A lot of sports articles use the “f” bomb now. Sure, that doesn’t make them good. But it sure as hell doesn’t make them bad, either.
It’s 2016, and sports journalism has officially leaked out of the bold black lines of newspaper headings. There used to be carefully written pieces always reigned by the same strict guidelines, wedged between ink images.
Now we have self-employed bloggers interceding their sports analysis with moving GIF images, using emoticons at the end of their sentences and kicking their old journalism professors to the curb with conversational language and brutal honesty.
It wasn’t sudden—sports fans didn’t just wake up one morning and find a bunch of rambling writers throwing in vulgar comedic punches and embellishing articles with their creative personal touch.
No, this was something that has been rising in the blogosphere for some time—a collective burning hunger from every writer that fashioned themselves as rule-breakers, truth tellers and word artists.
Now we’re taking over.
Some might describe it as deterioration. They claim that journalism is effectively dead and see these radical writing styles as some kind of intrusion on their core values.
I see them as a revolution. The truth behind this change in journalism across all genres is not that something great has collapsed under our feet, but that long ago something weak was built.
For years, journalists have been at the mercy of the media powers. To get the career they wanted, they had to attend the right universities, take all the right classes, and use only what they learned. If they had a fresh idea of how to actually captivate a reader, they had to put it aside because it’s what the publication wanted that really mattered.
Journalism sold itself as an exact art—to the point where it couldn’t be described as an art at all. Everyone adopted the same idea of what writing in media meant, so that even the most contrasting styles of journalists had more similarities than differences.
Long ago, we somehow all bought the idea that readers did not want to be entertained. That the correct way to write wasn’t intending to captivate readers, but to follow the rules of the generation of writers before us, and the generation of writers before them.
Today we’re tearing the old system down. The system that said that writing could be skillful and exciting, but only within the constraint of the proper rules. The system that made being well-informed a strenuous task by suffocating important ideas in bland, monotonous article structures.
In sports, that means more GIF animations of NBA bloopers embedded into our articles. It means more laughs, more Zach Lowe, more Bill Simmons, more obscure-but-fantastic bloggers, and more f-bombs.
It also means that finding true quality journalism has become chaos.
Because the journalism barrier has been broken, the article I’m penning right now could be better than the next article Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski writes. Of course, it’s not going to be, but before I started typing the first words it had that potential. (I’m sorry I failed you, Document1…)
It’s no wonder that this is such an exciting time for the bloggers with passionate ideas and high hopes, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that so many long-tenured writers are in panic mode.
Listen, journalism purists, I understand your qualms. I do.
The rules have long given you a safety net, an assurance that you are indeed a good writer, and the SBNation columnist who made you laugh for ten minutes straight this morning is just a dim-witted hack who could learn a few things from you.
But readers have spoken. Our style has become so popular that it’s leaking into the mainstream—big-time sites want to be exciting now, not just informative.
Sports bloggers were like little brothers to you “true journalists.” But now we’re all grown up. In fact, you’re afraid we’re the favorite now…aren’t you?