One Last Thing

Hornet Nest

I wrote a piece yesterday on Dallas Eakins’ comments in a Saturday interview on TSN, and it was a little like kicking a hornet’s nest. That doesn’t bother me, but what does bother me is that it turned into Round 3,000 of Bloggers vs. the MSM.

That wasn’t my intent, but it is to a large degree my fault.

Mea Culpa

I know we come here to talk about hockey much more than we do to talk about the media covering hockey, so this will be my last word on the subject but I thought it was important to clarify a few things.

  • First and foremost: There are a lot of good journalists covering the Oilers. My headline yesterday came across as lumping the whole group together; that was never what I meant to do but I should have realized that given my background and the fact that I’m not based in Edmonton it was going to seem like a blogger sewering the whole establishment. That’s my fault, and I’m sorry.
  • A number of people reached out to me, publicly and privately, to let me know that was a mistake. We’ll leave the private conversations private, but both TSN’s Ryan Rishaug and the Journal’s John MacKinnon challenged me publicly on Twitter over parts of the piece they felt misrepresented the story, and both raised valid objections. Rishaug in particular noted the way the headline came across; MacKinnon questioned whether the word “prick” was actually used in the email. Those are both fair comments, which doesn’t surprise me given the source; both routinely do excellent work.
  • There are plenty of others who also routinely do exceptional work. I don’t say that enough; I sometimes take the good for granted but object to the negatives.
  • Several people have also told me that part of the problem is the relationship between the Oilers’ PR department and the media is informal, and the comment should be considered in that context. That’s a pretty critical bit of mitigating detail which didn’t appear in the original piece; when communication is relaxed it’s a lot easier for someone to forget that they’re talking with someone in an official capacity.

The amount of hostility to the piece shouldn’t have surprised me, because I should have realized how it came across. That’s my fault, and again I’m sorry.

The Message

There’s a really weird split in terms of reaction to the piece, though; while pretty much everyone in the media I’ve talked to has taken it negatively, the split has been almost reversed in emails, social media and the comments section on this site. The reason for that, I think, is that there really is a credibility problem between the media covering the team and the audience.

I said yesterday that we all suffer when standards slip and we all benefit when we hold ourselves to high standards in the area of objectivity. I meant it. I may be mistaken, I may see things in a different light than my audience, but at the end of the day my work should convince my audience that what I am writing is what I fully believe to be the whole truth, regardless of my personal feelings for the people involved. But when you have a journalist incapable of even feigning a lack of bias in an official communication with a team staffer it erodes the credibility of everyone, including myself, because it tells the audience that not only are we biased but we’ve given up even trying to look past our own partiality.

That can’t be acceptable.

That’s why I wrote what I did yesterday, and that’s why I’m writing this today. The way the headline on my original piece was worded, it was possible to say ‘look at that blogger and that axe he’s grinding’; that can’t be the overriding message to come out of this and I’m apologizing above because I don’t want it to be.

In some ways I’m very much the wrong person to be saying this; I’m an outsider, I’m a blogger, not a beat reporter and it’s easy to frame this as a skirmish between opposed forces. But the thing is that somebody has to say it. I read as much coverage of the Oilers as anybody and when I read it I don’t want to know that the writer agrees with my point of view or espouses my beliefs. I just want to know that he’s making an honest effort to report what he believes to be the truth. Judging by the reaction from fans of the team, I’m very much not alone in that sentiment.

I regret the headline; in places I regret the tone. I don’t have any regret over the basic idea that the audience has every right to expect the media to do its level best to maintain impartiality.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • vetinari

    @Willis

    It all comes down to credibility and reputation whether you are a blogger or member of the MSM.

    From reading your articles on this site (and other places) over the years I can say that I am surprised at the reaction that you were trying to incite animosity and tension between the MSM and bloggers, or trying to use an eye catching headline to grab attention and traffic.

    I typically find that your articles are well supported and well reasoned, even if I disagree with some of your assumptions or conclusions, and you back up your statements with evidence in support of your position. And more so, you have the balls to put your name and face to every article.

    To me, that’s accountability and credibility, and you have it in spades. Hopefully this sets the record straight and brings the matter to a close.

    Now if only the author of that email to the Oilers would step forward and show half the character you have…

  • Derian Hatcher

    Here is my issue with Edmonton MSM in general; It’s the softball questions and softball columns. NOTE: I recognize there have ben a few article and some hard questions over the years, but I followed the Vancouver media coverage of Gillis & Torterella’s tire fire last year and they asked some tough questions on a regular basis and wrote some stinging pieces that called it like it was. Same this year in the Center of the Hockey Universe. The media in TO are all over Nonis and Shanahan on a weekly basis. If the Oiler team was in one of those two centers, I feel there would be tougher questions asked and harsher opinions published. Just my opinion

  • Chainsawz

    Current rankings of Oiler current events:

    1. Draft Position 2. Hall injury 3. Penguins with Crosby and Malkin in town 4. Pakarinen called up 5. Ping Pong Table 6. Eberle actually scoring 7. Free Marincin 8. Petry trade looming . . . 10000. Someone called Dellows a prick . . . . 1000000000. MSM vs bloggers

  • ted

    i often call my friends a prick or worse.

    It is harder to catch the nuance when it is done on paper though, the context tends to get lost.

    Was the comment biased towards being friendly or unfriendly.
    Is the guy a prick?
    That was the least interesting thing stated in the interview, his arrogance was the most interesting (by the way he talks he expects to get hired soon….ain’t going to happen).

    It seems this is a lot to do about nothing.
    You can be un-biased in your reporting (any reporter) and still think a player/coach/gm/poho or stats guy is a prick.

  • Petrolero

    You may not see it now Jonathan, but what you have done with your petty piece, and this even worse follow up (it is not an apology, you’re just saying “i’m sorry but i’m still right”), to the blogging community by making mountains out of ant hills and preaching about things that are not here nor there (as one comment earlier said, this kind of integrity you talk about is for reporting on serious issues like science and war and such, not sports) is going to undo a lot of the good work that people like yourself had done over the years to bring credibility to non MSM. You basically threw away reason and went on a rant centered on what amounts to gossip. Sports journalism is built around bias and speculation, not around investigative journalism. People in the business build their careers around speculating.

    You claimed to take up the flag of righteousness and following good journalistic practices but you yourself didn’t bother to follow rule number one of journalism: fact checking.

    Now you have killed part of your own credibility as well as that of sports bloggers everywhere, because a lot of folks put stock on what you write and you just gave them this message board nonsense.

  • MacTastic

    Anyone who regularly writes for ON and or is a regular guest on #630 or #1260 is MSM.

    Those who have access to the Oilers dressing room at any time are MSM.

    To a certain extent all the local MSM are imbedded to varying degrees including the main authors on ON. That is just the way it is.

  • YFC Prez

    Johnathan:

    My wife was a copy writer at CGY SUN.
    Editor in Strathmore and Hanna.

    It allways bothered her that she was asked to write to the audience as thou they were in grade 5.

    Dumb it down! Dumb it down!

    You must remeber that MSM editors are looking for non adult level thought and checking for international page structure, syntax, Spelling.
    Reduced time on content!

    Often MSM are not working in the content area they desired. Rather the content that got them a job.They may even despised the content.

    The blogger starts with loving the content they deal with. Putting extensive thought and investigation. Attempt to write at a mature and fact supported adult level.

    Everything most MSM writer/editors are restricted from. MSM start off with a dream about writing content at a level of intellectual caring. Get forced to write at a primary scholl thinking level. Go thru a repetitive content form. for there subject.

    The critical point is MSM are often the written brain. Sports Bloggers are often the science brain!

    MSM have to watch hobby writers generate more respected thought than the primary school drivel: there bosses force them to write. bloggers, who are getting to enter the inner sanctumn they may desire to be.

    Having meet some of said media: others are just lazy and 2 stupid. So they feel threatened.

    Suck it up!

  • JW, the quality of your writing and the insight you provide us everyday are of such quality that you are my favorite writer on all things Oil. I respect your opinion because I find you are thoughtful and considered in your columns. I thought the substance of our article yesterday was right on the money. The fact that you would even feel obligated to apologize for the tone or how it may have come across to some, speaks volumes about your humility and integrity. Keep on doing what you do Young Willis.

  • YFC Prez

    When I read Jonathan’s article on which this one is based I interpreted it as a journalist criticizing his peers. In my opinion rightfully so.

    First if all the distinction between “blogger ” and MSM is rapidly disappearing. If your work appears on Sportsnet , the Edmonton Journal ,and the Nation Network, you’re wearing the same big boy pants as the people you’re criticizing.
    There shouldn’t be a different level on entitlement between the 2 groups. They are very close to being one and the same.

    Jonathan says ” in some ways I’m the wrong person to be saying this ; I’m a outside a blogger ” . I’m just going to call bullocks on this. YOU are very much the right person to be saying this. YOU may not be a beat reporter but you are a journalist. You have the skills knowledge integrity and your reputation. You have also spent a large portion of your career covering the same team of those who’s performance you were bringing into question. I understand why you did what you did and quite frankly anyone upset with you should look in the mirror. For a group of people who’s job it is to ” ask the hard questions” why would they feel it’s out line to have to answer the hard questions sometime? Tit for tat.

    IMO some people are looking foolish over the article You wrote. And it isn’t the author. But this follow-up shows some major class. I’m fairly confident whatever the outcome with your peers , you can hold your head high.

  • Corsi Cowboy

    I just read the article you wrote which you are now apologizing for, or backpeddling from. My question is, “why would you care if a journalist or blogger emailed Oilers PR and called someone a Prick”?

    You sound very insecure.

  • toprightcorner

    Looks like a huge case of pen envy from the MSM

    Basically what is happening here is that journalists went to school for what they do and look at their position as a career job with an official media outlet. Most have been doing this for decades, long before you could find out anything about any team within 1 minute online.

    Then cam the bloggers, starting off as individuals writing their take on sports teams and connecting with the common reader as “one of their own”. These bloggers then gain a solid reputation with readership and many have no formal schooling and likely started part time during the evenings after work.

    To me a blogger and a MSM reporter are the same thing, both have insight on the matter, both do research and both are passionate about informing the public about the local sports teams.

    The problem is that MSM seems to have the idea that they earned the right to do what they do and put in the time, starting from the bottom of a company to get where they are and that these bloggers are inferior and are taking over the world that not so long ago belonged to the elite few honored with the position to be a sports journalist and that is where it all falls apart.

    In business, everyone had to be aware of the competition, in fact competition is very important. Competition improves everyone, it makes them smarter, better and in the end it is the consumer that benefits. Instead of MSM taking on the challenge of the blogger and putting their nose to the grindstone to try to be the best they can, they complain, point fingers and spout off that they are entitled to what they have and how dare anyone try to take it away from them.

    MSM would greatly benefit if they looked at themselves in the mirror and realized if they want to remain at the top of the journalism ecosystem then they better work harder at not being biased, sharing the truth and earning the trust and respect of the public. Instead they have decided to whine about it making themselves look foolish and tarnishing any bit of reputation they have worked hard to earn.

    Instead of arguing about it, each individual should work their butts off to be the best they can and to do nothing other than deliver an unbiased vision of the truth because that is what the public wants most when they read an article whether it be from a blogger or the MSM.

    So everyone pull up their big boy pant and inform us readers of exactly what is going on in the world of sports.

  • Corsi Cowboy

    @ JonathanWillis

    What strikes me as the most funny thing of all is I couldn’t even imagine this site running if this team wasn’t as pathetic as it was. I think all who contribute, read and comment on the site can all make a toast to that. Cheers to this disgrace of an NHL club we all can’t turn away from. For you always keep us talking with your incessant boobery.

  • @S_2_H

    I respect this and loathe it all at once.

    My biggest disapointment would be that you validated Rishaug. He’s an unprofessional hack and he proved it last year when dealing with Yaks situation. The kid was struggling with his game, struggling with a new coach, struggling with english, and dealing with ill advised advice from his agent. And there’s Rishaug sticking a mic in Nails face grilling him on semantics and trying to get a juicy quote, regardless of the context or if Nail even understood the questions or had the vocabulary to properly answer them. It was a sad display of “journalism” and disgusting to watch.

    While I’m at it – I’m tired of certain members of the media speaking for the fans. When it gets reported that “the fans” ran a player out of town, when the truth is it usually starts in the media. Or when reporters start questions with “what do you say to the fans who think…..”. What a joke. I don’t want the player to answer to me for anything. I want them to give some effort on the ice and entertain me, that’s it. Prime example was Darren Dreger thinking out loud about the unsubstantiated possibility of the Oilers trading Hall, next thing you know “the fans” are running Taylor out of town and he’s got a mic in his chops trying to explain that he’s happy where he is. Like he doesn’t have enough on his mind, now he’s got to answer to this crap as well. I’m not saying poor Taylor here, I know how much he makes, what I’m saying is he wouldn’t have to answer that crap in florida or columbus. Bottom line is that some of the MSM are a cancer to this market and you shouldn’t have backed down from that position JW.

  • YFC Prez

    I was one who skewered you a bit YW, but to be honest, your article was needed, and very true.

    I had complained that you had not exposed some of Dellow’s unprofessional behaviour on social media, but truth be told, that pales in comparison with some of the absolute biased ineptitude that comes out of msm reporters like Matheson, Spector, et al, and is rarely questioned.