sports blogs

Coming Out Is Hard To Do

Editor & Publisher (E&P) has the story of the firing of Washington Post staffer Michael Tunison, who was let go after he identified himself as the Christmas Ape, a frequent contributor to the satirical sports blog Kissing Suzy Kolber (KSK).

According to the article, the Post said the firing was as a result of Tunison not abiding by, “standards for people’s outside work” which should have been approved by the Post’s management.  The paper also proclaimed that Tunison’s blogging “brought discredit to the paper.”  Outside work is permitted as long as it is not deemed a conflict of interest.

Tunison responded to E&P by saying, in his opinion, his work at KSK was not a conflict of interest because he was working as a news reporter for a suburban county outside Washington, DC and his beat did not include coverage of the NFL, which is the target of the blog.

I do not read KSK, because I’ve never been a fan of blogs that resort to using crude language to attract readers.  I support their right to produce that content, it’s just not for me. 

In terms of Tunison’s termination, on the surface it looks a little unfair.  But if his work agreement with the Post included the need to seek permission to work elsewhere on his free time, then he did violate the terms of that agreement. 

I do, however,  think the Post may have been too quick on the trigger to terminate Tunison without any apparent period of negotiation.  He was not getting paid for his work at KSK and as long as it did not conflict with his work at the paper, there should have been some compromise reached.

I can understand how language in some of Tunison’s pieces did not sit well with management of the paper.  That indirect compromising of the Post’s integrity may have been his undoing.

I do give Tunison credit for finally identifying himself on the blog.  Coming clean and taking responsibility for your work is always a good idea.  Well, perhaps not in this case.

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SMJ Book Review- God Save the Fan, Will Leitch

Another new feature here at SMJ, one we hope will be useful when you take your next trip to the bookstore.  Our book reviews will consist of those dealing exclusively with the sports media or those written by sports media members.

Our first foray is God Save the Fan- How Preening Sportscasters, Athletes Who Speak in the Third Person, and the Occasional Convicted Quarterback Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports (and How We Can Get It Back), the latest book by Deadspin creator Will Leitch (in bookstores Tuesday, January 22nd).

Those of you who follow the sports blogsphere know all about Deadspin. It’s arguably the most popular sports blog on the Internet.   And all the credit goes to Leitch.

In short, if you love Deadspin, you will love this book.  Unlike other authors, Leitch does not resurrect old Deadspin posts and publish them in book form.   This read is all new material.  And there is no doubt that Leitch’s sense of humor and irreverance comes through.  God Saves the Fan reflects what attracts people to Deadspin, taking fun jabs at the people who play for, own, report on, and cheer on sports franchises.

Leitch takes great steps to detail how he feels players, owners, the media, and fans have evolved within the sports culture of today. He points out that sports today are different from years ago, and these changes are not necessarily good ones.  And much of that has to do with the growing influence money now plays in the world of sports.

Leitch shares many a story, some personal, others forwarded through Deadspin, to illustrate these flaws in the sports world.  He also notes out that we, as fans, hold the ultimate chit in changing these flaws, through our decisions to buy tickets, watch television and patronize sponsors.

I was particularly interested in Leitch’s section on the media.  He details off-the-air encounters by famous personalities, most of which are known to those who visit his site.  He takes shots at ESPN.  And like many of us, points out how its mega growth has clouded its judgement, especially how it covers events based more on promoting the ESPN brand then the sport itself.  He tries to support the case that the World Wide Leader is more interested in controversy and confrontation over informed analysis.  And he points to those who were let go for not heeding the ESPN message.

Leitch does a good job in detailing the problems with sports media today.  Where God Save the Fan falls short is that after all the dissection of the ills within sports and the media, he really doesn’t offer many solutions.  It would have been helpful for Leitch to take the role as head of ESPN and come up with concrete, constructive ways to make ESPN better.  Maybe that will be in God Save the Fan 2.

Leitch is spot on toward the end of the book in his evaluation of blogs and how they are viewed negatively by those in the mainstream sports media.  I agree with him that blogs offer everyone a voice, and that’s important to the discourse of the country.

Leitch has done well by Deadspin and God Save the Fan will be a winner with his fans.  But Leitch missed an opportunity to not just be funny, but to use his influence to do some good in devising ways to make sports better.  That gesture would have not only lent Deadspin more credibility in particular, but by association all sports blogs in general.  That’s too bad.