Jason Whitlock Rails Against Millennial Bloggers, on His Tumblr Page

Jason Whitlock, sort of a thinking man’s Les Bowen-Marcus Hayes hybrid – dusted off the old get off my lawn card in complaining about millennial bloggers. Ironically, Whitlock, who made some genuinely astute and poignant observations in his piece, criticized inexperienced and unqualified web-writing millennials on his Tumblr blog just months after he couldn’t see his own vision for a Black Grantland take shape.

First thing’s first: Whitlock started off strong, comparing Buzzfeed-y-style web writing – now being used by traditional mainstream outlets, too – to Americas’ push for steroid-injected, horomone-infused foods late in the last century. Whereas good journalism is healthy, harder-to-come-by organic fare, online media is processed meat. Fair enough. Had he stopped there, and made his high-level observation and moved on to feuding with yet someone else in the business, he could’ve claimed an easy grammatical victory. But nope. He just couldn’t help himself and laid into basically anything that’s not the New York Times or ESPN and conflated Twitter trolls with genuinely large websites with full-time writers who are probably smarter and more business savvy than Whitlock.

Let’s dig in.

Same process is in play with journalism. We don’t naturally grow journalists anymore. Mean-spirited snark draws clicks, Facebook likes, and retweets. Adults have enough life experience to not want to make a living trafficking in snark. Young people don’t mind.

So now they have a seat at the big-boy table. They turned blogs into media outlets. Untrained, predatory kids are being passed off as the next wave of journalists. They’ve bullied and intimidated their way into a leadership position. And they’re using their platforms to convince the public that anyone over 40 is a dumbass who shouldn’t be listened to and that their select group of approved friends are the smartest people in journalism.

Few points:

  • I’ve always had a problem with sportswriters acting like they’re Woodward or his lesser partner Bernstein. With the exception of perhaps only a handful of journalists – ESPN’s John Barr, a Philly native, comes to mind – few sports media folks are doing any sort of meaningful work in the big picture. From bloggers to SportsCenter hosts, most of us are just actors in this great entertainment medium that is sports. Breaking trade rumors and injury news, the most common type of revered sports journalism, is akin to being a CPA in real world– you just unearth the details of someone else’s profit, but ultimately you’re replaceable.
  • I’m not sure who they is that turned blogs into media outlets. But I’d argue that they is someone who managed to figure out a way to start something from scratch, grow an audience, and sell the audience to someone (say, advertisers). That’s how they turned blogs into media outlets, the same way, sometime a long time ago, they turned trees into media outlets.
  • Untrained, predatory kids is an interesting way to generalize every blogger. Old-school types have a habit of dismissing anyone who didn’t work as a stringer at a local paper or production assistant at a TV station as inexperienced. It just so happens that, today, experience doesn’t mean having a J-school apprenticeship. Rather, it means knowing enough about journalism to know what is a waste of time (WORKING AS A STRINGER AT A LOCAL PAPER COMES TO MIND) and understanding the multimedia, business, and marketing side of things enough to be successful. It’s real convenient to dismiss online media as inexperienced… yet people like Whitlock, judging by the relatively few comments on his FOX Sports-backed blog, would likely fall flat on their face trying to stand out from the crowd if they were starting off today, regardless of how talented they were as a writer. It just happens that the experience, or skills, required to succeed today are different than the yes-sir skills the Whitlocks, Wilbons and Kornheisers needed to succeed in their day, when they earned their seat at a table that was already set, rather than creating the table from scratch.
  • His view is awfully dismissive of genuinely talented writers who don’t deal in clicks and loud headlines. Guys and girls writing about Sabermetrics, advanced stats, sports media, the business of sports, etc. None of those people are the snarky kids Whitlock writes about. If anything, they’re a better version of the journalist Whitlock sees himself as, as they write with purpose and evidence, not just to scorch paper with their words.

That’s how people who have never spent one minute acquiring journalistic chops are becoming the leading opinion-makers in the sports world and people with experience are being pushed out of the business or characterized as idiots.

  • No, it’s not. The people who “are becoming the leading opinion-makers in the sports world” are genuinely talented enough to rise above the massive crowd of wannabes who have your average sports take. The very nature of being a “leading opinion-maker” means that, in one way or another, you’ve earned the trust of your audience, not just got a lot of clicks somewhere. There are both in the online world, but they are not the same thing.
  • It also seems that when old-timers bitch about online media they confuse media with entertainment. We know the difference between the news and a sitcom on TV, or the front page and the comics in a newspaper. So why is it so hard separate online media from online entertainment? Knocks against the web typically include mentions of cat pictures, GIFs, lists and videos, but those things aren’t online journalism, they’re online entertainment. Whitlock didn’t do this directly, but it feels like he’s beginning to go in that direction.

Last week I told you how Bomani Jones had the D.C. media scrambling to defend some half-baked Twitter hot take that race and racism caused D.C. media to avoid criticizing Kirk Cousins with the same passion the media criticized RG3.

Boots-on-the-ground journalists – black and white – had to combat Twitter ramblings from a guy in Miami.

It used to take someone like Peter King or Mike Wilbon to cause that kind of ruckus. It used to take someone who had typed a block in a journalist’s laptop to stir that kind of shit. Not now.

  • Again, conflating some idiot on Twitter with someone who may have built an audience of tens of thousands or millions of readers.

People completely removed from the sports world are making a living ridiculing people with actual skin in the game. This probably sounds like I’m talking about myself. But go read the crap that’s been written about King and Wilbon by people who have never been inside a locker room. It’s crazy.

The work that real sports journalists do is being devalued by kids given platforms meant for adults or truly gifted journalists. King and Wilbon and a bunch of other folks had to learn things, experience things and accomplish things before they were granted the privilege of trying to influence public thought. And after they earned the privilege, they had to get their thoughts through experienced editors who pushed their thinking to a higher level.

  • I’m pretty sure the people influential enough to do damage to those with “actual skin in the game” themselves have skin the game. Skin in the way of a salary or income derived from ownership of said platform, which they created. Again, Whitlock is conflating commenters and Twitter opiners with people who have actual influence in the online sports media world. There’s a difference.
  • The never been in the locker room take is a bad one. There’s certainly an argument to be made that not knowing your subject is harmful. No doubt. But sportswriters treat the locker room as though it’s some inner-sanctum where they feeling-share with athletes. Bullshit. It’s a place where they’re often the last line of defense between a lathered up lineman and the field, or a tired pitcher and his soft bed. The media is a necessary evil to athletes, coaches and execs, there to either feed the beast that is sports entertainment or be used to convey a specific message to the public (or other teams, agents, etc.). Take what Joe Banner said about Les Bowen being the guy they felt they could best manipulate as a real-life example of this dynamic. Leagues mandate access not because they want the truth being told, but because the endless, brainless bites are enjoyed by the masses until the next kickoff. If you’re just the guy in the locker room, writing quotes and asking the predictable questions about play calls and coaching decisions, I’m not so sure you’re a journalist worthy of all the grandiose language Whitlock bestows upon you. That’s fine, too. Some are better than others, and there are far worse careers. But please, spare me the nonsense about needing to be fed canned quotes in the locker room to be considered an intelligent journalist, observer or commentator. The real stuff lies far beyond the walls separating the changing area from the shower stalls.
  • Kids given platforms. This is like the bizarro argument. If anything, the Whitlocks, Wilbons and Kornheisers of the world were “given” platforms. Sure, they earned positions. But somewhere along the line, a boss hired them and they leveled up to a platform– like a newspaper, radio station or ESPN. Speaking from experience, the platform I have was created from scratch, required a leap of faith in quitting a job and constant reinvention of the wheel to keep successful. I would love, love to see Whitlock try to be given that sort of platform. I’m sure his experience and accomplishments will allow him to set up and maintain his own site, write the content, do the editing, handle the images, feed, SEO, and then monetize by selling ads, products, and telling you about the great, affordable living accommodations – for both sale and rent – at Darley Green, just 25 minutes from Philadelphia. Go ahead, Jason. You’re learned. You can do this.

Change is inevitable but it’s not always good. Our greed-inspired neglect handed millennials freedoms that used to be passed on with proper training, freedoms that used to be earned. Our parental, familial, make-as-much-money-as-possible neglect cost us the respect of millennials, and now our employers have figured out we can’t reach them. We have less value in an industry focused on trying to connect with young people.

Because of paragraphs like that.

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32 Responses

  1. The “blog” hate is pure jealousy… Whether it is this clown or Missanelli it clearly comes down to the point they didn’t have the opportunity to build something from scratch similar to a Crossing Broad…They had to take crap jobs to get where they are at so much later in life and it pisses them off.

    1. The world is moving forward, with or without them. Whitlock and his disgruntled peers keep screaming at brick walls, begging for the days of yesteryear, when in reality those walls that they believe should exist, don’t exist anymore. Keep pointing out these pompous journalists and media types Kyle. While you keep things in perspective and are grateful to the max that you are able to do what you do and make money, the old school media believes the years on their resume should command respect, as they continue to operate like it’s still 1995.

  2. Whitlock had the opportunity to create his own site, and failed.
    Can tumblr be monetized?

    When was the last time Whitlock was actually a journalist? Is PTI “journalism”? He has been writing opinion pieces for 20+ years. I would love to know the last time he was in the lockerroom.

    Good work Kyle. Jw needs to be called out for his bullshit.

    1. Well, good work except where he completely whiffed on the obvious line he could have drawn between CB Etc. and Whitlock’s recent Hindenburg.

      Whitlock, as Kyle mentions in the beginning, recently just DID try to make a self-sustaining blog. He had a score of Disney-paid millennials put together every aspect of the thing for him, then basically crushed it by sitting on it.

      1. Not sure if he sat on it, or was incapable of running it. He thought he was Bill Simmons, and found out he’s not.

        Whitlock is insufferable on twitter. Worse than Les Bowen, Peter King, etc. Bowen at least gives you a dumb dad joke every now and again. Whitlock trots out the same tired Wire references similar to Mikey Miss and Gargano with Goodfellas and Midnight run.

    2. Missing the point, ass bag. You’re crummy little generation wants to become CEOs before earning your stripes with service on the proverbial front lines. Whitlock earned his columnist gig after years of “boots-on-ground journalism,” unlike hipster douchebags like Adair and, to a lesser extent, Scott, who at least is trying to monetize this poor-man’s Deadspin, albeit in an Idiocracy-kind-of-way.
      Columns are the reward for the cranking out 2 or 3 stories per day at 15 inches or more per for, say, 10+ years.

      Any jabroni with a computer and his parent’s X-1 Triple Play account can have an opinion, and once in a while it can make sense. But without credibility from either your peers or society, it’s just the ramblings of a self-absorbed “adult” stunted in arrested development.

  3. I wonder how he feels about Copy and Paste blogs that allow people to make racist comments because it drives up page views.

      1. Is 1,500 words supposed to be impressive?

        How about the fact that you let people post racist and sexist comments in the comment section? You claim to be the best sports blog in the city with all the local sports editors coming here first. And the comment sections are full of sexist and racist comments. How do you think they react when they see stuff like that? Do you think they envy your professionalism? How about when people from other cities look at your site? You complain about ESPN dragging up Philly Fan stories. Yet, you provide an open forum to the worst type of fans because you get your page views out of it. How many of the comments in the Greg Hardy story confirmed all the stereotypes of Philly Fans?

        If you had any pride and/or balls, you would take the comment sections down and let stories run on their quality and content alone.

        1. Don’t get rid of the comments, it’s the only original content on this site. I come specifically for the comments and the laughs they provide. I usually go to them first, and then maybe the story. Without the comments all that’s left is a story I could have read two hours earlier on Deadspin.

        2. If you had any pride or balls you’d stop bitching about racism and sexism on the internet. Seriously, grow a fucking pair. Pussy.

  4. What defines a millenial? Boomers are 1946-1964. Gen X are 1965 -? Where’s the millenial start point.

    I don’t think generalizations can be made about any age group. I know a lot of 30somethings, some just barely out of their 20s who are responsible family men that have stable work history. It’s natural for middle aged and older people to have some discomfort adjusting to the world as it changes around them. In Whitlock’s case it comes across as unprofessional and small minded. Anyone in media should be able to adapt to the new technology and use it to their advantage. Of course there is a benefit and that is Whitlock is playing to a crowd: Others in his field in positions of power who feel the same way.

    1. Nothing about this column is myopic, in fact it’s self-effacing. People, by nature, fear change but don’t want to admit it; Whitlock owns it. He’s an eloquent writer who doesn’t fear being dlisked for his views. Again, he owns that shit.

      Scott and his kind, on the other hand, have feeble sarcastic skills compounded by this overpowering desire to be liked. So, they troll the people in the jobs they want under the false pretense that it’s “journalism” and turn on a message board to the thousands of mindless automatons so they can ramble incoherently while validating the existence of the Scotts and Adairs of this world, who are text book cases of adults that were picked on as children.

      These bloggers are the ISIS of the journalism field. They start a war against the masses and in the process go to war with jihais that actually are on their side. The nitwits, with a few exceptions, on the message board are the idiots they recruit for their winless battle. The blogosphere is quite pathetic, actually.

  5. Stop. You talk about your leap of faith to create something, but what did you really create besides a web address? 95% of your articles are nothing more than retweets of someone else’s work with a snarky comment to close it out. Any original content is just a counterpoint to once again, someone else’s work. You had one original storyline and are now getting out scooped by a cartoonist. Whitlock isn’t wrong about the state of the business. It is being taken over by kids that act like they can do a better job, but are too lazy to actually do the job. This business is a couple years away from being the snake that eats its own tail once the original writers leave the scene and there is nothing left but a bunch of guys that copy other writers.

  6. About the only thing worse than the self-righteousness, ego and better-than-thou personas displayed by coddled athletes are the self-righteous, look-at-me-I’m-better-than-you personas displayed by ‘journalists’ who were lucky enough to cover them, and think they are above others because of it.
    Whitlock is a joke at this point, he is literally failing everywhere he goes and because the other ‘boots on the ground’ journalists feel bad for him, they keep throwing him a bone and giving him some other shot. If you read his playbook, all it contained was a thinly-veiled attempt at blowing himself disguised as words on paper. He considers himself the Lebron of journalists yet he’s nothing close, and really never was.

  7. Yeah….you’re working REAL hard over there Kyle.

    Look….congratulations on your ‘success’ – but let’s be honest about how taxing your work is. It doesn’t require a degree, or a highly specialized skill set gained through years of training.

    Your blog is entertaining….but clearly your biggest core competency is flattering yourself.

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