It's funny how things work. The other day I had a nice telephone conversation with a fellow blogger. We spoke about a number of different things including some "controversial" topics. I told him that my philosophy in general is to try to avoid controversy. That of course was before I read Tom Benjamin's excellent post and the phenomenal comments posted by his readers (including a number of other prominent bloggers).
In his post, Tom talks about the apparently erroneous report appearing in The Globe and Mail last week which claimed that the Leafs were going to offer the legendary Scotty Bowman a job. Tom then segues into his take on the "anonymous blogger" named Eklund. Most of you have heard of Eklund and his site hockeybuzz.com. Earlier this month, Greg Wyshynysky posted a very well received piece on Eklund. For those who don't know who Eklund is, I highly recommend that you read Greg's article right now. The article will give you a lot of the background information necessary to follow the rest of my post.
Eklund is a phenomenon in the world of hockey: a huge number of people swear by him while a huge number of people swear at him! Despite a number of requests from my readers, thus far I have totally abstained from the Eklund "debate". Like I said, I'm not a big fan of controversy. But something about Tom's article (and the subsequent comments posted on his thread) helped me realize that I can write about a controversial topic without having to be controversial.
It seems as though a lot of bloggers disapprove of Eklund (to say the least) because much of his "reporting" proves to be inaccurate. Many of his rumors never come to pass. Ultimately, it's a credibility issue and many people doubt his credibility. Since he is perceived as a blogger (his own site labels him as the "anonymous blogger", his apparent lack of credibility and the unbelievable exposure it gets reflects poorly on the rest of us (or so the argument goes). To put it simply, many bloggers feel that Eklund is "bringing the rest of us down".
Ultimately, the question is "what makes someone a blogger versus a 'reporter'?" If Eklund can be considered a "reporter" his alleged lack of integrity would be a (seemingly bad) reflection on the mainstream media ("MSM") rather than on the blogosphere. If, however, he truly is a blogger then perhaps his blogging critics have a legitimate gripe. Or maybe there's another angle altogether.
According to the Webster's Dictionary (on-line version), a blog is defined as follows:
"a Web site that contains an on-line personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer"
The MSM reports facts. That's why journalistic integrity is so important. When we read a typical news article (sports or otherwise) we have an expectation that what we're reading has been properly researched and is true to the best of the writer's knowledge. Blogs, on the other hand, (typically) offer opinions, insights, comments, etc.. on those facts.
Obviously, the lines have been blurred somewhat between bloggers and reporters: some bloggers focus more on "reporting" the facts (although not necessarily "breaking" stories) as opposed to giving opinions. Similarly, some journalists offer a lot of opinions (not surprisingly, since these "journalists are blurring the lines" they often have their fair share of detractors, Larry Brooks of the NY Post comes to mind). Some blurring of the lines is to be expected. In fact, I see it as a form of mutual admiration. Bloggers respect and strive for the integrity that the vast majority of reporters in the MSM have. Not surprisingly, we too try to "report" the facts accurately. The MSM, on the other hand, can not help but recognize the success that many bloggers have achieved as a result of our unique, refreshing and novel approaches. Each side tries to "borrow" a bit from the other. To me that's all good.
Too much blurring of the lines, however, makes people uncomfortable. I think that's why Eklund has caused such a stir. On the one hand, many consider him to be a blogger, yet as far as I can tell he doesn't offer much in the way of opinions, insights or commentary. On the other hand, by "reporting" stories he certainly has a lot in common with MSM journalists. In general, bloggers don't "break" news or "report" rumors from "sources". Bloggers will often comment on them and analyze them, but we don't (generally) "report" them.
In my opinion (for whatever it's worth), Eklund is not a blogger. All you have to do is read some of the other blogs on Eklund's site and you'll immediately notice the difference in style and content between the writing of those bloggers and Eklund's writing.
The way I see it is that Eklund has become the National Enquirer of Hockey journalism, a tabloid hockey journalist! Just like the tabloids, Eklund writes a gossip column with frequent references to anonymous sources who are allegedly close to the action. Guess what? I don't consider that to be an insult. Eklund provides a service that is very much in demand. My guess is that most of his readers take what he says with a grain of salt. Most of his readers probably recognize that many of the rumors he promotes will never come to fruition. Yet they flock to his site anyway. Why? Probably because the rumors he reports make for interesting conversation and/or thought. Hockey fans love hockey. Many of us are starved for it (especially in August!). How many of us have spent hours talking to friends about "what if" scenarios and fantasy trades?
I don't see how Eklund can "ruin" the reputation of bloggers: he's simply not a blogger, or should I say "main stream blogger"?!?! Similarly, I don't see how Eklund can ruin the reputation of the main stream journalists: he's not really one of them either. Eklund is a phenomenon in the world of hockey, he's a tabloid hockey journalist. As far as I can tell, the National Enquirer hasn't harmed the reputation of
The New York Times "respectable" media outlets. Whether your a "main stream blogger", "main stream journalist", a blogger with "journalistic" tendancies, a journalist with "bloggeristic" tendancies, etc.... I think we're all safe!!