It’s nice to be nice
November 14, 2011 § 14 Comments
by Kevin McCauley
On November 13, Les Rosbifs did something incredible – they got an interview with Steve McClaren. Les Rosbifs has been a wonderful blog with a unique concept for quite some time, but their interview with McClaren was one of the best things they’ve ever done. They spoke at length with an interesting man with interesting things to say. Perhaps more impressive than the content of the interview was the fact that an independent blogger got a chance to speak to the former England boss.
Many of the best football writers in print or online have been writing for independent blogs for years, but the biggest difference between the established journalists and the bloggers in their mothers’ basements is currently access. Professional journalists, through a combination of their own hard work and the clout of the organizations they work for, are able to speak with famous athletes and managers on a regular basis. This allows them to create hit-generating rubbish stories with incredible ease, while also beefing up quality opinion pieces with substantial evidence to support their claims. Professional editors, money, and exposure are all fantastic benefits of working for a large organization, but access is the hardest thing to get.
Take, for instance, a website like Deadspin. While they’re most famous for the pictures they were able to obtain of gridiron star Brett Favre’s penis, they’re not an organization based on getting inside scoops. They say funny, insightful things. Their pieces are usually well fact-checked, their spelling and grammar is always professional quality, and they make a good deal of money. Because of their reputation for funny and insightful posts, they were able to build an audience and build up their revenues. They’ve become well-known across the American sports landscape. And yet, there’s still a very good chance that when A.J. Daulerio calls up the PR person at a professional sports team, the person on the other line could think ‘What the fuck is Deadspin?’ Even if the PR person is aware of the site, they’re going below ESPN, NBC, FOX, CBS, Sports Illustrated and local print media on the list of people they give half a shit about. They have everything that the big boys have except for the access. Hence, their tagline “Sports news without access, favor, or discretion.”
That’s why the Les Rosbifs interview is cool, independent of the great content. An independent blogger with no major media affiliation got an interview with Steve McClaren. Despite the fact that Rupert Murdoch’s massive media empire has almost infinite resources and access to McClaren at the drop of a pin, they decided to print part of Les Rosbifs’ interview without linking them. Notice that I said ‘without linking’, not ‘without attribution’. Oh, they attributed the interview to “Les Rosbifs”. They just didn’t link, which is generally regarded as common courtesy on the internet. We’ll come back to why that’s the case in a bit.
Before moving on, a very important distinction has to be made: TeamTalk did not steal from Les Rosbifs, at least in a legal sense. They attributed the source of the interview. They should have linked and all of the subsequent outlets that printed the syndicated story should have linked, but they didn’t actually ‘steal’ in any legal terms. Taking quotes but NOT taking any of the original commentary/questions from the source material isn’t something TeamTalk is going to get in trouble for, especially since they attributed the interview to Les Rosbifs. You may think this is fucked up (I do), but it’s the truth. It’s not technically stealing.
However, you do not have to break the law to be a douchebag. TeamTalk and Sky Sports editor Mark Holmes unsurprisingly acted like a douchebag while refuting Les Rosbifs’ claims that he is, in fact, a douchebag. I’m going to link his tweets when I quote things he says in them, because DUH. THAT’S WHAT YOU DO, SHIT-FOR-BRAINS.
I’d love you to do a day to see how a big organisation works. You’d have a different view by 5pm … I wasn’t having a pop, I was being genuine. If you saw how we work, you’d understand why we can’t link to original articles…adding hyperlinks for every source we attribute would, I estimate, increase our workoad [sic] by at least 10%.
I work at SB Nation, which is somewhere between mainstream media and the world of blogging. The organization has about a dozen full-time editorial staff who work on SBNation.com and a number of other contributors, most paid and some unpaid. There are somewhere in the three figures – well over 100 – articles published on the site every single day. I work in two different capacities for this site where I have to write about a variety of sports, and I do this over 40 hours per week. In one of my capacities, in which I work 20 hours per week, I am a writer managed by others, generally just doing what I am told. In the other capacity, I am an editor who assigns and delegates work while doing some managing of a small group of people. I coordinate coverage of what is sometimes 100 football matches in a single week. I feel that, due to what I have just explained, I am in a position to comment on Mr. Holmes’ comments.
Mr. Holmes is, in short, a complete fucking jackass. I am often handed second-hand articles, quotes, and tweets by my editors. At this point, I often have to track down the original source if I want to use that information in an article. When I find the original source, I make sure to point out that they are the original source, linking them in my article. When one of my writers finds a piece of information that they want to use for an article that is obviously shady, I tell them to find something better or avoid publishing. If tracking down and adding hyperlinks to stories would add 10 percent to your workload, then you are lazy, stupid, or both.
Thanks to the laziness and stupidity of not just Mr. Holmes, but likely a half dozen other half-wits who work inside the Murdoch empire, the un-linked, quasi-stolen version of Les Rosbifs’ interview was syndicated. It’s gone global. There is literally nothing Les can do to stop it, especially since the lack of a link isn’t illegal, it’s just unbelievably and obnoxiously douchy.
Now, back to why having to link back to a source when publishing on the internet is something everyone should do. There is a very, very, very good reason why this is common courtesy. Beyond the fact that you should want to drive traffic to the original source and give them a proper credit, it matters for search engine rankings. Because the likes of TeamTalk – the Sky-affiliated site that originally lifted the piece – and all kinds of other highly-ranked outlets printed the interview without linking, it could possibly appear to Google and other search engines that Les Rosbifs is stealing from mainstream media as opposed to what actually happened.
What actually happened is that literally millions of people will see portions of an interview that Les Rosbifs did, then never bother to check out their site. They’ll see McClaren’s quotes, skim over the source and disregard it if they’ve never heard of it, read the article and leave the page. They won’t click on the link to their site because there’s nothing to click on. They won’t type ‘Les Rosbifs’ into Google because they don’t really care. And if something from the site ever gets sent to them, they probably won’t even remember “Oh, these are the guys who did the McClaren interview!” They won’t remember a goddamn thing. Les Rosbifs will be dead to the majority of the readers of the syndicated portions of the interview a second after they see the name, and that’s an absolute fucking shame.
But really, would you expect anything less from a fucking rubbish site like TeamTalk and abysmal organizations like BSkyB and News Corp? This isn’t the worst of the worst; mainstream media outlets have been caught doing straight copy-paste from blogs with no mention of the source. This is standard-issue MSM douchebaggery, and it’s going to continue for a very long time.
Everyone, do the world a favor. Don’t visit TeamTalk again and don’t visit Sky Sports again. Go to Les Rosbifs, keep the tab open all day, and hit refresh every 30 minutes tomorrow.