Writing

Jonathan Willis
November 13 2010 10:32AM

It’s been a lot of fun, writing here for the Nation family of sites .

(Tosses aside flagrant attempt to get page views with a sentence oddly suggestive of quitting.)

It has been a lot of fun. I get to spout off about the Oilers and hockey with minimal editorial control, rub shoulders with bona fide mainstream media guys – one of which I’ve respected ever since I started reading his work as a teenager – and engage with Oilers fans from all around the world. How often would a fan like me get a chance to ask a guy like Jason Gregor a question, and see Gregor bring that question to a player or coach? Not often.

I open with this to make it clear I’m not complaining – this experience has been a blast, and I wouldn’t trade it.

That said, I’m curious what people think the motivation of a writer here is. Getting beyond the obvious – the things I just pointed to, and the bag of tarnished gold coins a disreputable man drops off at my home once a month – there’s a much bigger factor that keeps me popping out articles: I like to write about things I like to write about. If I didn’t get to grab whatever topic popped into my head and run as far and fast with it as I wanted to, none of those other things would matter; it’s too much work to write if you don’t genuinely enjoy it.

That’s why I’m always amused by comments like the one Ducey made to Robin Brownlee yesterday:

As usual Brownlee you miss the point. Everything you write is about the media. But this is a hockey blog. Who gives a hoot about how he is treated in the media? The question is whether he is playing well…

Ducey went on to discuss Khabibulin, but it’s the first few lines I wanted to key in on. The suggestion there is that because Oilers Nation is primarily about hockey, the readers have the right to demand that Brownlee not discuss a related issue (how it plays in the media) and instead limit himself to the actual hockey being played.

The truth is that neither Ducey, nor any of the other readers here, have the right to dictate content. It’s something that seems to happen a fair bit, when Person X’s pet peeve isn’t getting the play he feels it deserves, or something he likes is (in his view) getting an unfairly rough go of it.

The main reason for that is that it wouldn’t work – people write about what they’re passionate about, what they’re interested in, what they feel they can do justice to (at least on blogs; I’m sure the MSM guys have written a thing or two that bored them for their more high-paying gigs). If anyone started having the power to dictate what I wrote, I’d pack my bags and wander someplace else. The primary motivation, the thing that got me started blogging, was the joy I took in it, and as long as writing is a sideline to a demanding full-time job, the fun of it is what keeps me going.

So by all means, keep tossing out suggestions (as many of you have) and keep critiquing the work itself. That’s part of the fun.

Just don’t expect to be able to dictate what other people write. If you feel strongly that something needs to be said, or need that kind of control, do what I did: go do it yourself.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 jeanshorts
November 13 2010, 05:02PM
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Ducey wrote:

Wow, I am famous!

I am also surprised how thin skinned some of the writers are at ON.

Don't criticise the cabal, or Willis will accuse you of dictating what is written, or Brownlee will "run your ass".

For goodness sake fellas, you can't write about how much you love being able to write whatever you want, and then get peeved someone doesn't agree with it.

How the hell does a poster "dictate" what you write? We can't. But we should be able to be critical. Or is this site sponsored by North Korea?

There's a difference between being critical, or disagreeing on what someone's points are, and constantly complaining about the content they choose to write about.

I'm not sure if you're normally a part of it, but there seems to be a small faction of people on here who bitch and moan daily that "this article doesn't talk about enough hockey/this article talks about too much hockey/this article doesn't have enough ice girls/the mere mention of ice girls is going to kick start my nephew on a heroin binge" etc, etc.

If the article starts off with 4 lines about the MSM hailing Khabby for his play and being the teams MVP, you kind of get the gist of what the article is going to be about, no? So why, then, if you don't want to read about "the media" and do want to read about Khabby's game to game GAA, would you keep reading it? You know Brownlee doesn't work well with numbers, and has eons worth of insight on sports media, so what do you honestly expect?

I think Willis may have worded some things a bit poorly in this article, because as far as I can tell he's fine with people criticizing and arguing against his points, and dude loves to throw down if someone needs to be put in their place. But if you take time out of your day to say something like "Really? Another article on the Oilers PK woes in relation to face off percentages? I hate this crap" on an article that absolutely no one has forced you to read, you come off sounding like a humungous jackass who should probably take a step back from the computer and take a look in the mirror, because you likely have a lot bigger issues to deal with.

Argue about how horribly wrong the writers are all you want. Just don't complain about what topic they choose. They're busting their asses for all of us so we have something to do as we waste time at work/hide from our families.

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#52 Bucknuck
November 13 2010, 05:28PM
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@jeanshorts

I couldn't have said it better myself. So I won't.

Jeanshorts I give you props, even if your picture does look a lot like a certain six foot four 4th overall pick disappointment I would rather not be reminded of.

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#54 Oilcruzer
November 13 2010, 05:42PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee:

Even up here in Fort St. John, I've had similar experiences, and I completely agree with your view that the site's diversity is a key strength.

Hmmm... Had to fly in and out of Ft St J yesterday... Small world.

Yes, this is a nice blog site. We need Lawrence Welk to strike up the band and bubbles,

Ana one, Ana two, Ana... "Kumbaya...."

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#55 Clarkenstein
November 13 2010, 05:45PM
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The way I see it is the season is a month old and we know we've got a snowball's chance in hell of making the playoffs... again... so it comes down to criticizing criticism. To hell with it. I'm havin' a rum and coke.

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If Willis ever stopped doing what he did best, I'd probably quit the internet.

Just sayin' ...

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#57 PabstBR55
November 13 2010, 07:47PM
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Oilers4ever wrote:

I give all you guys props and credit for what you do, even if I don't always agree with what you say. Fact is you can get the inside story on some things with the team that you won't say from places like Global, TSN, Sportsnet, etc... And for that, you are applauded. And the non-hockey stories definately can be insightful....

My only complaint is I raised a question about a week back with the Oil's dman issues if it would be worth trying to go after Jack Johnson in LA... and no one responded!! I'd still like that answered as I think he's a good D and wonder if shipping Penner that way for him and maybe something else would ever fly??

Because Los Angeles' desire to trade Jack Johnson equals our desire to trade Jordan Eberle.

I generally enjoy reading people's hypothitical trade proposals, but they'll only attract comments if they're feasible or innovative.

On that note, anyone think we could deal Penner and Cogs for Crosby and Malkin? The Pens need wingers.

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#58 Ducey
November 13 2010, 08:32PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

What were you being critical of, exactly?

The way I read it, you were being critical of a writer discussing media reaction rather than the topic of your choice - in this case an exacting analysis of Khabibulin's play.

It's hardly a hanging offence; it's just an example of something I don't get - arguing that an article should be about something other than what it's about.

Willis,

I missed the memo on the things I am allowed to be critical of.

It seems ironic that Brownlee's topic was critical of the media and their focus. You say thats ok. However, if I dare to be critical of the media here and their focus, its wrong.

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#59 Jenga
November 13 2010, 09:25PM
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@Jeanshorts Exactly. It's like a guy taking a free ham sandwich, eating, and then complaining that he had to eat a ham sandwich.

Willis, on some level you guys should take it as a compliment that your readers read everything on the site, even stuff they don't want to read.

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#60 Robin Brownlee
November 13 2010, 10:25PM
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Ducey wrote:

Willis,

I missed the memo on the things I am allowed to be critical of.

It seems ironic that Brownlee's topic was critical of the media and their focus. You say thats ok. However, if I dare to be critical of the media here and their focus, its wrong.

Let me run this memo past you: Given your history of being a pain in the ass, even something as simple as your sarcastic "I missed the memo . . ." is more than good enough to get you gone. You've been given lots of slack and used every inch of it.

That's not the case with the vast majority of posters here, but you? Yes. And guess what? I don't even have to spell out a reason. You've been told many times to debate what's being written instead of focusing on who has done the writing, or why they've chosen to write about any given subject, and you've ignored those warnings. Don't like the rules? TFB.

So, dig in your heels. Have your say. Prove to everybody how you won't back down and how the very loose guidelines we have don't apply to you. Be "famous." Come back with something, anything, I don't like and it's adios.

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#61 Dodd
November 14 2010, 11:43AM
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Okay - I towed the line of "don't tell us how to respond to what you write" but clearly this is a case of "If you don't like it, there's the door."

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#62 Oilers4ever
November 14 2010, 07:03PM
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PabstBR55 wrote:

Because Los Angeles' desire to trade Jack Johnson equals our desire to trade Jordan Eberle.

I generally enjoy reading people's hypothitical trade proposals, but they'll only attract comments if they're feasible or innovative.

On that note, anyone think we could deal Penner and Cogs for Crosby and Malkin? The Pens need wingers.

Clearly you don't follow the rumor blogs and such enough then. :) There was a lot of comment that the Kings would be willing to move Johnson because they have a lot of depth at D in their team.. the rumor I did hear (about a month back) was Penner, Cogs and a draft back to LA for Johnson and Stoll... personally I think the Oil should jump on that if it would happen... Stoll would sure help our faceoffs, power play and penalty killing.. but likely will never happen... Incidentally, talent wise.. Johnson is nowhere near as good as Eberle.

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