The Internet has been great for niche pastimes. Such diverse habits as taking funny pictures of cats, pick up artistry, model train collecting and boxing fandom are serviced in ways unimaginable 20 years ago. The net allows hardcore enthusiasts who normally wouldn’t have the chance to communicate about their subject of interest to congregate in cyberspace and produce a whole lot of content.
The explosion of content and the ability of fans to talk to and become scribes can hardly be seen as a bad thing. The more people read about boxing’s dramas, in the ring and out, the more fans the sport will have (excluding pretty shitty periods like the one we’re in).
That said, quality has been a bit of a casualty in the explosion of content on the Internet. Not just in boxing mind you, but almost everywhere. With journalism moving out of newsrooms and into bedrooms, some basic standards have slipped.
Inspired by Australian TV’s Media Watch, in which men in fawn cardigans take a holier than-thou-attitude and berate other journalists for their failings, here are the six deadly sins of internet boxing writing.
1 – Not Getting the Basics Right
There is no excuse for poor spelling, punctuation and grammar. Of course there’s nothing wrong with the occasional slip up, but some writers and sites consistently get this wrong. You can call me a pedant if you like, but it’s difficult to enjoy, let alone take seriously, any piece of writing that’s riddled with basic errors. Frank Lotierzo at the Sweet Science is a great example. Time and again he pens great pieces full of insight that are let down by bad grammar. Take this example:
And this is where Mayweather just doesn’t get it as to how he comes off as a fighter who won’t agree to a fight to where as he likes to say, “the field of play is level.”
This one isn’t that hard to get right guys.
…I realise that having said all this, it’s inevitable that this piece will have some error in it. Damn. Sorry for singling you out F-Lo.
2 – Not Sourcing Properly
Sourcing is a major problem in boxing journalism, and not just on the Internet. The most glaring recent example was the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao email saga, as reported by Teddy Atlas. Atlas claimed that “sources” told him that emails from Pacquiao’s camp suggested that their man was on PEDs.
There’s so much wrong with a journalist reporting that story that way, that I don’t really know where to start. You need to question the motives of your sources. There’s way too much “he said, she said” reporting in boxing (especially in relation to fights in the works). Here’s how you do it right. Do I even need to say what the problem with anonymous Mayweather insiders telling Atlas about the emails is?
Sources need a pressing reason to earn anonymity. In this case, the Floyd insiders — if those were Atlas’ “sources” — might have lost their jobs. If they were granted anonymity, then that risk was off the table and they should have had no problem showing Ted the original emails. Hearsay really isn’t good enough unless you’ve got a buttload (warning: technical journalism term) of it.
The outlets that reported this news second hand without question are almost as bad as Atlas, in my opinion.
3- Not Writing for the Internet
The Internet is pretty neat for many reasons, apart from letting all us enthusiasts get together. Hyperlinking lets you show, rather than tell, readers about related items that will add to their understanding. Ok, so that was a link to the trailer for RZA’s directorial debut, but it looks pretty cool and you get the picture.
www.there’snotmuchofanexcuseforleavingrawurladdressesinyourcopy.com. I’m looking at you Ring Magazine.
While we’re on the topic, what’s with the layout of most of the major boxing sites? They look like they were designed on geocities, circa 1995. Usability people!
4 – Being a Shameless Fanboy
I don’t even want to talk about Bleacher Report. So I’ll leave it at that. The fanboys don’t just live there and in Pacland though. They’re on the major, reputable boxing sites. You’ve got the bard of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Lyle Fitzsimmons, on Boxing Scene and you get items like this on Sweet Science. Boxers and promoters are already blowing themselves in their media releases, you don’t need to do it for them. Especially if you’re publishing those unchanged…
5 – Running Straight Press Releases
I don’t understand why boxing sites do this! No other websites do. There’s no shame in using press releases to help you write things up, but running them in their entirety is just lazy and looks bad. Your job is to question these things! The fans don’t want to read them. They don’t give a shit if:
“Undefeated No. 1 contender JULIO CÉSAR CHÁVEZ, JR. and his new trainer World-Famous FREDDIE ROACH were on dawn patrol at 6 a.m. CT this morning, running for 45 minutes, at Sydney Lanier School in San Antonio.”
And they know that Marcos Maidana doesn’t talk like that.
6 – Not Biting the Hand that Feeds You
Boxing journalists in general need to do a better job of criticising the major players in this industry. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen. But it doesn’t happen nearly enough. It’s difficult to bite the hand that feeds you (especially if you’re getting ringside seats etc.) but sometimes you’ve just gotta do it for the sake of your credibility. Sports journalism should be no different from news journalism. Dan Rafael, Thomas Hauser – take a bow. Carlos Acevedo is great at pointing this stuff out, check it out on his blog – The Cruelest Sport.
These six sins aren’t deadly (and there aren’t seven of them). If they were, many online boxing writers (me included), would have dropped off the perch long ago. Boxing journalism has exploded on the net, and that’s a great thing for the sport. Lets just keep it together a bit people.