Friday, February 29, 2008

Bloggolalia: Write, Pass, or Kill the Story?

Any attempt to define bloggers or blogging is sure to antagonize the group of bloggers who don't fit that definition. But I don't think anyone would be surprised to hear that one of the reasons for blogging is to make people aware of viewpoints that ordinarily would be ignored or repressed by other media. That is one of my primary reasons for blogging, and I was reminded of it when I came across the Sarah Pavan story. The question is, what's the best way to get a story out? Here's an example I recently faced.

Sarah Pavan is a top volleyball player at Nebraska. Due to mentioning some problems with team chemistry in an interview with a school magazine, she was barred from attending practices (she had completed her eligibility, but still practiced with the team). Sarah was a great athlete (2006 MVP for college female athletes across ALL sports) who also seemed to be a perfectionistic, delicate individual. After all, as a high school senior, she cried when she realized she was going to have to tell another school she was going to Nebraska and wouldn't attend their university.

Which (finally!) gets me to my subject. What to do with these stories that we find as bloggers, the stuff we think people really need to know about?

Write: I was angry at the way the story was being slanted to blame Sarah for the team's problems. If her comments about poor team chemistry were not true or she misunderstood, then why was the coach so upset, and why was she being told to apologize? It seemed like Sarah had a legitimate complaint, and now she was being punished for it. The story was being covered up by the University of Nebraska. But if I write it on my little blog, even if a large blog links to it, I'm only getting 1-3K hits. It's always fun to increase my hit count, but is that really the goal with a story like this?

Pass: I could try to ship the story to someone at or a large sports outlet. But they probably don't care about women's volleyball. I could try to get more people in Lincoln to write about it, but that already happened. The volleyball forumboards are already buzzing, for what that's worth. Or, I could pass it along to a sports blog that many people read, that would give the article its proper coverage. Perhaps then, a larger media outlet would also pick it up. But which sports blog? And would they give the story the treatment it deserves, or just make fun of everyone in the story?

Kill: There's a good argument to be made that sometimes bloggers do more harm than good by covering a story. While I definitely want to know if ESPN personalities are overstepping their bounds and manipulating stories, I could care less about what they do at some office party. Maybe I should just leave the story alone, and let it die a quiet death. For all I know, this very moment Sarah and her coach are reconciling, and the team is welcoming her back. An article would just stir up more tension and anger, and I would feel bad about that. There's a lot of interesting backstory to this conflict here, which I wasn't aware of when I made my decision. Maybe the story was blown out of proportion, or maybe the coach was actually trying to teach Sarah a lesson she desperately needs. Who knows?

In the end, I decided to pass: I shipped the story to The Big Lead, who did a masterful job assembling the story. But it was quite a dilemma, and so I ask you bloggers, what do you do when confronted with this issue? (Oh, by the way, credit also goes to Fynal Cut for discussing the story).

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