Monday, December 15, 2003

Here is the Rough Draft

I know I promised a finished version of the story I was working. I have to say that everone really helped out and a more complete version will show up soon. Thanks to everyone that took time out to help me in this project. I made an A on the paper if you would like to know.

It is 11 p.m. and Joe Borowski, closer for the Chicago Cubs, just finished off the Atlanta Braves by striking out Andruw Jones. The Cubs will now face the Florida Marlins in the NLCS. This was a moment to cherish as Cub fans and the media was all over the coverage. Most fans are not able to express their true feelings except with the people around them. That has changed in the past the few years. Now along with the traditional media, online self publication is starting to take off. At this point reporters would be in interviews and finishing up their story for everyone to see in the morning, but for on line community the night is just starting.

The amateur writers are now polishing up their own comments for their audience to see. Many of these writers have other jobs, but choose to write and publish their own work. These writers are not paid, but continue to post comments about moves in the game, moves by the front office and just general comments about baseball. What these people are writing are Blogs or Web Blogs. It is an online journal that everyone can see. Some sites take more hits than others, but The Cub Reporter took 23,950 hits during October for the playoff coverage. Many of the other sites have taken similar hit counts as fans flock to different media to gain different angles about the game.

“I probably spent ten hours a week on the blog during the season, and another five or so reading the other Cubs sites,’ said Scott Lange, publisher and writer of the Northside Lounge. The immediate cause (that he started writing) was my friend Dennis starting the blog and offering me a chance to work with him on it. The underlying reasons are that I love the Cubs and I love to write. I worked at the Technique when I was in school at Georgia Tech and I desperately miss getting to write for an audience.”

“Everyone has a different viewpoint. Some sites are more stat-oriented, some more personal. I consider mine more personal, since I attend nearly every home game and lots of road games,” Al Yellon, of And Another Thing, said. I write more about personal experiences there, in relation to the games themselves.”
One thing that appeals to many fans who read these sites is the access of writers. Many of the sites leave comment boxes for people to post their reaction and their own comments. This is giving the reader a voice they have never had. Many times frequent readers get as much attention as the site itself.

“I really look for something that is different, Ben Ladner, online reader, said. Newspaper reporters are lame and dull, but these other sites show some true passion behind their writing.”
The fans are not the only supporters of these sites. Many of the writers have formed an almost writing family, or as they call it the Cub Blog Army. This came about because there were many new people starting their own sites and Lange wanted to give everyone jobs in the Cub universe. Many of the writers talk to each other and have become friends just because of this common bond of writing.

“I am looking for laughs, but more importantly, I am looking for insight. If you are a SABR guy, show me the trends. I taught Statistics at Northern Illinois University. I can follow you, I just don't choose to. I am more concerned with the gut,” Rob Letterly, writer of the Uncouth Sloth, said. Christian Ruzich's Cub Reporter is the blog that inspired me to start. He writes well, he does his homework, he can discuss both numbers and intangibles, and it looks pretty.”

Baseball is not the only thing being written about online. There are countless of online journals. A person can get free sites through Blogger or Live Journal to start publishing their own site about anything. This past month in Austin, Texas there was a online journal convention called JournalCon. It was their 4th annual event where many online journal writers get together and see where the field is going.
Readers want more about whatever they are reading. The problem is the mass media so far has not seen the power of some of these sites. Sports writers continue to post just standard news stories that can be found on the AP wire, but the online publications have really struck a nerve for people that want true observation. Many of the online writers still see major road blocks ahead. First off many of the writers are fans of the teams, and are not so objective. They also do not have the access that traditional reporters have or the resources of copy-editors.

“Many sportswriters get jaded over time, covering teams, getting perks, sitting in the press box; I think at times they feel they are "part of the team",” Yellon said. Sometimes they are not native Chicagoans and having not grown up as fans of the team, don't truly understand what it is like to follow the Cubs. Other sportswriters have an agenda, and write that way no matter what the truth is. At least for me, I'm there as a fan every day. I'm there because I want to be, not because I'm getting paid to be. That's a very different perspective from a paid sportswriter or worse, a columnist who is getting paid to spout opinions.”
“It's hard to read either Trib (Tribune) or Sun-Times coverage without remembering the Cubs are owned by the Trib,” , writer of Forklift. I don't think Paul Sullivan is going to call upper management cheapskates. The big advantage of a Blog writer is, he's his own editor. Say what you want, in whatever garbled syntax, it doesn't matter.”

It seems like the newspapers are at least starting to come to grips that their readers do want more. A few times this year the Chicago Tribune had a staff reporter do an online game log, where the writer posts comments on their websites while a game is going on. Even with the slight changes the major media is not going away. They still have a job to do. There are reasons why reporters do not write with as much raw emotion. They have to see the teams and subjects everyday.

“I think the Bloggers don't have the fear of betting blackballed by players and managers, Dennis Goodman, writer-publisher of the Northside Lounge. Do you think Mike Kiley (beat writer for the Sun-Times) would ever rip Baker (Dusty) when he has to see him on the beat?”

According to Lange, the online writers have an advantage and can match the writing of the major newspapers. The experience and resources hurt, but in the end Its tough to compare the major media to the Blog Army. "

"Obviously, bloggers have the advantage of having the freedom to write as much as they want on whatever aspects of Cubdom then feel like talking about," said Lange. Also, this is a labor of love for us, and I think the passion we all have for the Cubs comes out in our work. On the newspaper side, they have the advantage of forty or more hours paid each week to work on their articles, as well as access to sources inside the clubhouses and front offices of teams. They also have editors to copy-edit and fact check their work (except for Mike Kiley for some reason)."