I made a foolish mistake this morning; it’s one I’m not proud of. While researching for a piece I was working on, I googled Ricky Nolasco and happened upon a piece that implored people to “not be fooled by his record.” I took the bait, and read it. It was about 250 words that basically amounted to “you don’t impress me, Ricky Nolasco” which appeared on a semi-prominent Twins blog that falls under a very prominent website.
The mistake was that I tweeted something I’ve thought internally for a long time. “Everyone can write; not everyone should write” with a link to the piece.
A local media member whom I deeply respect messaged me privately and gave me a verbal beatdown that I clearly deserved. In short, it amounted to “this is not professional and you are better than this.” Ouch. A well-deserved backhand.
And they are 100 percent right. Who the hell is Brandon Warne? I mean seriously, nobody has any idea who I am, and here I am deriding someone’s creative outlet. I needed to remember where I had come from and quite frankly where I still am. And what kind of person rips on someone else’s creative aspirations? Good grief, I felt about two inches tall, and rightfully so.
I didn’t apologize to the writer. I didn’t tag him, and I’m sure he didn’t see it. And again to be honest, there’s part of me that still feels a very little bit this way, and let me try to explain.
As a college-educated journalist, I do feel some need to protect the craft. And maybe that’s taking one’s self too seriously, like a pitcher drilling someone after his teammate was wiped out by a vicious takeout slide at second base, but I hate to see the practice devolve to where I sense it is headed.
Sometimes I feel like there are more writers than there are readers. I’m sure it isn’t true, but from a practical standpoint I do wonder if we put out more content than any reasonable audience can take in. I suppose that’s not an entirely related point, but it’s just something I think about when I go down the thought pattern of how I feel about the career path I have chosen.
And I think what frustrates me the most is seeing the craft devolve into stories with terrible misleading headlines — something this website has practiced at times — or hot takes, or worse yet slideshows with scantily-clad women. This isn’t the journalism I want to consume; this isn’t the journalism I believe in.
I think the biggest reason I feel that way is because I do think it devalues career writers to some extent. For some it is a creative outlet, but for others that glimmer of hope that it’ll propel them to the next level — something they may be romanticizing, but nobody will tell them that until they’re either there, or burnt out — so they take writing jobs beneath them for little or no money, and instead work for “exposure.” — a team I have grown to hate with a passion.
So when these places have writers pump out multiple stories per day simply going for clicks — an untenable content strategy if your goal even remotely considers quality — they’re forced to rely on cheap tricks to get views.
And since it’s still a strategy we see on a day-to-day basis, does it seem viable? I mean, someone must be making money off it, right?
Maybe I’m just out of line. I just get frustrated with the idea that a slideshow of athlete wives and girlfriends would get as many clicks as a fantastic long form essay that someone like Jack Moore or Erik Malinowski would write at Vice Sports, Sports on Earth or wherever.
And maybe I’m screaming into the void or punching at air. And possibly my gripe is with society as a whole, and the content we devour. But my takeaway from this interaction was this: no matter how big I ever think I am, it’s not acceptable to get fat on the work of someone I perceive beneath me. It’s sort of like training for for a big fight coming up. Am I going to sit on the couch and get fat belittling others, or am I going to get out there and work on myself?
It’s something I lose sight of quite frequently, and I’m glad I got a richly deserved kick in the ass. And for that, I’m sorry.