Iain McIntyre called it quits last week. I saw the whole range of emotions on the internet when he announced it. And while his departure is not the end of newspaper hockey writing, it does show again how we the fans, have changed the way we want our information given to us.
6765 bylines for The Vancouver Sun, and this one is my last. May 1, 1990 to May 5, 2017. Emotional day.https://t.co/lJw9VVuLEG— Iain MacIntyre (@imacVanSun) May 6, 2017
Let me tell you a “When I was young…” story.
When I was young, newspapers and television gave you the facts of any story. It was cold and emotionless most of the time, but straightforward. Emotion would come from Hockey Night in Canada commentators but it was without any team bias. The commentators would express excitement over the play itself and glamorize the game over everything else. Editorials and opinions were left to the senior members of the media and even they were careful to pick their words as they knew that players or teams could very quickly shut them out if the opinion was too critical. Censorship was common practice during this time and interaction with players was really limited. I remember going to hockey schools because you had the opportunity to meet Andy Moog…Garth Butcher and others. The Edmonton Oilers once played the Edmonton Eskimos at a charity hockey game and they signed autographs afterward, but there was not a lot of speaking.
I always loved newspapers. I liked the idea of being able to have different varieties of information in the same source, daily. The Province Sunday edition was my favorite as there was usually a large sports edition to go with the comics. Some of the youth teams I played for made it into a couple editions along the way. Newspaper sports writers had large followings as they really controlled the flow of information coming out of locker rooms. The idea of being able to talk to players everyday seemed like a dream job.
Those dream jobs seem to being dying out rather quickly over the past 5 years. In fact the newspaper business is after all this time, still trying to figure out how to survive in the digital age. People used to be able to wait for their news. They wanted all the facts before getting a story and then they wanted time to digest the facts before getting more news. Quality was more important than other factors. Newspaper writers may have had multiple stories going at once but they would only put out an article or two a week. The slowness of getting the news out in paper form controlled the appetite of the audience reading it.
I blame the creation of ESPN for speeding up the population’s need of sports information. Having a 24/7 sports channel was boring at first as the four big sports leagues hesitated in using it. But over time the Channel began to understand that when there was a lull in sports, they could fill time with over-analysis and on-air personality opinion that added extra incentives to watch the game and the channel. Fan interaction was becoming greater as the Channel wanted fans to stick around after the games and giving fans a venue to voice opinions did just that.
The internet. Isn’t it amazing how two words are used to describe something that is continuously evolving and therefore really can’t be describe to a child as to what it is. The internet itself is relatively young and I’m smart enough to know that there is no end to what humans can use this platform for. But what I do know is that the internet is killing the idea of a physical newspaper and the way information is gathered for those newspapers. The slowness of information reporting is one of the major complaints of newspapers now. 24/7 information on tv and internet make the first 8-10 pages of international news obsolete. The sports pages filled with last night’s scores and highlights have already been seen multiple times. The only thing that is original in most newspapers these days are the opinion pieces and any local news not covered by the internet, which means it’s not big enough to draw readers in the first place. How do you make money on a product that can’t draw customers? Bigger papers do have an online edition that is better able to bring news faster to its readership, but it might also become a place that recycles big stories from other publications just to keep readership, which means less of a need for reporters.
The other issue that is killing newspapers and other forms of reporting is you and me.
All of us have bought into the internet and the ability to share our view with the world. Our egos have helped shaped fan driven platforms like SBN. We no longer just want to watch the games and cheer. We want to share our experience of the game while it happens. We want to analyze every second of action and draw our own conclusions from what know, see and feel. We simply want to be heard. And more importantly, when we disagree with the public voices of sports (MacIntyre), we can get on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms and call them out from the safeness of our living room….from other countries even. And I give credit to some reporters for interacting with sports fans. Most of the time reporters are playing defense on the internet, having to defend their words more so than 99% of the idiots online (Hi!)
I think sports reporting has to undergo a serious change, but I don’t have a clue what it might look like. What I do know is that I don’t trust a lot of the mainstream reporting these days. There are too many reporters that believe their opinion is bigger than the game itself. There are some that have built up an internet following and they believe that they can fix the game if others would just look at their in-depth research….and then hire them. There are some that put out 2-3 articles a day, but nothing new or exciting is said. And there are some that just talk a lot to get attention. I miss sports journalism.
Some may call me a hypocrite as I sit here and complain about something that I participate in and create content for. I am a hypocrite, but I also never take my writing too seriously. I don’t get paid for this, I don’t have deadlines (usually) and I pick and choose what I want to write about. And more importantly, I never claim to be a journalist. I’m a blogger. I have no access to the Canuck organization and really depend on the rest of the bloggers and media to provide me with details. The rest of it is my own opinion based upon the games themselves.
Having said all that, I really do feel bad about the fact guys like me have been able to cripple newspaper reporting. I don’t think any blogger truly wants to get rid of the people who can get good information. And even if I didn’t like some of the words out of Iain MacIntyre’s mouth at intermissions, I did respect the work he did and will miss it.