A few years ago, the New York Times ran a really interesting piece on the Ajax youth academy and the ascent of a young player in Dutch football. It was excellent, interesting and original journalism. It’s a well-known subject that was taken and ripped open to reveal plenty of secrets about one of football’s most spectacular factories. Interestingly, it was published on their website, but it certainly would have been worthy of print in the newspaper and the effort to fork out the cash for the publication.
The newspaper industry is on it’s way down, with total closure projected around the 2020’s. Does that give a pardon to the level of hyperbole and sensationalism we see in the newspapers regularly? I’m not entirely convinced. With sports—in fact it stretches well beyond just sporting events—people are told what they need to have some kind of interest in. Why does someone else control the space over my head and tell me I should listen to Ed Sheeran when Led Zeppelin will do me just fine? Furthermore, why should I be interested in two footballers who don’t really see eye-to-eye avoiding a handshake situation forced upon them by a governing body who should know better? It’s a nothing story and yet it’s been made into ever-lasting headlines. As Sky Sports put it just prior to writing this (conveniently) all eyes will be on Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra this weekend.
It’s headlines that will be across this weekend’s newspapers, but it’s not new, is it? Industry leaders 20-years ago wouldn’t have known about the impact of iphones and tablets and online reading material so near in the future. Were the headlines back then talking about the intricacies of Ajax’s youth setup or the growth of smaller clubs in a game that was accelerating forward at pace? No, there was nonsense and garbage that was equal to what we see now, but somewhere there are groups of people who believe it to be newsworthy.
Sports Illustrated is the best sports publication available bar none. Sports Illustrated offer stories across a number of sports that are meaningful, well thought out and often missed by other relevant publications despite being right there in front of their eyes. But some of the content of SI is spread across all their media channels; yes, they have a number of fantastic writers who contribute to their site regularly, but their weekly magazine is where the good stuff is. Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback is essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in the NFL, and we’re lucky to have it available online. But would he need to alter his stories to the more glamorized garbage if they only appeared in the magazine, whereby people would have to shell out for the opportunity to read? Certainly not. The company wouldn’t allow it.
But stories like Brendan Rodgers and Andre Villas-Boas being on the verge of the sack is easy, it’s pedestrian and it’s a little shameful considering the resources and contacts that many journalists now have in the game. I want to read stories like the rise of Robert Griffin III, from upbringings to NFL superstar with the Washington Redskins; I want to read the reports on the bounty scandal with the New Orleans Saints; I want to understand why the NHL is locking out it’s players and all the intricacies of the current work stoppage; I couldn’t care less who an England international slept with six-months ago.
But you also see the difference in reporting and content of certain newspapers. Not all of them need to sell with the sensationalist, gossipy headlines. The Times now has a pay wall but has a number of very good and interesting sports writers working for them. Newspapers are suffering because of the technological advances and the fact that you don’t need to make the trip in the morning to pick up a newspaper.
Plenty of people see through it, and plenty of people want news stories and journalism that is worthwhile and needs to be read. But many newspapers are giving us something else. And it’s in spite of the dying industry.