So I was scanning sportsjournalists.com this morning (hey, I still like it) when I stumbled upon a link relating to a blog post by Clay Travis, a Nashville-based writer whose upcoming book I was asked to blurb (by a HarperCollins friend, not Clay himself). I don’t know Clay, but I read the book, thought it was solid, scribbled up a blurb, received a nice Thank You response, etc.
This is Clay’s blog post, and it is really, really, really, really, really, really off.
Again, I don’t know Clay. I certainly harbor no ill will. However, I must say …
A. If I’m about to release a book concerning University of Tennessee football, I might want to, ahem, hold my criticisms of The Tennessean (the state’s largest newspaper) until after the thing hits shelves.
B. The post shows a glaring lack of journalistic insight. In no particular order:
â€¢ Joe Biddle is a Tennessee institution and one hell of a nice man. I understand trying to be edgy, cool, hip whatever on a blogâ€“but why take that kind of shot? What’s the purpose? This (“Joe Biddle, has not written an original idea in a decade. If he posted on fan message boards no one would read him. You can’t even accuse him of mailing in his columns, because that would mean he was willing to stand up from his desk and find a stamp.”) is purely mean. Not useful, not informativeâ€”just mean.
â€¢ “We all deserve to know the truth. Or as close to the truth as we can get.” Who says? Seriously, who says? A former NFL quarterback diesâ€”reported. He is killed by his mistressâ€”reported. He had other mistressesâ€”reported. Why do we need an ongoing investigation into more and more and more women, until we find out McNair had 10 … 15 … 20 … 25 other women on the side? We’re not talking about a president, or a governor, or even a mayor. We’re not talking about someone whose personal life directly impacts society, or the immediate community. We’re talking about a retired football player who apparently had sex with a lot of women not named Mrs. McNair. I wouldn’t have blamed The Tennessean for running 800 follow-ups, but I certainly don’t blame them for deciding enough is enough.
â€¢ As a journalist, as well as a former Tennessean writer, I hate how the paper has cut back its travel for the UT and Vandy beats. Hate it. But Travis’ simplistic the-paper-has-gone-to-shit-and-here’s-the-best-example diatribe misses so much. The Tennessean started losing money around the time I left in the mid-to-late 1990s. Advertising has vanished, readership has plummeted, personals barely exist. It’s the all-too-common plights of papers everywhere. So, while it sucks that they don’t travel, there is a reality here: Newspapers are a business. And when business vanishes, expenses get slashed. There’s nothing simple about it; certainly nothing intentionally evil about it. And if anyone inside the newspaper deserves the blame, it’s not the editorsâ€”it’s the publisher.
In fact, the only area I agree with Travis is in his overall conclusion, which is that The Tennessean is a shell of yesteryear. I saw it upon my arrival in 1994. The publisher, Craig Moon (now with USA Today, I believed), carved a once-legendary product up and turned it into a sidebar machine. Everything was sidebar-sidebar-sidebar, nut-graph, nut-graph, nut-graph. Hard-hitting stories could only be so hard-hitting, because only a certain number of articles were allowed to jump to a different page (heaven forbid a reader lose interest!). The Tennessean kicked ass in the days of integration, and now it was relying on focus groups to decide whether we should be running more features than news stories; whether happy pieces were the way to go. A real bummer, no doubt, but alas … such is the newspaper world we live in.
And, for the record, I like Mrs. Cheap.