(Note: Just to make sure everyone reads this in the right tone, it was written in a matter-of-fact voice, not an angry one.)
Newspapers are on the way out. Everyone knows it, including the people who own or work for newspapers. When your model is based on selling the printed word — which costs a lot of money to actually print — it’s near impossible to shift toward an internet-driven world.
How can newspapers truly become internet-first businesses when the declining amount of money they do make comes from a paper that costs to much to produce? Give up the paper and they don’t have any way of paying their staff (though most every paper in the country has cut both the number of writers and behind-the-scenes staffers). Stick with the paper and it’s an anchor around their leg pulling them under.
I know this because my first job was at a small newspaper as a high school student. I know this because I’ve written freelance columns for newspapers as an adult. I know this because I’m friends with plenty of newspaper folks. I know this because I grew up with newspapers and I dread the day when they pass away.
But newspapers aren’t what they used to be. In their attempt to survive many have dropped their standards, which comes hand-in-hand with dumping salaries and cutting staff. There are now as many typos in big city newspapers as there are on this site… and that’s not a good thing. There are three of us at MrSEC.com. There used to be teams of copy editors to catch those kinds of things at papers. Alas, copy editing staffs have been whittled down to nothing.
Personally, I expect more from newspapers than I do most internet media. At MrSEC.com, we try to keep you abreast of the biggest stories in the league and provide you with our opinions on those stories. We’re not perfect. But, we are objective. And we don’t base our model on posting slideshow “stories” that force you to click 10 times to get your information (and inflate our page views and the amount of time you spend on the site). Longtime readers of this site know we don’t troll, either. We’ve been called haters and lovers of every school in the SEC at one time or another, which kind of plays down the “you hate Team X” thing.
We also sign our name to what we write.
Which brings us to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Yesterday, we posted a very simple list on the site showing which SEC programs won the most games during 2013 in football and men’s basketball. The AJC responded with an attack on our site under the alias of The Hater.
What is “The Hater” and why does what was once one of the best papers in the South have such a thing? Here’s The AJC’s description: “In the city that’s too busy to hate, but where our most-cherished rivalry is considered ‘clean, old-fashioned hate,’ let The Hater find the latest in sports that just needed to be hated on.”
Shouldn’t that be “needs” to be hated on? Why that’s as poorly written as something I would produce!
So basically The AJC has admitted to hiring a troll — an anonymous troll — whose job is to pick something out each day and whip up the reader’s anger. Journalism with a capital J, indeed.
Well, The Hater reads a bit like someone in our comment boxes or my email inbox when he/it wrote:
“The idiocy of Mr. SEC’s methodology is reflected in the rankings. Missouri’s No. 1 standing makes sense considering the football team’s success and the Tigers do somewhat care about basketball. But how is it that Florida fans are third-happiest, South Carolina supporters are miserable and Auburn fans are the the third-most miserable?…
According to Mr. SEC, Auburn fans can’t really enjoy their worst-to-first in SEC football because the basketball team sucks as usual.”
The Hater also scoffed at the n0tion that SEC fans care about both football and basketball. “There are a handful of SEC schools that sort-of care about basketball.” Pretty trollish for a newspaper, huh?
Well, there are a couple of problems with The Hater’s positioning of our piece and it shows that even the leading newspapers are now right in line with blogs and many fans. First and foremost — The Hater didn’t actually read the piece. Not even the first line:
“Every January, we at MrSEC.com like to take a look back at the year that was and determine which SEC fanbases tasted victory most often.”
So much for methodology. It’s a list of wins. If our calculator didn’t work or if a number was mispunched then that would have been an issue. Other than that, a list of wins is hardly a “methodology.”
Also, after explaining what we were doing over the space of four paragraphs (because we hoped some folks would look at more than just the headline and accompanying chart), we stated plainly again:
“It’s simply a look at which fanbases got to experience the most (and least) wins in the major sports during the 2013 calendar year… Which schools fans went to bed smiling most often?”
Gang, that’s kind of easy to follow.
And nowhere in our piece is the word “miserable” ever used. Nowhere was there even the hint of a suggestion that “Auburn fans can’t enjoy” their 2013 football season. That’s just the nonsense and misdirection of The AJC’s “The Hater.”
Look, we know that people won’t agree with everything we write. We give you our opinions and people have different opinions. But our piece wasn’t an opinion. It was a tally of which schools’ fans went to bed happy the most times in 2013. And that was spelled out in language that a third-grader should have been able to follow.
Unfortunately, the third-grader that couldn’t actually follow said language is gainfully employed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to anonymously troll and to feign outrage on a daily basis. Basically, The Hater is Skip Bayless minus the cojones to sign his name. (Also minus Bayless’ ability to comprehend what he’s reading, apparently.)
Newspapers shouldn’t fall to that. Many websites make fun of newspapers. We don’t because we love the papers. There’s still more journalism done by America’s newspapers than there is straight journalism done on the internet. Less content, more actual journalism. (And no, we’re columnists, not journalists so don’t suggest we’re putting ourselves above papers.)
While we don’t revel in the decline of newspapers, we will, however, shake our heads at those papers who are turning into the simplistic websites — make fun of a school’s fanbase or post a slideshow or misrepresent what someone else wrote in order to drive traffic — that we ourselves don’t enjoy reading. Apparently the once-proud AJC has gone that route.
Matter of fact, they have been using a helluva lot of slideshow graphics in recent months.
Enjoy the clicks we send back to ya, The Hater. If that’s what journalism at The AJC has come to, you need those clicks even more than we do.