Apparently Jason Whitlock has taken umbrage with writers who haven't taken the traditional route and Julie DiCaro offers a great response. It got me to thinking about an article I have been wanting to write for a long while. The timing seems right now.
I am one of those non-traditional writers and I have had my share of clashes with traditional media, most notably Rick Telander, but I have also heard others publicly and privately attempt to marginalize what bloggers bring to the table, so I can certainly relate.
Many of us started writing because we wanted to see sports covered differently. Like many others, I started my blog in large part because I thought others might want to see the team covered the way I wanted to see it covered. Furthermore, I wanted to knock down that artificial wall that existed between writer and reader. To me, readers shouldn't just be passive, sitting their waiting for me to deposit information in their brains. Readers should be part of the process because they also have much to offer in terms of understanding the game. It turns out this has indeed been the case.
Bloggers have many doors shut to them, especially when we just get started. We often have to buy our own tickets to the games. We don't have access to locker rooms and often to the players and/or management themselves.
And so while we don't go to school specifically to learn journalism and then get hired by a major publisher who grants us access, we do indeed earn our way. We have to find a way around the gatekeepers and forge our own path -- and, contrary to Whitlock's assumption, many of us do it through hard work. We have to do it creatively and that is important because that is what ultimately defines us as writers.
There are many great bloggers out there but I can only speak for myself and how I initially got around the problem of access. In short, I learned the game.... I mean, I have always known the game well. It has been my passion since I was in kindergarten. But the wonderful thing about baseball is that you never stop learning. You never have all the answers. It's been a lifelong pursuit of mine and everyday I am reminded about how much I still do not know.
But I take what knowledge I have and keep building on it. I read good writers. I have taken many road trips to minor league stadiums, paid for my own hotel and tickets. I've bought plane tickets to come out to Arizona to watch spring training, instructional league, the fall league, and more. I've attended amateur baseball games and tournaments. The goal was to take in as much baseball as I could -- and not as a journalist would, but as an evaluator does. That was my background as far as education and training. And I did that all on my own dime.
We all do certain things well. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. One of my "strengths" is that I'm drawn to movement (much to many of my former teachers' dismay) and am often able to hyper focus on it and slow that movement down in my mind. I can pick up some of the subtleties and changes in that movement. That isn't a strength in most areas of life, but it is in baseball...and it comes to me naturally. So I used that. And I watched baseball. A lot of it.
Many of us also learned about the new wave of statistical information and basic economic principles that are important to the game as it is run today, things like market inefficiencies. Admittedly, others know much more about the statistical side than I do. They're more inclined with numbers than I am, so I found my own niche by focusing on getting a basic, fundamental understanding and using my experience in teaching/training and development to convey that information to those that might be unfamiliar with the new concepts.
Gradually my writings earned the respect of some in the industry and the media. I made industry contacts not because I had a press pass but through my work. Many members of the media have told me they considered Cubs Den a resource when it came to things that they simply didn't have the time to cover. These are the members of the media that understand that each of us, in our own way, can complement what they do. And they, in turn, complement what we do with their superior access and experience as journalists. We don't have to compete with them. In fact, many of those who read this blog also read the same journalists who have embraced the changes that are occurring in baseball and the media. We share a readership.
Things have changed for me since I started. I do have access now to the press box and yesterday I stood there in what I once considered hallowed ground -- the dugout. I stood right between Jeimer Candelario and Willson Contreras. It brought a strange new visual perspective of athletes as I have to say that I felt awfully small standing next to them and talking AFL all-star game. I frequently correspond with scouts and others in the industry and it has nothing to do with the press pass around my neck. It has everything to do with the work I've put in to learn the game.
So, yeah, while many of us didn't go to journalism school to do it Jason Whitlock's traditional way, we did earn getting to where we are today. We just do it our own way.
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