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An Open Letter To Murray Chass

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"The times they are a-changin'..."

Murray Chass is a fantastic writer, having covered the Yankees and baseball for the New York Times for over 40 years.  Elected to the writers' wing of the Hall of Fame in December of 2003, Mr. Chass continues his outstanding career writing columns on his website  (you can read his entire biography here).

I don't have a problem with Mr. Chass, in fact I have the utmost respect for him and his writing abilities, but I have a hard time swallowing his attitude about bloggers and the future of internet reporting.  Mr. Chass writes on his website, "This is a site for baseball columns, not for baseball blogs. The proprietor of the site is not a fan of blogs.  He made that abundantly clear on a radio show with Charley Steiner when Steiner asked him what he thought of blogs and he replied, “I hate blogs.”". 


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Dear Mr. Chass-

I read your column regularly and enjoy your work, and I admire you for being the only old-school newspaper guy to have the guts to express your opinions publicly.  However, it's a shame you have decided you're above the rest of us, as you could easily be at the forefront of historic times.  If you were to step-up and identify yourself with the millions of other bloggers and lead us into the next phase of sports journalism, or should I say journalism itself, you may well be remembered as the spear-tip of a new era.

We bloggers are the future of sports reporting.  While I lack the talent to be thought of as the future "Murray Chass", there are many who write with the same passion and excellence that you've shown throughout your career that will step-up to become the next era of sports reporters.  As these times evolve, and the brick-and-mortar establishments continue to shut their doors, it will be the blogs (like this one) that will feed the sports reader's appetites with the information they crave.

As you already know, the newspaper industry as we know it is dying and there's nothing anyone can do about it.  At the end of the 19th century, New York City had 15 newspapers serving a population of a little over 2 million people.  As the years went on, the weaker newspapers with lower circulation (readers) either merged with other papers or shut down.  As the current internet era progresses, we are going to see the same thing happen to blogs.  There are millions of blogs, covering everything from making cookies to nuclear medicine.  The weaker of those will be swept up in the internet's version of natural selection.  The blogs with good content will continue to grow, likely to be bought and/or merged with other sites, just as the smaller newspapers from the early 20th century were merged together, and those that provide weak content will die due to lack of readership.  I'm not saying newspapers will vanish completely.  There will always be a need for printed media, whether it is libraries, businesses or a doctor's waiting room.  But the world as we know it in regards to newspapers and magazines is changing.  Why fight it?  With your experience and knowledge you could become a leader in this new era by mentoring the new reporters and writers, instead of distancing yourself from us.  As more and more newspapers shut their doors, the internet will be flooded with writers looking to continue their careers.  Where will they go, what will they become?  Blogs and bloggers. 

While I agree there is no substitute for experience, and I feel education, in regards to writing, doesn't have the effect on the quality of work a writer produces as much as a lot of people think.  Take myself for example.  As you've probably already noticed, I am limited by my minimal talent.  For example, I could take years of lessons to become educated in music, and one day possibly play a very nice rendition of "Greensleeves", however I'd be wasting my time if I wanted to be taken seriously as a musician if I didn't have a God-given ability to play an instrument.  The same for my writing.  After taking many writing classes and spending years gaining writing experience, my work would be more "polished", but without talent, it'd be like polishing a turd.  You would be better served claiming you're more talented than most of the bloggers you're competing with and there'd be no argument.  And it will be the blogs who employee writers with talent who will survive, becoming the next generation of reporters.

I completely understand your reluctance to being called a "blogger" as you've been an award winning writer for over 40 years.  To be called a "blogger" gives the impression of being an amateur, or new to the writing gig.  Everyone has heard the stereotype view of a blogger; The kid in his mother's basement spewing posts, "with no experience, no credibility and no accountability."   Maybe you would feel better with a different moniker other than "blogger". 

You've had a career which anyone would be extremely proud of, but your legacy could the father of internet reporting if you were to embrace the future rather than being the crusty, old curmudgeon who yells, "Hey you kids, get off of my lawn".  You're already in the pool; you may as well admit you're wet.

Jim Gardner

I have no idea what the future will look like after the transition from news on paper to news online.  Small, hand-held digital renditions of newspapers will probably be the next big step in delivering the daily news (something like this maybe?).  Whatever the method, the change is coming and the Murray Chass' of this generation should embrace that change rather than fight it.  Halo's Heaven and the other blogs on the SB Nation website are in a prime position to take over the sports reporting hole that will need to be filled when newspapers continue to fold.  As internet sports' reporting continues to evolve, this new era is on the horizon.  In an email from Mat Gleason (Rev Halofan), "I saw this coming but now see it happening, like driving toward a rain cloud on a highway, now we are in the middle of the storm and when it breaks we will see the rainbow.  I am totally happy to have you along for the ride." 

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.
            -Bob Dylan