Tag Archives: Journalism

Grantland will be dearly missed but never forgotten

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With the Internet these days, it’s hard for most people to concentrate on one thing for a long time. There’s even an expression for it, TLDR, which stands for “Too long, didn’t read.” There’s too much stimulation online, too many options. Researching dog breeds can turn into Hotline Bling memes minutes later. It’s tough to stay focused online. The result is that we become a jack of all trades but a master of none. We don’t take deep dives anymore. We stay in the shallow end, where it’s safe.

Grantland, which suffered a quick and painful death this past Friday, wasn’t afraid to take deep dives. That’s what made it special. And that’s why I’ll miss it like it was a family member.

If the rest of the Internet was fast food, then Grantland was a slow-cooked beef brisket. Quality over quantity.

From what I’ve heard, Grantland didn’t make ESPN a lot of money. If you think of clicks as monetary values, then this makes sense. The site was split up into two blogs (one sports and one pop culture) and one features section. Off the top of my head, Grantland would publish approximately 8-10 blog posts and 3-4 feature articles per day, in addition to various audio and video content. Oh, and Grantlanders were 9-5ers, never publishing on evenings and weekends.

Given the financial state of online print journalism, this was a ballsy move. While their competitors were going HAM updating their websites to turn clicks into revenue, Grantland stuck to its model. There were no listicles. There was no clickbaiting. Just quality, thoughtful, well-researched long-form journalism.

There was Rembert Browne’s storytelling, whether he was on Air Force interviewing the President or in the middle of it all in Ferguson, Missouri. There was Jonathan Abrams giving us an inside look at Matt Barnes and Joakim Noah. There was Andy Greenwald making me anticipate the recaps almost as much as the episodes themselves for Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. They even invented a word: Precaps! There was Zach Lowe, perhaps the most impressive basketball mind out there, getting us ready for NBA seasons with his crazy predictions and his reads of the league. And there was not much on the Internet more fun than the brackets that Grantland rolled out. To name a few, George Costanza was the top “second banana”, The Empire Strikes Back was the winning sequel, Hey Ya won best song of the millennium and “footage” won 2014.

And then, of course, there’s Bill Simmons, the mind behind Grantland. Bill often talked about the importance of taking risks with the site. To try things out, to push the envelope. And that’s what they did from 2011 until this past Friday. In the end, Grantland felt more like a group of friends than anything else and I believe that, to an extent, that’s what Bill was going for. I’m going to miss this bunch and will consume their content wherever they end up. Given the amount of talent on the team, I don’t see them struggling to find work. So thanks for the memories, Grantland. It was a great run, indeed.

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Filed under Entertainment, Sports

Newspapers vs. blogs

The old vs. the new

This is the second of six posts for my “Online Magazine” class.  The majority of what we’ve been learning so far has been HTML-based.  No offence against HTML and the geeks who love it but I don’t know enough about it yet to put together a piece.  For the record, I (heart) geeks.  I’d also like to stress the word “yet” from two sentences ago.

So instead, let’s do a classic compare and contrast between traditional journalistic writing and blog writing.  Just from reading what I’ve written so far, examples abound.  For blog writing, the “six” in the first sentence could have been written as “6”, breaking a well-known journalistic rule.  But blogs have their own rules.  Or better put, blogs have no rules.  And a sentence such as “I (heart) geeks” probably wouldn’t fly for a reputable newspaper.  It is the product of some new melange of blogging, texting, and Facebooking.  And something that, as Will Smith would put it, “parents just don’t understand.”

So here are some things that I appreciate about both formats.

Traditional

Legitimacy – It is comforting to know that something you are reading is true.  For the most part, editors at newspapers are hawkish about making sure their articles are accurate.  Facts are checked.  Quotes are printed verbatim.  Whether it be how many jobs Canadians lost last year or the death toll in Haiti, numbers are corroborated before they are run and can therefore be trusted.  Reporters are accountable to their readers and their editors.  Newspapers want to create trust between it and its readers.  Therefore, accuracy becomes paramount.  And when the eventual slip-up happens, corrections are quick to follow.

Heavy on facts – If you as a reader crave the bare bones of a story, then traditional news writing is right up your alley.  Aside from features, editorials, and opinion pieces, news stories will be heavy on facts and light on the interpretation of those facts.  In the front section, readers are informed about who wins elections and by how much.  Or how the economy is doing.  Or how relief efforts in Haiti are coming along.  In an ideal world, the stories should be objectively written, with quotes from both sides to fill out the pieces.  Similarly, the sports section is focused on results.  Which teams won and by how much is the crux.  In other words, newspapers create news while blogs often only comment on it, with the  Huffington Post being the most notable exception.

Blogs

Style – Blogs are fun and laid-back compared to old-fashioned news media.  Because anybody with an internet connection can create one, the possibilities become endless.  While this obviously opens up space for many bad blogs, good ones can be found all over the place.  Because of their grassroots appeal, the writing often has a more casual and informal tone to it.  For many, newspaper copy sounds stuffy and absent of any personality.  Bloggers are given carte blanche to let their freak flag fly and the results are often refreshing.  But while the content of newspapers can more or less be trusted, blogs should always be taken with a rather large grain of salt.  Analysis of events need not be backed up with facts if you’re a blogger.  This goes without saying but don’t believe everything you read on the internet.  Please.

Doug Smith is a basketball writer for the Toronto Star.  Compare this article he wrote with this blog post, both about the same game.  It shouldn’t be hard to see the differences.

Community – Blogs are interactive and each one is part of a larger online community.  Because there are blogs on every topic under the sun, from dog owners to gamers to field-hockey fans, bloggers can often find other bloggers with similar interests.  This is not only good for the bloggers themselves, but for their audience as well.  Most blogs will have a “blog-roll” installed, with a list of other blogs tackling the same subject.  This allows users to quickly visit and assess different blogs on the same topic, finding the one that most suits their tastes.

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Filed under Technology