Glen Macnow tweeted this on Saturday night, and it generated a ton of discussion with some interesting responses:
As an old newspaper guy, here's my unsolicited advice to young beat writers aiming to establish credibility: stop tweeting like a fan. You're not supposed to be a fan.
— Glen Macnow (@RealGlenMacnow) December 19, 2021
Don’t quote me, but I’m 97% sure Glen is directing that toward the recent additions at The Philadelphia Inquirer, of which there are many. A good portion of them are working their first “newspaper” job, though it’s a little weird to even think of the gig as such, since the Inquirer was pretty forthright in explaining they wanted somebody with a “digital” focus to replace ex-editor Pat McLoone. But Glen’s tweet was interpreted in various ways because there are many non-newspaper “beat writers” working in this market, like the folks at The Athletic and Philly Voice and NBC Sports Philadelphia.
This topic is right up our alley, and even though Glen didn’t ask a yes or no question, I’d say that there’s not a right or wrong hypothetical answer. It’s a generational thing. The portion of Philly sports fans in the 50+ range grew up with classic beats and columnists like Stan Hochman and Phil Jasner, who would probably be spinning in their graves if they saw what the business has become. This generation is growing up in digital blog world, where it’s much more about content and less about journalism. The industry changed over the years, and younger folks don’t romanticize sports media the way some of the old school guys do.
If you ask a lot of those guys, namely the recently-retired and/or bought-out Inquirer scribes, they’ll tell you that they read other great writers growing up, and enjoy telling stories. They like to really dig into something and learn about a person. The younger generation doesn’t necessarily care about that. For them, it’s more about publishing multi-platform content focusing on the big highlight, the big quote, and/or the viral video clip. I wouldn’t even call it journalism. It’s more like sports content creation.
For instance, Jimmy Kempski at Voice does stick figures and writes goofy shit, but it’s informative and entertaining at the same time. You laugh but learn something, and it does a ton of traffic at Voice. Same thing at CB, where we do more irreverent stuff than anybody. I’ve written some of the dumbest shit in the world. You’d expect the blogs and the web writers to be a little more loose in their approach, but newspapers are supposed to be the last bastion of objectivity and professionalism. You don’t see Jeff McLane tweeting stuff like “fuck the Cowboys and their poser fans.” That’s more for us to do.
Plus, most of the younger writers in the Philly scene were fans just like everybody else back in the day. That includes me, Kyle, Russ, Bob, etc. I think everybody knows we grew up wearing the gear and watching the games, so you might as well embrace it without being too much of a corny homer. Likewise, you can grow up here as a fan and then be objective in your craft, like a Sheil Kapadia or Zach Berman. You’re not locked into some typeset.
To Glen’s point, say you’re one of the new Inquirer writers. This is your first newspaper job. You’re replacing somebody like a Marc Narducci or an Ed Barkowitz, and you’re tweeting out stuff like “Gritty is hype AF for this game.” Then yeah, it can come off as a little jarring (I just made up that tweet, FYI). You wouldn’t expect that from the Inquirer. There’s a certain standard there, a standard you wouldn’t find at a place like Crossing Broad or BSH or whatever. Perhaps that’s changing as the Inquirer and other newspapers transition into a different phase of sports media consumerism, which is a gentle to way to say that print is dead.
The final thing to consider is that younger fans don’t seem to live and die with the teams as much as others do. They typically take a win or a loss and move on to the next game, or shift to something else they have to do in their life. I don’t have any data to back this up, but I think an older portion of Philly sports fans show more interest in “getting answers” via guys like Howard Eskin asking hard questions and challenging coaches and players. Millennials and Zoomers care less about that, and are more empathetic to players on a macro level. It’s more like, “oh well, the Eagles lost, time to fire up the XBox,” whereas the WIP crowd, for instance, wants the coach to explain why he decided to throw on 4th and 1 instead of running the ball. They might stew on it for a little while longer, while the smart phone crowd has already stopped paying attention and shifted to the next thing, like scrolling Instagram.
It’s all very fascinating to me. It’s a generational thing above all else. An older crowd grew up in the era of sports journalism, and right now we’re in an era of sports content creation. The scene has really changed a lot over the years.
Thank you to Glen Macnow for the good column topic on a Monday morning.