Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Drank the Internet Kool-Aid and Now I Feel Queasy

Confession: a few years ago, maybe mid-‘aughts, I was that kid on a Hoverboard telling people who didn’t get behind new media that they were olds who were in denial and they needed to get on the Hoverbus or get left behind. Nice printed newspaper, Nonagenarian! You want a Werther’s Original with that copy of Newsweek? Here’s a nice crocheted shawl to keep you warm as you curl up with The New Yorker.

I would tell anyone that asked, not that anyone asked but I would volunteer my thoughts on the matter loudly like any cocky mid-20’s person would do, that instant news is where it’s at. The overhead is lower, the writers are hungrier (quite literally) and the ability to turn a story out quicker and scoop your competition all signaled the New World Media Order.

I’m a fucking moron. Ok, I get the majority of my news online, as do most people I know. But as I’ve found out in the past few months, weeks and days, the list of online sources you can trust seems to be dwindling. It turns out that not every asshole who can think of a “clever” URL to reserve at Blogspot (see above) is the undiscovered Walter Cronkite of their generation.

Maybe it was the finality of words being immortalized in print and the money that a libel suit against a major publishing company could garner that made print journalists more diligent and trustworthy. It’s easy to get a hot head and think you’ve got something so incredibly clever to share with the world that, editing and self-censorship be damned, you’re going to just hit that Publish button and let everyone soak in your genius. And if it turns out you’re wrong about the whole thing or people don’t exactly lap it up, you can always go back and edit. Or even better, you can deflect any criticism by picking apart your critics.

I wrote about the Chief Brown kerfuffle yesterday. It’s a pretty good example of when emotions, vitriol and bias get in the way of pesky things like facts. Interpretation is a slippery slope when publishing doesn’t involve multiple editors and printing presses but a few taps on an iPhone screen. And now Deadspin has leapt at the opportunity to prove why, despite occasionally dressing the part and keeping up in the conversation, they don’t deserve to sit at the grownups table.

You can go here and read the entire thing. The synopsis is: girl tells acquaintance, we’ll call him “AJ”, who works at Deadspin an anecdote about Brett Favre leaving her voicemails and sending pictures of his man places. AJ says he’d love to get her on the record, in case you weren’t fully convinced that Deadspin is less worried about breaking worthwhile news stories and just concerned with trying to take rich pro athletes down a peg by embarrassing them. Girl declines offer. Favre retires (or doesn’t, which you would think would be the story they would be chasing down here) and AJ decides that they need to strike while the iron is hot. He remembers the wiener picture story.

This is where a story about cell phone pics of dongs and Crocs manages to get sleazier. He shoots the girl an email informing her that he would be running the story and if she’d like to get on the record with it or send those pictures along, that would be great but this story is just TOOOOO hot to pass up. Needless to say, she’s upset. It almost certainly could endanger her career and livelihood. Also, there’s the minor issue of the fact that he had a verbal contract with his source to not reveal her identity without her permission. But I guess when it comes to sports news that will shake the earth to its’ core, pesky things like promises and character should never get in the way. The good news for him is that AJ doesn’t seem to ever risk going to jail for not revealing his sources. In fact, just give him a slow news day and he’ll cough up names faster than Hedda Hopper. You wouldn’t know her. That was a reference for the olds.

The joke here is that Deadspin anted up its small pot of credibility it had with a story that is remarkably meh. So I’d like to offer up this open letter to Deadspin:

Dear Deadspin,

First off, you have my full permission to reprint any or all of this blog entry for whatever use you see fit. I know you find that an unnecessary step but it makes you look a little less like a multi-level marketing scheme run out of a PO Box and more like a real publication.

I saw your post about Brett Favre sending pictures of his ding dong to a cute girl and leaving her flirty voicemails. Now maybe my moral compass is way off but I default to an assumption that any rich, male professional athlete has done one of or both of these things. Multiple times. Married, divorced, widowed. Doesn’t really matter.

If I know a half dozen people in my small group of friends who have received that sort of picture, it seems to be a pretty common occurrence. Therefore the law of averages back up my assumption that a pro athlete, a man whose profession includes appearing hyper-masculine and showing off, is likely to participate in this behavior.

So you told me that one did. He didn’t have a love child, didn’t kill a stripper, didn’t do blow off the carcass of a bald eagle. He sent a girl he thought was cute a picture of his business. This is not news. This is not shocking. Please try harder next time.

Deadspin reader

And so now I’m left with my sad realization that new media is maybe not the great youth revolution that I had previously claimed it would be. A lot of times it’s more of a party line with wild rumors and unsubstantiated un-facts being tossed around. The good news is that Deadspin has given fair warning to anyone who might want to give them a story or a tip that any promises of confidentiality are as non-binding as Favre’s retirement promises.

I feel cheated.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The thing that gets me about Deadspin is that 25% of their "stories" are about how ESPN is a joke and unreliable news source. Besides that being obvious to anyone over the age 14, the same source that is (supposedly) critiquing the media runs things like "Baseball Coach Picks Nose," "Jets Coach is Still Super Fat," "NBA Scrub has Hot Wife," except with HILARIOUS internet meme titles like "Lou Pinella picking Nose? Lou Pinella Picking Nose." Awesome guys,so funny bros! But then they turn around and rip on ESPN for something stupid, or try to attack ESPN personalities for no other reason than it gets them site hits. I just don't fucking get it. Do they realize the hypocrisy? Do they not care? Or do they realize most of their audience is too stupid to really care? It seems to just get dumber by the day, which doesn't even some possible most days.

Werther's Originals are tasting better every day.