Who has a license to practice journalism?
I have a friend from high school who is trying to get into an electrical workers union in Silver Spring, Md.
After taking a test and going through an interview process, he’ll be accepted into the union and can start working immediately, but after he gets approved.
What’s the point of me telling you about my random friend? It’s for comparison’s sake.
Becoming a journalist doesn’t work the same way as becoming an electric technician, or a plumber or even a lawyer.
When I graduate next May, I won’t be handed a piece of paper that says, “This hereby grants Jonathan Munshaw the ability to go and report as a journalist.”
But that’s just the way journalism is and always has been, and it took a pretty silly Internet beef to make me think about journalism this way.
Mike Florio, the owner and operator of the website Pro Football Talk (owned by NBC), took a shot at football writers who have just as much skill and knowledge about the game of football as he does, but aren’t getting the same paycheck.
After asking his audience if he should do a pre-free agency mock draft (the audience voted yes four days before the mock draft was posted), Florio posted the mock draft with this intro to the piece: “We’ve cobbled together a pre-free agency mock draft. With the help of a real NFL scout. Not to be confused with someone who isn’t a real NFL scout but who has picked a Twitter handle that calls himself one.”
Now, is there a difference between an NFL scout and someone on Twitter? Yes. But it was completely out of line to bash people on Twitter who write and talk about the NFL just as much as a real scout would.
Becoming an NFL scout takes years of film study and grunt work, and being a football writer means…well, the same thing. But being a scout requires just more of it. Florio was completely out of line, and I believe his comment was unprofessional.
Florio has no “license” that makes him a certified sports journalist. But neither do I. I write for Bleacher Report and a site called eDraft, but I don’t have a license that says I can only write about the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Browns and nothing else.
Through eDraft, I have become a part of this community of like-minded people who are obsessed with sports. One of my colleagues spent a night watching Jacksonville Jaguars film, and was commenting on Blaine Gabbert’s skill, or lack thereof.
Now that’s dedication. I would like to know how many hours of Jaguars film Florio has watched in the last two months.
And this isn’t all about Florio, it’s all journalists even in the news field. Someone at CNN could easily get scooped by a pedestrian on the street taking pictures and posting it on Instagram, or one of The Towerlight’s reporters can beat The Baltimore Sun on a story (it’s happened before). That doesn’t make us better reporters than The Sun, we are less experienced, but it doesn’t give one of their reporters the right to mock us openly for our lack of experience.
The same can be said here for Florio’s comments in the sports world.
My colleagues for eDraft don’t have nearly as many connections as Florio, or Peter King or Adam Schefter. But with the Internet, literally anyone can be a sports (or news) writers.
I have watched hours of YouTube videos for eDraft, trying to figure out if Jairus Byrd really is this year’s top free agent, or if Colin Kaepernick is worth $28 million.
I’m not nearly as experienced as Florio, but that gives him no right to come after amateur sports writers. I can say I am a NFL draft analysts, because well, I am. I don’t write for a NBC-owned company, I don’t even get paid at all, but I love what I do and I put a lot of time into it.
Kyle Weidie, who runs the successful Wizards blog Truth About It, works as a web strategy manager during the day and then comes home and watches the Wizards, and he may know more about the Wizards than a national NBA writer.
This rant may seem to be directly at Florio, and it partially is, but the larger point here is that no one needs a “license” to be a journalist.
You can definitely be more qualified than someone else to be a journalist, and you might be a better writer than someone else, but never underestimate the amount of time someone puts into their work. And, most of all, don’t assume that someone saying they are a draft expert on their Twitter or Facebook pages is automatically wrong, they may know more than you think.