The story about the Colin Campbell e-mails has shown not only bloggers' potential for great journalism, but actual "journalists'" potential for shoddy disappointment.
Bloggers haven't been given a fair shake. We're more than "web/twitter groupies," as Damien Cox called us. While it'd be fair to say individual bloggers reach fewer people than individual sportswriters, bloggers do have a great deal of influence, as Tyler Dellow's blog showed. The reaction to his blog was instantaneous. He essentially broke a story that TSN, CBC and others had to comment on. That's big. No one can realistically say that Greg Wyshynski isn't a big voice in the hockey world. Still, even he doesn't give himself enough credit. He said this a couple hours ago on his live chat:
"I think we're more like entertainment writers. That isn't to say we're not journalists. It's to say the guys who roll up their sleeves and start preaching about hard-nosed reporting are talking about covering a form of entertainment -- not Afghanistan."
He's right on both counts -- he's writing about a form of entertainment, and that doesn't mean he's not a journalist. While his blog is more editorial than news, he still holds himself to a standard of factual consistency. He's been known to fix any mistake he makes. This is what journalists are supposed to do.
Journalists are supposed to be better than bloggers. I can see right now a bunch of comments telling me that isn't necessarily true, and they'd be right, but it's supposed to be true. I can happily say that I think over 100 people read my comments on the Colin Campbell emails. Bob McKenzie and Damien Cox have thousands upon thousands of readers. They should be held to a higher standard.
Edit: a portion of this article has been removed due to its inaccuracy regarding newspaper headlines and who is responsible for writing them. It has been fixed based on comments and criticisms we have received.
It's clear from his tweets that Damien Cox believes in a higher standard:
"All this 'news' abt Colin Campbell and internal NHL emails was reported months ago by The Star's Rob Cribb" "Cribb did a series of stories. Did background reported. Also asked Campbell for comment. That's called journalism."
But journalism also includes investigative reporting of the sort Tyler Dellow did, when he uncovered and investigated the e-mails nine months later. It was a lucky find, but what he did with it was both journalistic and skilfully so.
Dellow could only do this because the information was public. Rob Cribb could have done it nine months ago. And unlike Cribb, Tyler Dellow probably couldn't call Colin Campbell for comment and expect him to respond. Journalists have the name recognition and the widespread readership that allows them access to the people they cover, and yet they squander this by merely calling for quotes rather than doing real investigative work. Cox, your thoughts?
"It's an interesting comment on these media times, including the fact some 'bloggers' are twisting this to suggest the 'main stream media' is out to protect the establishment and figures in power. Why these people weren't outraged and up in arms when Cribb was writing his stories and The Star was publishing them is unclear. If you employ the logic of the bloggers, their silence was evidence that they were the ones protecting the establishment."
Is it really unclear why the people weren't up in arms when Cribb wrote his stories, Cox? Here, let me help: his stories didn't demonstrate that Colin Campbell clearly had a grudge against Marc Savard and that he was taking an active role in decisions regarding those who referee his son's games.
Journalists have a massive influence and therefore a massive responsibility to their readers. They must know the facts and be clear in their reporting of them so readers finish their articles being more informed than they were before. To borrow a phrase, "That's called journalism."
If Colin Campbell is returning your call, and not mine, then I expect you to adhere to a higher standard than I do, and when you fail, you offend me and everyone else who would love to have your job and do it better. When it comes down to it, a sportswriter's job isn't based on his hockey knowledge. Most sportswriters don't know more about sports statistics, rules and history than the average diehard fan, and the information is readily available to anyone with google. The sportscasters watch the same games we do. The thing that sets sports reporters apart is supposed to be their ability to communicate clearly and their journalistic experience. When they fall down on that job, they're cheapening the profession. Not everyone can go to Afghanistan to write a three-part story on the war, poverty and terrorism, but any sports fan can watch a hockey game and report the score.
That's why it's infuriating to see a paid professional sports writer who doesn't know the difference between compliment and complement. It's why it bothers me so much to see bad, over-used headline puns on the TSN front page. And it's why it broke my heart to see Bob McKenzie say something that wasn't true, and then make no correction when it was pointed out to him.
Bob McKenzie's take on the Colin Campbell e-mails was wrong on many levels. It addressed the wrong issue of the Savard-Cooke hit and lack of suspension, and Campbell's role in issuing suspensions. He never addressed the issue of Colin Campbell using his influence to protect his son from referees.
Worse, he was factually incorrect:
"As for the emails, [...] nothing was ever acted on, that we're aware of, because the referees that Colin Campbell complained about to Walkom, they're still working in the National Hockey League."
His argument was that these e-mails weren't a big deal, because they didn't lead to anyone's firing. As I've said before, these e-mails were used as evidence to show why Dean Warren was fired. In other words, it's the official position of the NHL that, contrary to McKenzie's assertions, the e-mails were acted on and resulted in the firing of Dean Warren, which is a very big deal.
In the blog post I originally made, I made a factual error, as well. No one messaged me about it, but when reading Tyler Dellow's follow-up, I realized I'd made an error and went back to fix it. Bob McKenzie, on the other hand, has had days to fix his error, and has several people informing him of it, including myself, and has failed to make any kind of correction.
I've always loved Bob McKenzie, but he should know better. He pointed out in a tweet today that he follows Canadian Press style. That's great. But if you're going to boast about following the same stylistic rules as the collective of Canadian journalists, can't you follow the same journalistic principles when it comes to making sure you don't accidentally misinform people, and that you issue a correction whenever you become aware of your mistake? Sadly, this whole issue has been eye-opening for me. If Bob McKenzie isn't going to behave like a real journalist, why should I take him more seriously than, say, Matthew Barnaby, who's at least played the game in the NHL?
To a degree, I understand. Bill Daly chose to speak to TSN about the Colin Campbell e-mails first. That's a big scoop for TSN, and you don't want to bite the hand that feeds you. That said, if a few early quotes are the price of your journalistic integrity, there wasn't much to begin with.
The point? I've given two examples of bloggers who were acting more like journalists than the real thing. Rob Cribb, Damien Cox and sadly, Bob McKenzie have fallen down on the job. It's bloggers like Tyler Dellow who have done the actual investigative work, and it saddens me that the real journalists aren't willing to show the same journalistic integrity and discipline.