Broadcaster Bob Costas wonders if giving fans a forum to say
whatever they like on a blog or website is such a good idea. The
topic was addressed in a story by Barry Jackson of the Miami
What do you think? Is it a high-tech way for idiots to voice their opinions — often mean-spirited opinions — while maintaining anonymity?
Here’s the Miami Herald story:
By Barry Jackson
Years ago, the only way sports fans could have their voices heard by the masses was calling a talk-radio show or writing a letter to the editor.
But expanding technology has provided myriad forums to vent and opine — whether it’s launching blogs or commenting on them, weighing in at the bottom of articles on newspaper Web sites, or participating in on-line polls.
Several thorny issues have arisen along the way, including how much access should be granted to people who launch Internet sports blogs or websites, but aren’t trained journalists published by a newspaper or magazine. NBC/HBO’s Bob Costas wondered this week about the wisdom of offering a wider forum to fans who can say whatever they wish without being held accountable.
The access issue arose this week when Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the team no longer will grant locker-room access to people whose primary purpose is to blog. (So far, only one person has been affected — Dallas Morning News writer Tim McMahon, who was sometimes critical of the team before Cuban’s edict.) But Cuban insisted the policy had nothing to do with McMahon’s posts.
“Anyone can blog with no money down,” Cuban — who writes his own blog — explained in an e-mail. “I didn’t want to have to make a qualitative judgment on each one. And I didn’t want to let them all in.”
Dolphins representative Harvey Greene said there are between 20 and 25 Dolphins fans websites, but the founders aren’t given credentials because of space limitations inside the locker room and press box. “We bring them in on a web weekend and work with them to make sure they feel included,” he said.
Greene said the Dolphins give credentials “based on the organization the individual represents, not how someone files their reports.”
Miami gives access to one service that operates exclusively on line, but said fans starting new Canes websites won’t receive credentials.
There is a psychological dynamic to all of this, too.
Costas, speaking before he emceed (and donated $50,000) at Tuesday’s Make-a-Wish sports auction at the Broward County Convention Center, doesn’t understand what compels so many nonjournalist sports fans to seek a forum for their opinions.
Before the Internet, most fans were content talking about sports with their buddies. Now, in this interactive media age, many covet a wider audience, while often maintaining anonymity.
“Today, I saw on ESPN a poll about which Western Conference teams would not make the playoffs,” Costas said. “Well, 46 percent said the Denver Nuggets, which has zero percent influence on anything. No reasonable person who cares about the NBA should care about that. Who has the time or the inclination to do this, even if you’re sitting on your computer? Why would you weigh in on it?”
Many newspapers (including The Miami Herald) allow readers to post comments, hoping to generate web hits and enlightened exchange of ideas.
“I understand with newspapers struggling and hoping to hold on to, or possibly expand their audiences, I understand why they do what they do,” Costas said. “But it’s one thing if somebody just sets up a blog from their mother’s basement in Albuquerque and they are who they are, and they’re a pathetic get-a-life loser, but now that pathetic get-a-life loser can piggyback onto someone who actually has some level of professional accountability and they can be comment No. 17 on Dan Le Batard’s column or Bernie Miklasz’ column in St. Louis. That, in most cases, grants a forum to somebody who has no particular insight or responsibility. Most of it is a combination of ignorance or invective.”
What bothers Costas — and he’s not alone — is Internet and talk radio commentary that “confuses simple mean-spiritedness and stupidity with edginess. Just because I can call someone a name doesn’t mean I’m insightful or tough and edgy. It means I’m an idiot.
“It’s just a high-tech place for idiots to do what they used to do on bar stools or in school yards, if they were school-yard bullies, or on men’s-room walls in gas stations. That doesn’t mean that anyone with half a brain should respect it.”