They talk quite often in the mainstream media, and especially the mainstream sports media, about the significance of access, about the inherent value of having a classically trained reporter able to get to a source and hear firsthand What It All Means in pursuit of Telling The Story. And in most cases, that’s absolutely true: how can you get a person or subject’s version of events without actually asking said person or subject? Without relying on a lot of conjecture or suppositions, you can’t, and this is where most (but not all) of the old-line, mainstream media sources have a leg up on a good deal of startup/DIY/indie/alt-media/anonymous/unknown blogs out there.
But what’s often left out of the conversation about access and sources and those vaunted principles of journalism is the question of what, exactly, a professional reporter does with all that hard-fought research and information. Perhaps that reporter will turn an already exceptional baseball game into a master clinic in creative non-fiction. Perhaps shine a light on the things a man will put his body trough to keep the only job he knows how to have. Perhaps expose a reviled villain as a misunderstood friend.
Or, if you’re Joe Cowley writing today’s piece for the Sun-Times, you can ask Gordon Beckham just how it feels to be totes aws ZOMG!!1!!:
Case in point: How many 22-year-olds can explain their way out of supposedly being nicknamed ”Slayer” for his prowess with the ladies? Call it Southern charm, but Beckham has done just that over the last week when it was first brought up on ESPN’s ”The Scott Van Pelt Show.”
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Not that Beckham doesn’t appreciate the ladies. He’s admittedly ”single and looking” and even has a crush on a certain young actress who recently became single.
It’s like intense, mind-boggling sports reporting, if sports reporting actually involved re-enacting the Seinfeld episode where George develops his man-crush on Elaine’s Dan Cortese-portrayed boyfriend Tony: “He’s such a cool guy!”
Jokes aside, no one’s saying Cowley is a bad reporter or that “real journailsm” is useless or that news organizations are obsolete any of that other tech-hippie nonsense. At the same time, when it takes hanging out in a locker room to realize that single 22-year-old dudes want to meet girls, then another 800 words to spread the word, you have to ask yourself what all this access really gets anyone besides maybe a few lady-friends for a Sox rookie who has, in the words of one local beat reporter, “date requests and wedding proposals blowing up the text screen of his cell phone on a daily basis.”
Thoroughly investigated poetry, right there. Useful, too. And valuable! Access! Journalism!