First, a warning: this is not a Pistons post. It's not even an NBA post, and now that I think about it, it's not really even a sports post. It's a post about blogs and the mainstream media, how unfortunately there's still an indelible line drawn between the two and how the only time that line is crossed is when someone thinks no one is looking. Continue or ignore at your own whim.
Just a few years ago, ESPN.com was the first site that I went to whenever I went online. Now, the first thing I do is fire up my RSS newsreader. I have about 30-40 feeds in there, but invariably the first ones I check out are True Hoop, YAYsports! and Deadspin, in that order. Sometimes I eventually make my way over to ESPN or SI.com, but it's not nearly the daily occurence as it once was.
So it happened Monday afternoon that I was checking out Deadspin when I spotted this item, the fourth link down from their daily Leftovers post:
Is Sports Illustrated stealing from hockey bloggers? [Buffalo’s Best Blog]
Needless to say, my interest piqued. After clicking through to Buffalo's Best Blog, I learned of some embarrassing similarities between two posts on the hockey blog Japers' Rink and two articles written soon thereafter by Sports Illustrated's Tom Layberger.
The first post on Japers' Rink was called "The Top 11 Rookie Seasons of All-Time" and was published on January 18th. A couple of weeks later on February 2, Layberger came out with "Cream of the Crops: The 10 best rookie seasons in NHL history." If you were to read both, you'd see some striking similarities. But if you're like me, you're a tad bit lazy and aren't that interested in hockey, so instead I'll point you to another blog called Embrace the Dull, which breaks down the article and shows exactly how similar the two are. Of Layberger's 10 choices, seven were guys that Japers picked, and at least four of those had explanations with alarmingly similiar choices of words.
Is it plagarism? You're asking the wrong guy. That's a question that you should ask Layberger, and one that I hope his editors have or soon will. All I know is that if one of my old college professors saw such a similarity between something I wrote and another source I didn't attribute, there's a good chance I would have landed in an uncomfortable meeting with the Dean.
Then on February 16 Layberger posted "The Best of U.S.: My top 10 American NHL players of all time" . . . which seems awfully similar to the Japers' Rink post "The Top 10 (Plus Two) American-Born Players Of All-Time," which appeared on January 12. For what it's worth, eight of Layberger's top 10 were guys named in the Japers' Rink previous article.
Is that plagarism? Probably not; there's a limited pool of American NHL players, and hardcore hockey fans will likely identify many of the same guys being at the top. But it's a little curious that the subject matter is so similar to something that already appeared Japers' Rink, especially given the questions that surround that other article. If Layberger happened to read about this topic on Japers and was inspired to write his own, what's wrong with giving a shout-out to the little guy?
It's all about giving credit where credit is due, something the mainstream media organizations is hellbent on doing when it comes to dealing with each other (witness the Jason Blair uproar) but is less inclined to care about when it happens in instances like this. And sadly, that fact has become more or less expected: I discovered this story at the bottom of a list of remaindered links, whereas if I had Will Leitch's job, this situation would have been warranted being one of Deadspin's longest posts of the day. That's hardly a knock on Deadspin, which at least is one of those rare sports blogs that occasionaly breaks a story and doesn't just rely on putting their own spin on secondary sources. And even when they do break a story, they still have to deal with this class conflict in the realm of sports media -- witness their "Drink Like a Champion Today" Ben Roethlisberger pictures and how the mainstream media more or less refused to address them.
But sadly, even though more mainstream media organizations are starting to implement blogs, they've proven time and again that they still don't "get" them. How so? Blogs are supposed to be conversations, not just a forum to post quickly edited copy. Let me quote Bill Ferris from BaseBlogging.net (who's quoting Aaron from AaronGleeman.com) to explain:
ESPN.com has added two of their most prominent baseball writers the their list of bloggers. Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark are now blogging. Unfortunately I just don’t see this as being significant. After reading their initial posts, they don’t read that much different than regular articles. And, like their regular articles both blogs are part of the Insider package. If it means more frequently updated, shorter posts, containing rumors and rumblings I guess that will be a positive.
My main problem with the ESPN.com blogs is their non-linking policy. As Aaron Gleeman pointed out today,
I’m glad ESPN.com sees the value in that as well, and I’m glad they’re willing to take what is a pretty large leap for a major media outlet. Of course, I do have a major criticism, which is that as far as I can tell none of the dozen or so blogs ESPN.com hosts actually link to other blogs. For instance, Olney’s blog is made up primarily of links to outside stories and his brief comments on them, but in nearly a year I can’t remember a single link that wasn’t to a mainstream newspaper.
I know from personal experience that ESPN.com has always had a somewhat stringent policy against linking to outside sites, but embracing the blogosphere is an essential step if they’re going to call what Gammons, Stark, and Olney are doing "blogs." The value of blogs is in not always having to be like everything else, and while ESPN.com is going along with some of that concept they are still holding back on a crucial element.
That crucial element is becoming part of the conversation instead of just the topic. When Gammons mentions something Pinto is doing, as he does in his first post, there should be a link to it. I don’t fault Gammons for this who very recently has been very supportive of the new online media. But if ESPN is going to go the blog route, then go all the way.
It's all about the links, because on the internet, links = credit.
Here at Detroit Bad Boys, we spend a lot of time putting our spin on various articles, columns and quotes that we gleam from the internet. I'm fine with that -- DBB doesn't exist only as a forum for Ian and I to spout out our opinions, but also to act as a clearinghouse of sorts for Pistons fans to find interesting content, no matter who produces it. But there have been times when we've written something original one day only to see it explored further by one of the Detroit newspaper beat writers a day or two later. Does that writer read this site? Did we inspire that idea? Or do attentive Pistons fans simply ask a lot of the same questions?
I tell myself it's the latter, and for the most part, I believe it, but only because it's been so circumstantial that I have no real reason to think it's been anything more than a coincidence. But I know other sites suspect it's happened to them, just like it appears to be happening to Japers' Rink, and the whole thing just isn't right.