Being a "blogger" has it's fair share of benefits and pit falls. While I still need a day job to pay the bills, get turned down for official team access,and in general hit the ground running with little idea of what I'm doing, I am afforded an unequaled ability to write whatever I wish. Sadly, quite a few have used this freedom to write mountains of BS in the name of getting attention to their various sites. In turn, this get's picked up by various members of the "Mainstream Media" and used to show why bloggers are the attention starved basement dwellers we're made out to be.
During Urban Meyer's "Retirement" press conference, CBS Sports personality Tim Brando tweeted (I'm paraphrasing) "The first question comes from "Gator Country", come on." Never mind that GC is probably the single largest Gator site on the net, never mind it is an official ESPN partner, and never mind it probably has more traffic than CBS's Gator specific page, just because it was a fan run site, it wasn't quite legitimate.
Granted, most sports related blogs are run by fans of whichever particular team they're following. However, that still hasn't stopped some blogs from joining their traditional counterparts in the press box. SBN's Arrowhead Pride has had press credentials for over a year and has done nothing but provided excellent coverage of the Chiefs. BCC's own Alfie Crow has press access to the Jaguars. Neither one of them has done anything to damage any journalistic code of ethics, but rather helped expand access for fans.
However, the "Hit Whores" tend to define everything, for better or worse. Sites the spew neo-Yellow Journalism are held up as why blogs shouldn't be given the time of day, while traditional media strives to keep the peace.
Two recent events involving "Mainstream Media" caught my eye the other day. The first has been the well publicized "Autograph Gate" involving Tim Tebow. For the three of you who haven't heard, two reporters asked for Tebow's autograph following his first preseason game. In short, it is a massive breach of the Code of Conduct sports journalists are supposed to go by. It's simply unprofessional and potentially creates a conflict of interest. Sadly enough, this wasn't even the first time a reporter asked Tebow for his autograph, as a similar incident happened at the combine. While the "perpetrators" have yet to be specially identified, they've been thrashed around enough by others in the media.
The second incident involved Arkansas beat reporter Renee Gork. Gork, a UF grad, wore a Gator hat to Arkansas HC Bobby Petrino's press conference. Petrino acknowledged it by answeing one of her questions and then stating "And that will be the last question I answer with that hat on." Gork was subsequently fired from her position, while claiming "It wasn't a stunt."
The reaction in the mainstream media has been far more divided, with some saying it was an egregious offense, while others claiming it was an honest mistake. For those who take the second position, I want to offer a question.
If a member of Team Speed Kills, SBN's General SEC website, had been granted media credentials by Arkansas and pulled a similar stunt, what would your opinion be? I have a pretty good idea. If a "blogger" wore a South Carolina or Alabama hat to that press conference, every self-righteous columnist in the country would be holding their own mock trial on the ethics of bloggers.
SBN has been making major gains over the past year, and I honestly believe the network has become closer to be a part of the mainstream media rather than simply a network of blogs. However, it seems to me the last true leap that needs to be made, is that all of us are human and trying to provide the best sports coverage we can.