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Stephen A. Smith Wants to Silence the Bloggers

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According to a recent Stephen A. Smith interview, bloggers such as myself are grossly irresponsible with what we produce on our blogs and should all be shut down before we drive Western civilization to hell in a hand basket. Or something to that effect. From Farther Off the Wall:

And when you look at the internet business, what’s dangerous about it is that people who are clearly unqualified get to disseminate their piece to the masses. I respect the journalism industry, and the fact of the matter is ...someone with no training should not be allowed to have any kind of format whatsoever to disseminate to the masses to the level which they can. They are not trained. Not experts. More important are the level of ethics and integrity that comes along with the quote-unqoute profession hasn’t been firmly established and entrenched in the minds of those who’ve been given that license.

Therefore, there’s a total disregard, a level of wrecklessness that ends up being a domino effect. And the people who suffer are the common viewers out there and, more importantly, those in the industry who haven’t been fortunate to get a radio or television deal and only rely on the written word. And now they’ve been sabotaged. Not because of me. Or like me. But because of the industry or the world has allowed the average joe to resemble a professional without any credentials whatsoever.

Wow. Glad to see Smith was able to find time to attend the employee seminar at ESPN called "Blogs and the Evil They Have Wrought." It would appear he has gotten the company line down pat.

I am pretty sure the last I checked, the 1st amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteed free speech to those with a willingness to express themselves. Secondary to that I also wonder where Smith gets off saying bloggers are "not trained" and "not experts." Allow me turn that around and ask what makes Smith an expert on the NBA? Did he play basketball? Did he coach or have some sort of management role on a team? What activities in his life have vested him with the knowledge to call himself an expert on the NBA and sports in general? This is a serious question on my part because I do not know. If the answer to the final question is that he loves the game and has covered it as a journalist i.e. written about what he has observed then please tell me how this differs from what most bloggers do?

Speaking for myself I hold a BA in English which for most people constitutes training as a writer. In terms of my field of expertise, I am a lifelong UNC fan and observer of ACC sports in general, particularly of basketball and football. I not only have a passion and love for my Heels and their exploits on the court/field but I also read a fair amount of analysis from smart people as well as a excellent grasp on how the games I am watching are played, especially as it pertains to basketball. Granted not all bloggers are created equal and some do cross the lines of decency in regard to whatever agenda they pursue. In some other cases, the blogger is just not very capable. However, the really serious ones who write daily and have an active blog are usually also very good writers. Also, the ones I read, like myself, cherish their personal credibility and the integrity of their blog to be a firm source of information and analysis for their readers. From my perspective, my readers validate my work not that page hits make you legitimate but the opinions they give about your blog both in the public comments section and with personal emails tells me whether the work I do has quality.

Smith, like most media elites love to toss around words like "total disregard" and "wrecklessness" when they discuss blogs. The effort to demonize blogs is as comical as it is sad because the real reason behind the established media's disdain for blogging has nothing to do with the sacrosanct values of journalism but rather petty greed for the almighty dollar. In short, blogs are competition but more than that because blogs are unfettered by certain traditional restraints they are more than willing to break with the accepted narrative about certain things and tell a different story. This break from the narrative often does not coincide with whatever agenda conventional media needs to pursue to satisfy their bottom line. Having someone who routinely appears on ESPN complain about the behavior of blogs is laughable given the propensity of ESPN to prostitute large swaths of it's own integrity to make a profit for Disney.

History is replete with stories of established entities controlling the flow of information to the masses and when a different voice tells a different story or is overtly critical of the establishment that new voice is automatically demonized. This is a classic ploy practiced by dictators and facist regimes who wish to dominate how issues are discussed in an effort to shore up their own power. The traditional media, that of television and newspapers, have long been the only voices heard on the issues, especially in sports. Now bloggers come in on the grassroots level with viewpoints unmolested by a corrupt media empire. It is an inescapable fact that many bloggers simply pick up of various issues the mainstream media either does not care or is too wrapped up in their own narrative to seize upon. And while it is true we are "average Joes," that does not make our opinions and analysis any less valid than those postulated by individuals paid to provide them. The real issue Smith has is not that common people are viewed in a professional light without established credentials. No, the problem Smith and others have is common people are viewed in a professional light because the work they do has a professional quality about it which in some cases outshines their own efforts.

Basically it is fear that the people will turn off ESPN or put down the newspaper and read blogs for the deeper insights. Bloggers, for the most part, do not have the sources and access to be primary news providers but they have all they need to contribute insightful opinions. And I am beginning to think this is what the media elites fear most where blogs are concerned.