/25/who-are-you-and-what-do-you-think/
The kernel of an idea on writing about this came from a Twitter exchange with Dennis. He called me a journalist, and I disagreed (it was light hearted), but these things get me thinking about ideas to write about it. What am I? What, if any role do we play and what about our relationship, if there is one, with the media? Bloggers and the print media. Are we two sides of the same coin, or implacable enemies?
When I first started blogging, nearly a decade ago now, I was under no illusions. Blogging was not about gaining fame, seeking adulation, attention seeking or even something I was committed to. I liked writing, I’d just lost both my parents, I wasn’t satisfied with commenting on message boards because I felt I couldn’t really control my message and I started to read some pretty decent stuff. So I took to blogging. It was an online record of my thoughts, my views at the time (really, you don’t want to read them) and how they evolved. Everything was going well, I didn’t get any attention from anyone except my mates, who told me they loved it and to keep doing it, until the time I decided to criticise a potential elected appointment at the football team I support. I was threatened, I was abused, and I lost the innocence and the love of just writing my thoughts. Despite presenting a clear case in my defence (and producing it), there was no chance of winning. In choosing to flight or fight, I did the former. That blog is still out there, but I closed it down pretty much that day and is locked behind a password.
One of the accusations that day has stuck with me.
….these things crack me up. its like the sunday broadsheet columnist equivalent of kids playing shop. pretending and imagining that people are fascinated by your article the rise of padraig harrington, and nodding in agreement as they read your article with their cafetiere at their side on a sunday. its the biggest load of self absorbed b*llocks on earth, if they werent so inadvertantly funny it would be tragic.
Ignore the borderline illiteracy in the quote.This person thought I wanted to be a journalist. He might have been the first, but he won’t be the last. I have neither the instinct nor the energy to bother people into talking to me who don’t want to. That makes me pretty much unsuited to that genre of work, that of the journo, the hack. I’m not pushy. I’m not in to having cosy relationships with insiders as those who have met me will attest. If you want to tell me something, then fine, otherwise we can chat about this and that. Sure, I love a little bit of gossip, but you don’t, in the main, find it on here. I’m about as likely to be accused of “good journalism” as I am to win the 100m at the Rio Olympics. What that blog did was to get me to enjoy writing as a bit of fun, and not something to take too seriously. Some say it was really well written, some say my style is an abomination. But it made people laugh (my mates) and it made them see me slightly differently.
Once that blog closed I opened up another, and Seven and Seven Eighths was born. Again, this was a general blog on all matters, but a lot on sport. It followed up the original but my heart was not quite as into it. To put this in to context, this blog (BOC) at its peak got over 2000 hits per day. The record day on Seven and Seven was 350 – for the death of Dan Wheldon. I was perfectly fine with that, but the posts got further and further apart, and my mind wandered on to other potential opportunities. I set up a cricket blog, a football blog, a football memorabilia blog, a photo blog, a cricket photo blog, and yet never seemed settled or focused. I’m all over WordPress. Again, this isn’t to gain attention, but to try to compartmentalise what is written / displayed. At the best, I thought I might get some new friends to speak to who happened to stumble upon my efforts. But mainly it was cathartic, a release valve and enjoyable to do. It stopped me being bored. I love to write, but would never want to be forced to. About as far away from a vocation as you could get.
The How Did We Lose In Adelaide blog, famous or infamous as it was, started in 2010, and ran until I discontinued it in 2015. The final year of its existence was tumultuous. Minding my own business for the first four years, writing away with only my mates looking in occasionally, the trenchant views I took surrounding the collapse of the 2013/14 Ashes team hit a nerve. Suddenly one of my blogs had caught some momentum. This was a genuinely scary moment for me. I did not seek attention, but I wasn’t disappointed to get it. I did not seek to be anyone’s voice, but I seemed to be representing a certain part of the England cricket fraternity/sorority . I had a decision to make – carry on with Seven and Seven, or devote all my energy to something that had caught a wave. I decided to do the latter.
This isn’t a journalist’s journey. It’s a writer’s journey. Ultimately I’m not going to be judged on the stories I break, because I can’t break them. I’m here to comment on what I see, what I think about things, and what I think of those that tell the tale. In many ways the journalism I think should be practiced isn’t anything like a blogger. A journalist delivers the stories, he/she acquires them, and develops them. They report on what they have seen, and pass comment on them. Only the last part applies to a blogger.
Blogging on cricket in the last 30 months has been exhilarating and terrifying in almost equal doses. It has developed my personality, and in a number of ways damaged it. It’s unpaid, and I will always want it that way, despite my wife thinking I’m crackers. It should be a spare time enjoyment, not a vocation. I no more want to be paraded as my real name in search of fame and glory, than I would to have a root canal. I’m not a blogger who thinks he should be anywhere near “Cricket Writers” let alone be on it (as a journalist suggested to me a while back), although I have real issues with some of the “alternative media” that have been on there. You may think the “writer” (and I’ll come to that) protests too much, but then you’ll see my resistance to meeting any of the journalistic corps. I’m not them, I don’t want to be them, I never will be them.
What I find nauseating, and what I try to do different to those who write for the national press, and the broadsheets in particular, is the way many around cricket treat it as some sort of intellectual joust. Exhibit A is Ed Smith, a man who cannot communicate in print at all but still gets gigs because he uses long words and has evidently read a couple of books. That Cricinfo would employ him to write an article, but not a Maxie, or a James, ora Sean or Chris is what’s wrong. Ed Smith got this gig handed to him, has not had to really work at being a communicator, and then gets to preen and pose on articles like the one yesterday on stress. Instead of a piece on a sensible subject, he just had to flaunt his reading material. The Abridged Ed Twitter feed is a wonderful creation because it is so accurate. You can sum up his articles in one or two sentences because that’s all they add up to. The rest is the writing equivalent of looking in the mirror and asking whether you are the cleverest of them all. You see, I can read a Tregaskis, obviously a very clever man, and not be bored by the nuance and cadence of his writing – his piece on the executed West Indian cricketer Leslie Hylton is absolutely magnificent, and an instruction to us all – whereas I’m just waiting for Ed to show off. And that riles me t the extreme. Don’t be ashamed of your education, but don’t patronise with it. Ed Smith patronises.
The other thing I really get annoyed about is the “expert”. This card is played by Selvey the most, but others are prone to lapse into it. We get it, you played the game. That does not mean that we cannot comment upon it, comment upon what you write, and perhaps dig a little deeper. It does not mean you can cast out statements and expect us to take them as fact because you had a county career with a few test caps. The treatment of the avid fan as an idiot, because that is what it is, is patronising, and you wonder why some people rail against it. I don’t claim to be an expert, I never have. I bow to my co-writer’s knowledge of technique, and those of Philip who have written the occasional piece on the subject here. I’m not in some Michael Gove “we are tired of experts” mode either. It’s just not a catch-all that allows you to be an ECB insider and get away with it because you’ve played the game. Without the avid fan, new fans are not created in anywhere near as large a number. The expert may see the blogger as an inexperienced know nothing, a challenge to someone who “knows” but misses the point. That “fan” is mad keen on the sport. Maybe more keen than you are. You have no room to alienate them.
So with those two genres out of the way, the third is the one we focused our aim on in the last couple of years. The journalism by leak, or as it is known on here “good journalism”. I listened to the interview that Agnew had with Parky on that Sunday lunchtime at Lord’s, and Aggers showed that the accusation made (prominently by Tregaskis in The Cricketer) that journos were too cosy with the players and authorities still resonated with him. He made a point of mentioning the dirt in the pocket and the Stuart Broad non-walking incidents. He said that despite them being friends/on friendly terms he had to go with his reporting instincts and calling them out on it. Part of me thought that if that even came into it, thinking how it might hurt friendships, then there’s an issue, but we are all human. I don’t have that gene in me. Indeed, one of the fears I had as a blogger was would people genuinely hate me for what I write. Some do. I’ve seen it, though a lot less lately. Bloggers have that distance, the sort of thing that makes us “cowards” in the eyes of journalist and some of their supporters. We’ll say things on a computer screen we’ll never say to their faces. Well, it was interesting to hear Aggers say that he and Atherton have never talked about the dirt in the pocket. In many ways, that’s the same isn’t it? It is this analysis of the “good journalism” output that I think genuinely spooked some of them. They weren’t used to having their work scrutinised forensically and some made their views clear. Some block me on Twitter. Some call me a bilious inadequate. Some spoke to me on social media. Some called me irrelevant. Chris can speak for himself on this, but it seemed odd that they really thought people should just let it go. Trust them to be our eyes and ears. Instead, we thought they weren’t doing things well enough. Preferring access to aggro. That’s still an issue today. Newman and his selectors piece being the latest in a long line of “I wonder who leaked, I mean helped out, on that piece of “good journalism”. Journos have to get these stories, we don’t.
A blogger has more scope to broaden their approach. They have no editor (I couldn’t deal with that, I really couldn’t) and can go longform at will (as I do). The blogger isn’t particularly time driven, but given there are many competing elements for my spare time, I make a point of drafting once and polishing later, but I can also go a good few days without writing. I choose the topics (or my co-writers do) and our editorial board, such as it is, is on WhatsApp or Twitter DM. Free rein is given, and we write what we feel. Again, Aggers said it on his interview regarding radio, you have to be yourself or you get found out. I think that equally applies to blogging. So I do get emotional. I do get angry, and I do get down. It’s a diary of life and cricket. It isn’t journalism.
I think the term “writer” is pretentious, and one, personally, I don’t want, and I don’t think it applies. I am a blogger. It’s nowhere near journalism, it’s not really seeking to be one’s artistic best as “writers” do. It’s about a view, communicated in my own, and TLG and Sean’s own ways, to people who might be interested. We aren’t here for commercial gains, we are not here to challenge journalists. We’re here because we care, and because we enjoy the platform blogging gives us. It’s what makes us different.
I’ve had a piece of advice from one prominent “nu-school” journo who said of my pieces “why do you write about journalists, when no-one gives a shit about them? You’re a good writer, so do something more with your blog” I’ll take that last part on advisement, but the premise that no-one is interested is more cricket authority facing than the way I face, which is writing to you. That journalist, who in no way is protecting the old school interests, doesn’t realise what pieces on Newman and Selvey in particular do when I write about them. The hit rate is increased.Our commenters bring them to the blog, and then they get more comments back. They drive this place at times.
This blog coasted through the Sri Lanka series (a bit like everyone else) but as soon as Selvey announced his retirement – BOOM. One world cricket writer had reference to us within ten minutes of the announcement, and he wasn’t alone. Newman’s piece on the selection committee, and BOOM again. They aren’t quite the clickbait of Kevin Pietersen times, but there is a noticeable uplift in hit rates when journalists are questioned. The journos will never be allowed to forget 2014, and their part in the abominable process that followed, and this blog will always focus on them. It’s one of our “mission statement” pieces. It’s what got us noticed in the first place.
So, after 2000 words, and potentially a lot more could be written, what is the conclusion? We are not two sides of the same coin, nor are we the feeder fish that cling to the sharks. Bloggers are not a threat to journalists, unless journalists allow us to become a threat because they are not doing their jobs. Bloggers should be encouraged, they should be nurtured, and they need to retain a total independence to be effective. Bloggers are truly judged on the quality of their pieces, and of satisfying their audience, not by giving them what they want, but by retaining their identity and being true. If I became something else, this audience would drop me like a stone. That we’ve kept a core audience even when the supposed keystone to this blog has gone away (the KP back for England) speaks volumes. That others have fallen by the wayside is not surprising. We’re not two sides of the same coin at all, we aren’t even a threat. We’re different, and not to be controlled or briefed, edited or spun, inside or beside. We are outside cricket for a reason – because they don’t want us inside, and we quite like the chill air.
I’d be interested in your views on this. How do you see the “relationship”? Is there one? Are we competing? Let me know in the comments.
A fabulously ‘blogged’ piece LCL, and nicely written to boot!
The thing is…it resonates with the forcibly disenfranchised, and yet, still avid cricket lover.
Questions are asked that no hack in the msm would dare ever ask (for fear of their accreditation being withdrawn)
Opinions espoused that would do little to get an invite to Giles Clarke’s birthday bash.
We want the ECB to be held to account, and, maybe one sunny day, we might be instrumental in doing so, as it is they who have transformed our National Summer Sport into an invisible nonentity, yet they all still ask the same question…Why is cricket in decline? Because no bugger’s watching it, that’s why. How hard can it be?
One chairman has already been sacked fir having the temerity to suggest that T20 should be on FTA, yet, that has gone under the radar as everyone basks in Root’s glory. The chicanery of the ECB seems like an incurable cancer as all the symptoms are studiously ignored!
Well, hopefully, on this blog, they won’t?
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Thank you for the kind words on the Hylton piece. Really appreciated.
My brief chat with David Hopps today perhaps touches on some difference between journos and bloggers. It is not the complete exchange (can’t work out how to do that) but DH does allude to at least one challenge faced by journos that we bloggers are immune to.
Sorry folks, the link did not copy the whole thread. You will have to check out my t/l to see the point David Hopps was making, but it was essentially that his editors not keen on anything political.
I took that to mean politics in general, and I’m sort of with him on that. You know my views on this, and the requests that it is not something I’m keen on being discussed on here.
Cricket politics? Really? I find that hard to believe.
P.S….the relationship should be…a thorn in the bloody side!!
LCL – be who you want to be and label yourself as you see fit, as I concur you’re a very able wordsmith.
Btw, I’d be interested in both the link to the executed WI cricketer and the Twitter parody handle. Merci d’avance !
A very long time ago I wrote that it seemed many bloggers wanted to be cricket journos (getting paid to write and watch cricket seems enticing) while many journos looked on bloggers with envy (independence, no deadlines etc).
I think there are a number who see it as a way in, David. But I’ve made it clear from the outset, as has Chris, that it’s absolutely not what floats our boats. You aren’t being paid to write and watch cricket, but to get stories, and that’s not what I would want to do. Being a national journalist comes with an added responsibility. The national team belongs to us all. It is something we never access, or rarely to be more accurate. We rely on the journalist to represent all of us. Where I got very angry was they were representing one side only in this whole sorry saga, and that’s why I felt let down.
I’m not sure journalists are envious of bloggers at all. In fact quite the contrary. The stunning dismissal of our presence as irrelevancies proved that.
There wasn’t much envy then….
Jounalists and bloggers have completely different roles. The fact they have come into conflict is in some ways surprising, but in other ways unavoidable. Journalists need access, and without it they are frozen out. If you are Selvey or Aggers and you have no access you in the shit. Because your editor will want ro know why. That forces journalists to toe the line and err on the side of caution. It makes them much more vulnerable to become mouth pieces for the establishment.
Before bloggers newspapers would have different journalists for different roles. Many major stories were broken by inexperienced journos becuase they didn’t worry about losing access and reputation, they didn’t have any. Watergate was broken by a couple of rookies because non of the establishment journos wanted to touch it with a barge pole. The Washington Post took huge heat but the MS journalist were out of the loop. In those days the papers had more money to employ more journalists.
The problem for the journalist is now the blogger can go where they fear to tread, because the blogger doesn’t have to conform. They don’t need access. They don’t need to talk to Cook or Strauss. Or anyone else. I listened too to Aggers Parkinson interview and it was a bit of light hearted memory lane stuff. But Aggers did seem to be angry about the “journos get too close to the players” accusation. His reporting and calling out of Atherton was brave. He took a lot of heat for doing it from the broadsheets, but was supported by the tabloids. A time when the ENGLAND captain would be called out. Those were the days!! His critique of Broad was small beer. There is nothing that says you have to walk. Broad had broken another of crickets idiotic spirit of cricket clap trap.
I have to say I read a lot of blogs on different subjects including finance and politics. Opinions and insights that make the MSM look like news for 5 year olds. There is a hell of a lot happening in the world at the moment and most of it is being ignored or covered up. Too much of the media is conflicted. Usually through ownership or fear of losing sponsorship. Thank goodness for the bloggers. But you have to choose wisely. There is also a lot of crap. The problem for journalists is what is their role in a world where TV Internet breaks news, and bloggers can do much more in depth stuff? I don’t envy journos one little bit, and wouldn’t want to be them. But that is no excuse for their piss poor peformance from the last few years.
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Thanks to Nick Sharland for highlighting this. My life is complete:
A man who can spell endocrinology but runs a sports degree and spells Argentina’s legendary 80s footballer with two ns.
I’ve only just read the stress article. Fascinated by this quote:
“One former England cricketer, who is still playing county cricket, told me that his fellow county professionals stood in awe of Cook’s ability to withstand pressure and block out critics. “How can you go out and get a Test hundred against that background noise?” he asked rhetorically.”
He didn’t make one until the background noise had subsided, did he? That was kind of the point.
Smith wrote a book about luck a few years ago, which is a pile of west coast Svengali like hippy nonsense. The guardian gave it rightly a pretty a poor review. Here is the opening of the review which reveals Smith as a man who seems to be a victim.
” Ed Smith was a famously unlucky cricketer. A talented county player, he was picked fairly late for England and after a run of poor scores was soon facing his make-or-break innings against South Africa in 2003. Just as he was getting going he was given out to a very bad umpiring decision. This was doubly unfortunate: not only was he the victim of someone else’s incompetence but if it had happened today he could have used technology to review the decision and get a reprieve. After that, who knows what might have happened. As it was, he never played for England again.
Some of the quotes from the review by David Runciman.
” Smith’s frame of reference is primarily pop psychology books of the past few years. The main problem, though, is that people like Gladwell do it so much better.”
” There is a nasty whiff here that he is talking down to his readers, fearful of bamboozling them with the true complexities of historical contingency.”
I look forward to Ed Smith writing a column on the “luck” of Alastair Cook. Of course we won’t get it because he will never apply his half baked theories to people he fawns over. As phycologists always say they will never apply their theories to themselves or their loved ones
What I like and appreciate from this blog is the insight into the ways ‘the machine’ seems to work and interpretation of what ‘the man’ says. Back in the day you used to be able to read different journalists and you would get different interpretations, or different angles on the story. You could use the different POV’s to make a whole out of the topic and then make your own mind up.
Now it seems that all the main guys have the same story. Like they all come from the same source, sorry, leak…. Or maybe it’s just good schmoozing.
Do you get it right all the time – I’m sure not, but that is because you actually ask questions rather than just parroting the ECB’s wishes and desires.
One thing that really drove me away from looking at selvey et all as actual journalists was their response to DOAG (or should we call it their dismissal of DOAG).
All they care about is to maintain their cosy life and feeling they are superior cause they have access.
They went from journalist to reporter to stenographer. I wonder if China got their ideas for state censorship of the free press from the way the ECB works! “We write it, you say it…. No opinion please” (sorry very tangential!!)
I’ve never really taken to the term Blogger – I think of you/Chris/Sean as opinion writers.
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Strange how all the ones who seem to have some independence of spirit become pod people in the end. I’ve stopped seeking out Peter Miller – if I want to hear how impressive Andrew Strauss is, I can read Selvey or Newman. It was nice he co-operated on Miller’s book though.
Pod-Wigmore? Nooooooo!!!!!! All hope isn’t quite lost as it’s a very odd article – Wigmore seems to talk himself out of his own argument as he goes along. He hasn’t quite succumbed to one of the chief requirements of pod personage which is how to deal with the opposing argument – pretend there isn’t one is the poddiest of strategies but, failing that, gross misrepresentation and the setting fire of straw men will do. Wigmore airs the opposing arguments – and, lo and behold, they sound quite convincing. What had been “Five-day Tests are a good idea” becomes “Five-day Tests are going to happen because administrators are greedy bastards”.
I have just read Smiths piece on Stress. Good lord it’s straight out of North Korea. It is literally vomit making, and why I will never like ENGLAND again as long the great pretender is the captain. I wish Smith would encounter some real stress in his life if he thinks it is so bloody great. Smith is a fraud as far as I’m concerned. With his Bob Dylan quotes, and his new age theories. He pretends to be a modern thinker, but always falls back on his deepest darkest reactionary conservative views.
I’m sure stress is delightful for coal miners, people with horrible illnesses, and people who can’t feed their children. Just fine for someone who has meandered through life believing it’s all down to luck to lecture to them. Cook has stress? Please, pull the other one. The man is like Smith. Privileged with everything handed on a plate. Smith sounds like some Victorian mill owner in Dickens ‘Hard Times’ complaining how easy the hands (workers) have it.
Bradley Hardacre…played by Timothy West in Gold….now there was a man who could visit stress on his workers, and have them ‘cap wringing’ in a second..ficjam has no bloody idea!! Educated idiot!
I’m not going to read it, so there. But ‘Malcolm Gladwell does it so much better’ sums it up, for me. especially as Gladwell is getting past the sell-by date himself.
Grrr, I meant four-day Tests at the end of course.
Generic moan about the lack of an ‘edit’ button.
By the way, anyone relying solely on the Guardian’s cricket coverage – all those BTL there who go on about marvelous and unequaled it is – has no idea that this four day Test thing is on the table.
I’m looking forward to Selvey coming out with his conversion to the idea. Some of his core support are going to be most unhappy.
You have an email.
As usual, Tests in SL are quite well-served for highlights on Youtube. Here’s day one:
Reason 278 why you don’t employ Newman or Selvey as your doctor…….
“Ben Stokes has been left out of the squad for the third Test against Pakistan after MRI scans confirmed a torn calf muscle.”
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Just keep on keeping on, Dmitri.
And think how lucky we all are. Time was, you’d have written all those thoughts down in exercise books and put them in the attic where the mice would have got them. Or a bit later, you’d have kept them on floppy disks that got corrupted and wouldn’t play.
Now, you have the online company of like-minded souls from around the globe, and all your blogs, known and unknown, are comfortably shelved in the ether for easy retrieval by any bilious inadequate who happens by.
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