Guest Post: Bringing Balance to Mary Kay Cabot Bashing

The following is from REBOOT reader and occasional contributor Luke Seubert.

Bringing Balance to Mary Kay Cabot Bashing

First of all, let me state clearly for the record that, yes, Mary Kay Cabot throws softballs and rewrites a lot of press releases and press conference drivel. Unlike a lot of MKC critics, however, I do not blame her for this. Most journalists working for mainstream media write drivel these days. So what else is new?

Let’s take a short walk in MKC’s sensible shoes, shall we? Mary Kay’s profession is sports reporting on the Cleveland Browns. This is how she pays the bills. This isn’t a hobby for her, like it is for so very many Cleveland sports bloggers, even though these hobbyists often provide much better football analysis and insight than she does. She works for a paycheck, she works for a boss, and she works for an institution, a bureaucracy, and yes – a dinosaur. And she wants to keep on paying those bills. How best should she do this?

Look at what happened to her colleague at the Plain Dealer, Tony Grossi. Tony let loose an accidental private Twitter comment into the public Twitter-verse, one which was absolutely true and correct, and eloquent as well, but one which was insulting for its veracity. Despite Grossi’s immediate apology, and later several private, kowtowing and humilating apologies, the Plain Dealer did NOT stand up for Tony. Instead, the bootlicking cowards at the PD threw Grossi under the bus for a trivial mistake that offended a wealthy and powerful family with lots of Cleveland connections.

Now, after watching that fiasco, what do you think Mary Kay was thinking? She knows for a fact that her employer does not and never will have her back. If they didn’t back up Tony, they sure as hell aren’t going to back up the likes of her. And so, since MKC wants to eat and pay the rent and likes her job well enough, she is sure to write a lot of tame mush which pleases both her employers and the Browns.

And her employer, the Plain Dealer, like most newspapers in America, has steadily for decades now dumbed down its content to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Mary Kay writes crap because the Plain Dealer is in the business of selling crap. Her editors order her to write crap. Crap pleases the Browns, it pleases the PD, and it pleases the numbskull knuckledraggers who read the PD. So Mary Kay writes crap. Big wup.

Ironically, where would the Cleveland Browns bloggers be without this crap? For you see, when Browns bloggers need to fill their own column inches, when they need to write some filler crap of their own, what do they do? They bash MKC and the PD. They write crap about crap. HA HA. HA HA HA HA HA! That’s so droll. Crap about crap.

Even more ironically, these same bloggers rely on the PD for basic sports coverage – that tedious, mind-numbing rewriting of press releases and transcriptions of press conferences and asking of inane, repetitious questions – for much of their Browns news and basic facts. If the PD and its assorted ilk disappeared tomorrow, Browns bloggers would be in a very, very deep hole because a major source of their news about the Browns, news and facts which they analyze to develop thoughtful and worthwhile blog posts, would be gone. They would have to tune in to the likes of the Kiley & Booms show for their Browns news. Ugh. I kid you not kids – this could be the reality of things within a decade.

So folks, let’s bring some balance to MKC bashing. Does Mary Kay write crap? Yes. Is it her fault she writes crap? No. She is a mere cog in the machine, a machine which demands and produces drivel. This is how she earns her living, and she enjoys her job well enough. Don’t blame her for all the ills of modern journalism and the contemporary media market.

And for you bloggers out there who so love to get all snarky on MKC, the PD, and the other mainstream media outlets; try making every single one of your posts superlative and crap free. Never again fill up space on a slow, writer-blocked day with a deadline screaming in your face by writing your own crap about crap.

And show a little gratitude for the tedious and boring grunt work that these reporters do actually do. Be grateful that MKC and her colleagues had a 100% attendance record at Pat Shurmer press conferences these past two years, so that none of you would have to take time off from your real jobs to be there and write down every pearl of wit and wisdom from the Shurminator. Yes, be very grateful.

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I have a lot of thoughts regarding this post, but I figured I would let the REBOOT readers have their say. Have your take in the COMMENTS at the bottom of the page.

First, this is a strong effort from Luke – a reader I have previously asked to contribute to the site. In terms of creating a healthy dialogue, Luke has staked a position that runs counter to the current topic and really, to the very essence of what some blogs try to accomplish.

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More later. Thanks, Luke.

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And also check out Tom Moore’s take on this subject – from a year ago. Also worth your time:

The Cleveland Fan – Are Daily Newspapers Still Relevant With Sports Fans?

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Comments (71)

  1. jimkanicki

    i was with you most of the way.

    like: i didnt blame pat shurmur for being a bad coach. i blamed holgrum for the hire. i dont blame mkc for being the lead browns beat writer, i blame the PD for putting her there.

    i disagree with the idea that because old media is dying we should cut her a break. the financial problems of the PD are one thing; trotting out jon gruden to the browns talking points is another. being factually incorrect about ‘pat shurmur WCO guru’ is inexcusable for its being demonstrably wrong. i mean… if the PD is in the business of publishing falsities, then they have a broken business model, whatever the era.

    pap, i can live with; incorrect pap i cant.
    bland reporting i can live with; blurring of lines between her reporting and her guessing i cant.

    im also not onboard with the necessity of cle-dot-com. i have it bookmarked, but the bookmark was placed maybe five years ago. if i were critically re-doing my favorites bar, it would include fso ohio with mcmanamon and jackson, espncleveland, ulrich at ohio.com.

    but you may have a point about using cle-dot-com for blog content: i find myself clicking there for news and leave it shaking my head that forum comments of the day clutter the livy-pluto-shaw columns and wanting to comment on the experience.

    as for cle-dot-com providing a haven from kiley-and-booms… you know cle-dot-com hired chris fedor, right?

    • Luke Seubert

      Jim, your critique of MKC’s poor fact checking is correct. But look at the larger picture here. Once upon a time, early in MKC’s career, newspapers hired fact-checkers and copy editors to double-check the work of their writers, to make sure the facts, grammar, and spelling were all tip-top.

      Those days are long gone. And the quality of the PD reflects this sad trend. Now, you could say that Mary Kay should do her own fact-checking. But her career developed in an era when she wasn’t expected to that sort of work. And remember, she was a second stringer to Tony Grossi for many years, and didn’t come under nearly as much scrutiny back then. Hence, she never developed those sharper skills which you rightfully state she lacks. And the PD is fine with that, because they dumped Tony Grossi. So yes, let’s blame the PD and not shoot the messenger.

      Speaking of Tony, I think most all the Browns bloggers have commented that his writing is significantly improved since he moved to ESPN Cleveland. He certainly seems happier in his work, and raves often about how much better life is at ESPN. I hope this is true.

      Bear in mind, Browns bloggers, that Tony Grossi is now one of you. That column he produces for ESPN Cleveland is really a blog – one which he writes to almost every day, on deadline, and which he fact checks and copy edits himself. This is very different work from his days as a cub reporter.

  2. jimkanicki

    one more example and im out: last week she said we need two starting caliber WRs. to make her point she says this: No one in this young corps cracked the top 50 in receptions or had more than five TD catches.

    well no shit, mkc, did you SEE the wreck that was the 2012 offense? jerry rice wouldnt have more than 5 TDs either.

    and therein lies the problem. if she would report what she’s hearing in berea about the feelings about the WRs, that’d be great. when she veers into analysis it’s not only wrong, it’s SO wrong that it makes one think she’s surely getting info from somewhere in berea and hopefully theyre trying to fool the rest of the league. these are the gymnastics one must be prepared for when one tees up an MKC piece.

    • Luke Seubert

      Good points, one and all, but again – don’t shoot the messenger.

      The PD is pulling on old and cynical media tactic here. The editors know full well that MKC analysis is poor. They also know that her poor analysis stirs controversy, lots of comments, page hits, and eyeballs. Crap sells. The PD is in the business of selling crap.

      And people wonder why they will soon cease to be a daily newspaper.

      • I think you’re giving the PD way too much credit. You’re talking about an industry that doesn’t have much respect for itself anymore.

        • Luke Seubert

          Oooh, I don’t know. Did the industry ever have much self respect in the first place?

          People puzzled by the media’s ignoble behavior need to remember the primary purpose of the media – to sell toothpaste – and never, ever to publish the truth, to promote progress, to ennoble and enlighten or any of that high-minded crap. Once this fundamental truth is understood and accepted, the media makes sense.

          I remember years ago when PC World magazine featured a columnist named John Dvorak, an alleged computer guru, who always wrote the closing essay, and often said something either stupid or outrageous. Young, naive pup that I was, I shared many readers wrath at this imbecile. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that PC World was selling toothpaste by intentionally pushing provocative and stupid material. A lot of people would buy that magazine just to see what idiocy Dvorak was writing that month.

          The PD is doing the same with Mary Kay Cabot. A lot of PD readers, even the casual football fans, know that they know better than her. To the extent that they get all worked up in a huff and buy the paper or pagehit the website to see what nonsense MKC is spewing today, they have fallen for the PD’s tricksie tricks.

          • jimkanicki

            youre 100% right about the history of ‘journalism.’ the spanish-american war seems to have been driven by joseph pulitzer and wr hearst and the need to top each other to sell more papers.

            however the craft did start to take itself seriously with hemingway, pyle, murrow and moving through the times’ pentagon papers and the post’s watergate. so long as journalistic standards drive revenue, the goals are compatible.

            now, there’s a lowest common denominator thing going on. without pay-walls, they get revenue by clicks and they get more clicks with the news equivalent of snorg-t adverts. we all get that. it’s a short-sighted policy because at the end of it all, quality content is the product.

            but. even if –writing for page hits– is the goal, she or her editors fail. i can only tell you my experience. i started the blog 1/15. on 1/21/2013 i posted my ‘art modell has no HOF credentials’ piece. i got over 4000 visitors on 1/22 at my one-week-old blog and without any help from mike florio. meanwhile on that same day, mkc ran a story about what peter king says about the chip kelly non-hire that she breathlessly covered for a solid week.

            i mean: seriously?

            mkc’s issues include: ambiguous opinion/reporting distinctions, pandering lowest common denominator (flacco, gruden) topics, and done-to-death regurgitations of dead stories (kelly).

            this is way beyond ‘being bland.’

          • I agree that a LOT of Browns’ fans are really dumb – hence, the popularity of Comment of the Day, Bleacher Report and some other writers I won’t mention by name. The ones who don’t make you think are wildly popular and those who do – not so much. However, Kanicki’s blog – and particularly the ArtOut piece proves that good stuff will always find its way to people. Unfortunately, PD and bigger media companies have decided that people are far too dumb and/or that it’s too easy to just pile shit at people.

  3. Luke Seubert

    See, now this is exactly what I was talking about – desperate bloggers filling up space on a slow news day by posting up verbose reader comments on a topic that, ultimately, is crap about crap about crap. ;-)

    My own snarkiness aside, my point is that there exists a symbiotic (though some would say parasitic) relationship between Browns bloggers and Browns mainstream media. While I think bloggers like you, Dave; along with Frowns, Jim Kanicki, Waiting for Next Year, and Dawgs By Nature really do produce some great content; you are also dependent upon these lesser mainstream media for a lot of basic grunt work. And yes, those mainstreamers do cadge some ideas from you guys, as well as from places like the OBR forums. Such is the Browns media ecosystem.

    I think where the bloggers really shine is pure football expertise. The breakdowns you guys do on the technical aspects of football, analysis of plays, etc. is outstanding and far superior to anything I have ever seen from any of the Browns mainstream media.

    But that is because the bloggers are football geeks, whereas MKC and Grossi and their colleagues are English majors – they are writer/journalist geeks. Their employers never hired them for their football expertise, and obviously never asked them to develop the ability to do in-depth analysis of the subtle aspects of football or break down film.

    • I’ll weigh on this more tomorrow, but one thing that I can state from experience is that press conferences are a complete waste of time. If you’re lucky enough to get a question in, the answer given is completely vanilla and if it’s a really good question that challenges the person – well, you better not have asked it if you know what I mean.

      Everything else is an exercise in typing and reading a transcript – which is why the entire process is a complete sham. Reading the transcript online or being there in person is almost the exact same experience. As for locker rooms after the games, you’re basically paraded around to the “top” players and the questions are limited. The best stories and quotes come from the “lesser” players.

      As for Luke’s point about thanking these reporters for sitting through press conferences, I don’t see it. These things could easily occur with no reporters present and the output would be strikingly similar. No one asks tough questions because they are afraid they won’t get asked back.

      • Luke Seubert

        I agree that the press conference exercise is pointless, and that tough questions are not asked for fear of losing access.

        Now, who to blame for this? Dave, you seem to want to blame the reporters, with whom you share some things in common as a blogger.

        Are you sure these are the right people to blame? It seems to me you should be blaming the Browns. They are the people who refuse to provide worthwhile answers to questions of any kind – tough or milquetoast.

        Moreover, it is the Browns who use that unspoken threat of cutting off access to their monopoly of information, a threat they use to intimidate and thereby coerce docility.

        Maybe if the Browns had the courage to let the world see their warts, and the integrity to respect the process of acquiring and distributing the truth of things; reporters would actually be able to do a better job.

        I have no problem with pointing out the flaws of the media, but let us not forget that the Browns share in the culpability of this hypocrisy.

        • Sure. I don’t think I’m trying to necessarily “blame” anyone – it’s a meeting of several damaged parts. Yes, the team doesn’t offer itself which makes a reporter’s job tough, but then again the reporter needs to work their own sources. I mean, there are local, lower profile people who do this and there are always national types who break Cleveland news. I understand the whole page views philosophy, but at the same time, actual news and unique reporting using real sources (and not the imaginary ones or other newspapers) can bring huge views around these parts.

          However, to go back to the press conference idea. The experiment is this: If you watch a game either in person or on TV, then wait several hours for a press transcript, then write your own story using the same quotes and throw in some stats, anecdotes, etc. – Would anyone know the difference? Some writers – some I won’t mention by name – do this EXACT thing. Yet, the ones who actually have access AND are able to call on people using the authority of a real media credential settle for the EXACT same thing that some enterprising high school kid with wireless in his parent’s basement can produce for nothing.

          In my view, if that continues to happen, then everyone deserves what they get.

          • Luke Seubert

            OK, let’s conduct a thought experiment. This press conference exercise, which both of us have deplored as pointless – let us pretend that without any credentialed media to attend, that it goes away.

            Suddenly, is this “pointless” exercise quite so pointless? Without the press conference, there is ZERO accountability, not even the minimal accountability required to answer inane softball questions. Without the press conference, suddenly, the only news is Browns PR department press releases, and we know those will only be full of never-to-be-contradicted happy-happy joy-joy pap.

            For if the press conference is dead and gone, then so too is a lot of other journalism, including real reporters asking questions from real sources, as well as teenagers watching games on TV and reading press conference transcripts and writing “news” based upon that.

            So, stupid as they are, those press conferences and inane questions do serve some minimal purpose. Yes, they produce much drivel, but they also enforce some minimal level of accountability to the public. Without the media asking even softball questions, the powers-that-be would cover up bad news and spew nothing but corporate happy talk.

            The danger is that as these old dinosaur media institutions continue to go down in flames, their ability to bring forth even some minimal level of accountability goes down with them.

            And without dinosaur media, where do we get our Browns news then? Would the Browns ever answer to bloggers? Bah! They won’t even answer questions from a scared and shrinking media. So where will the accountability come from in the future?

            I know a lot of people hold high hopes that smart but nonetheless amateur and part-time citizen journalists will fill this vacuum. But I am skeptical of this. Real reporting, especially investigative reporting; requires time, money, some institutional backing, and courage.

            Jim Kanicki has criticized the Cleveland media for not getting to the bottom of the Kokinis story. He is right about that. But I don’t see any of the Cleveland Browns bloggers getting to the bottom of the story either.

            Lame as they are, old media do serve a purpose in the Browns news ecosystem.

          • I think the same outcome would be the result.

            Without anyone challenging the tired talking points coming out of these press conferences (as it is now), this type of communication doesn’t change – i.e., team officials treat the process as a hindrance and most reporters spend their time trying to wriggle out a catchy headline from innocuous quotes. Yet, when the reporters decide to pose a challenge, it’s based on inane concepts like the 3-4 defense and backup quarterbacks.

            In many ways, the accountability you suggest has already eroded and team officials already “cover up bad news” (Kokinis) and “spew nothing but corporate happy talk.”

            Look no further than Haslam giving a flood of interviews last week when fans were upset about his motives. The “reporting” in question there was nothing more than reporters verbatim repeating his talking points. Is that accountability? I guess – if it is, holy shit is sports journalism dead????

            And totally agreed on the lacking of citizen journalism. Certainly, no one is going to do this and not get paid. But my bigger point from before is that credentialed media can still use some influence in trying to chase down sources outside of what the PR team hand feeds them. Most bloggers cannot do this. From personal experience, it’s much easier to tell a potential source that you work for XYZ Media or Newspaper than it is to say I write for XYZ blog. This is a point that many bloggers make – the ones with access are not using it and the ones without it could put it to much better use.

          • FROM WARBVIII

            Luke( I am sorry because for whatever reason I can’t get the Bespin scene out of my head),that’s your name right? Okay lets start this off is MKC a journalist or is she a mouthpiece for the PD and the Browns orginization? Does she do any research or journalism in her reporting? Yes getting paid is important,but IS it worth ones integrity,and if so can you still be a journalist? Sure Grossi got better when he left the PD,but more importantly he no longer has an agenda he hated both Belichek and Manginni because they limited his access and made him just one of the pack,excluding the tweet he was soft on Lerner for years and way soft on Shurmer,that is until he was fired. Just saying we as fans either accept MKC as a journalist and cut her no slack,or we accept her as a hack and a mouthpiece for the Browns and heap her with scorn. We can’t have it both ways. I seem to remember that she worked her way up to where she is now in the PD,I would guess(not assume) that this is what she wants to do with her life,maybe she would be GOOD at it? Is that really to much to ask?? Look, the real reason people stop buying newspapers has little to actualy so with cost but I think(and could be very wrong since it is MY reason) it has everything to do with content, once reporters became only interested in steady pay checks and not interested in writing about actual news they became THE PROBLEM instead of being a solution. Thus I don’t see your point as one made to defend MKC but one defending the system weak,gutless, and sell out journalists that created this problem..which I can not and will not accept as OK. I could go on,but if I did it would end up being an attack on you for being alright with this kind of crap.

    • jimkanicki

      hah. see this is how it starts. you start by posting witty and clever and ironic comments and next thing you know youre gleefully dismantling ozzie newsome for a grateful public.

      Abandon all hope all ye who enter here..

  4. pdxscott

    the nugget of truth in luke’s words is the bit about collecting a paycheck. from there, i’m with kanicki – i don’t think she’s a waste because what she offers is fluff; i think she’s a waste because it is fluff mixed with garbage and guessing. i also think her work is so bad that i’m a little uncomfortable commenting on it. she is getting paid though, so that’s cool.

    grossi is an interesting case study in all of this. i would argue that since his “irrelevant” tweet, he’s become the most relevant member of the browns’ beat. he’s spent a career cultivating sources in the league and if the browns cut him off tomorrow, i bet that he’d still have better insight, access and stories than everyone else.

    i really don’t see what a seat at the press conference gets you (besides it being a condition of employment for cleveland media). the browns give them worthless jimmy haslam and joe banner quotes and the beat writers promise not to ask anything but stupid and/or easy questions.

    • Being there and getting it online are so very similar.

      Right about Kanicki’s point that if she is going to serve as the PR mouthpiece and/or write fluff, then do it. But don’t start mixing your own “analysis” in, which is first, bush league Bleacher Report level and second, inconsistent and confusing to an audience that has readers who can’t separate the two.

    • Luke Seubert

      I would agree that Grossi is the best of the beat reporters, but only recently. Up until about halfway through this past season, I thought Steve Doerschuck of the Canton Repository was the best Browns beat writer. I still think he is very good and I read all his material.

      Doerschuck dropped down a notch in my estimation when he started beating the drum for Montario Hardesty to take over as primary running back from Trent Richardson because his YPC was higher. Steve was arguing, loudly and consistently, that Hardesty was the superior running back. He did not understand why Richardson’s YPC was poor, why he was shouldering an incredible load under dire circumstances, and why Hardesty could never handle that primary running back role. Moreover, no running back could do well in Shurmur’s scheme, but I am in serious danger of a wrathful off-topic raging rant here, and will calm myself down and say no more about that.

      If the writers for the PD are scared and docile, imagine what it is like writing for the tiny Canton Repository. And yet, for years, Steve Doerschuck has managed to do pretty well. He is a subtle writer, and slips in a lot of critical views for those readers who get his dry wit and who can read between the lines a little bit.

      If you pay attention to Steve, you find that he often eviscerates various Browns stupidities while seeming to be quite mundane. This is real skill. If I were a believer in reincarnation, I would say that in a previous life Doerschuck must have been a writer for Pravda back in the 1930′s Soviet Union under Stalin, and that he died of natural causes in his old age.

      Sigh… too bad about his Hardesty campaign. Oh well.

  5. This is Season 5 of The Wire.

    MKC isn’t absolved from being a shabby reporter. The PD isn’t absolved from chasing page views and no longer providing in-depth reporting because in-depth reporting is expensive.

    I do think there is some echo chamber effect in play here though. The analysis that is provided by mainstream media, on-air, in print, and online, is directed to fans who don’t really understand football other than that they love drinking beers on Sundays and spending money on NFL gear. This drives me crazy as a viewer/reader/fan. I know it drives others crazy as well. But I think that we are probably just a tiny (albeit growing) sliver of the total NFL fanbase, and that there are way more people who want to listen to Jon Gruden talk about how x player is the best ever, he is a FOOTBALL player, and read MKC’s article about Jon Gruden possibly coaching the Browns, than there are people who are religiously reading Barnwell and Chris Brown and others who provide superior analysis. MKC generates dreck, but maybe Browns fans mostly love dreck.

    • So, someone at the PD is a serial killer? I knew it.

      What Zack says reveals the nasty truth about how anything is presented to an audience. Football news and TV and broadcasts aren’t aimed at real football fans (since the league and everyone else knows they will consume no matter what). It’s directed at the casual fan, who will be turned off by the nuances of breaking down plays and over analyzing things. That is why Terrell Owens or the Notre Dame kid or Tom Brady’s hair are actual stories. It’s easy.

      Just like anything really good (The Wire is a great example), once it gets too big and too many people are involved and watching, the product will suffer. Smart football fans – or those who want to be and read Smart Football or Barnwell – are not the intended audience. Maybe they were 30 years ago, but those days are gone.

      However, what kills me is the absolute disdain for what is produced (I know I’m channeling a David Simon interview here). There is zero professionalism left. When a reporter like MKC “suggests” an opinion about a player (Ryan Mallett) which is based on absolutely nothing, and then that later turns into news via the PD Comment of the Day – something is badly broken.

  6. Berlin-T

    Dear Mr. Seubert,

    heretical opinions such as those expressed by you are alright when they target the main stream media. Apparently they are not so admired when targeting blogs.
    I admire your courage, foolhardy as it may be.

    • I’m a fan of this discussion. There are great points on all sides.

    • Luke Seubert

      Oh, not all that foolhardy. I chose my target wisely. Reboot’s comment section, as Dave has noted, is a haven of intelligent, spirited, and yet polite debate.

      So posting a thoughtful but contrarian point of view isn’t all that dangerous.

      By the way, Dave, revel in this time in Reboot’s history. Enjoy this unique little reader & comment culture while you can. Hopefully it will endure for quite some time. However… happy, healthy, vibrant online cultures tend to degrade over time, especially as the pagehits grow. This sadly seems to be an almost universal law.

      I’m not saying Reboot will degrade to the likes of the PD comments sections or the OBR. But for now, do enjoy this for what it is.

      • Completely agreed that your viewpoint is most welcome – it gets boring when everyone agrees.

        I’m not sure I understand the logic in thinking that the site will degrade. It’s probably a combination of trying to create an exclusive environment/not having time to actually promote the site, but this site probably isn’t capable of growing that much bigger – i.e., becoming aimed for the casual fan.

        • Luke Seubert

          Dave, you are right that Reboot has a limit in its growth curve given your sensible limits on promotion and quality of content.

          In speaking of degradation of the site, I wasn’t referring so much to size and pagehits and the like. Rather, I was speaking about the culture – specifically, the culture found in Reboot between you and the readers as expressed in the comments section, and among the commenters themselves.

          Tell me, Dave, among your regular commenters, who is the toxic asshole of the bunch? I know you don’t like to publicly name names sometimes, but give it whirl. Go on – call him out!

          Heh. A facetious question. There is no name to be named because quite happily, there is no toxic asshole regular among Reboot’s readership. This is a pretty happy little crew, and one which I hope long endures.

          But all it takes is one toxic asshole to really screw things up, especially in a community this small. Dealing with them is hard. They are almost impossible to ban, short of a strict comment registration protocol, which inhibits the freedom of the community and ease of participation. Yanking their posts becomes a horrible chore, especially when they decide to re-post dozens of times. They wear you down.

          I hope one never shows up around here, but given enough time, it is almost inevitable that one will. Perhaps you should consult with some fellow bloggers about how best to deal with such people, so that you have a plan ready to go and don’t get caught flat footed.

      • MadElf

        Truer words have never been so well spoken. This is the Golden Age of Reboot. Although, Frowns seems to keep his merry band in short order, so there’s always hope!

    • jimkanicki

      what a silly comment. ive got not problem with luke’s take on this; i find it interesting.

      • WarbVIII

        Don’t agree really with Lukes premise but wholeheartedly suport the freedom to make it and even have a guest spot to post it large. Also as was said above, places get stale and boring if everyone is agreeing with everything posted. Though I do agree with Luke about enjoy this community while it’s here…as eventualy folks die,move on ,lose intrest etc., so yes it won’t always be what it is today.

  7. Luke Seubert

    Upon reflection, here is where I find the gist of the disagreement between myself on the one hand; and Dave, Jim Kanicki, and other commenters on the other… expectations.

    In my view, the primary purpose of the media is to sell toothpaste. Once this is understood, all the shabby, cowardly, lackwit behavior of the media makes sense. My expectations are at about this level, hence I am not disappointed with the poor Browns coverage by the Plain Dealer et al. They are serving their market well. Recall that I referenced in passing Plain Dealer readers as numbskull knuckledraggers? Well, the PD serves them well with about what they deserve, doesn’t it?

    Dave, you and Jim and others have higher expectations than I do. You are more idealistic and demanding than I am. You expect the mainstream media to use their power, what little they have left, to at least make a good faith attempt to root out the truth, break some real news, and do smart, tough analysis – that whole ennoble, enlighten, promote truth and progress thing. And so, for you, the Plain Dealer and its ilk and Mary Kay Cabot and her colleagues are very disappointing.

    Now, I admire your idealism and the principles you hold. Where we differ is that I have long since given up hope of mainstream media living up to such ideals these days, if they ever really did. This is especially true in sports journalism, in which sources and access are controlled by various team monopolies with tremendous incentive to control the public relations message. Pro sports is entertainment, the value of which is far more dependent upon perception than reality.

    I lament the inability of our media institutions to ferret out the truth and publish it; to ask hard, tough questions; to demand accountability from those in power; and to uphold higher standards. I agree that our society is deeply diminished for lack of such. I wish there was a good solution to this grave dilemma. I wish I could believe that citizen journalists could step in to save the day. But I don’t see much hope on the horizon. So, Dave et al, while I applaud your high expectations for their idealism and wish I could share in them, my expectations are lower and I believe, sadly, more realistic.

    • jimkanicki

      i contend that if the goal is page hits, she fails there too. because putting aside journalistic ethos:

      she ain’t interesting.

      she’s the opposite of interesting. you feel dumber after reading her. you feel you’ve wasted your time. and ultimately, you avoid her work. thus less page hits for the PD.

      • I can see this point – as if she is truly appealing to the lowest common denominator, then the views should be much stronger than they are. Again, it’s that constant mingling between trying to be a reporter, an analyst and everything else.

      • MadElf

        Agreed, Jim. I can’t even guess at the last time I’ve read anything on that site. Probably the beginning of the ’12 season. MKC? Waaaaay longer.

        • WarbVIII

          I think I made or tried to make the point earlier(above) that because she sucks,and is a shill for the PD/Browns, in and of itself makes less people read her and the paper she works for,and she and those like her destroy her industry from the inside out. It is a vicious circle, yes, in this modern world most who work for print media are in it to get/keep a job and hopefully move on to another that pays better(I would also guess at this point ethics for journalism as taught is about as bad and as useful as modern business ethics,it might keep you employed but it is not ethics). To me if you become a journalist WHY would you not aspire to actually do the job and maybe get kudos for doing it well,and if you have a degree in it why doesn’t it show. This for me is not about idealim but actually doing your job…if what you are doing is something else don’t call it reporting or journalism. What I am talking about is being honest to both yourselff and your readers.

    • Now, this has become a decidedly more cynical tone than before. If the purpose is solely to sell things, then how do you explain your previous comments regarding newspapers’ accountability to reporters? Unless I’m not interpreting correctly, it seems like the two purposes are kind of exclusive. Furthermore, this kind of thinking only serves to further affirm the role of blogs – as if the newspapers are just selling products, then someone has to hold them accountable. If newspapers and such did not hold to this model, then the need for blogs would not be as considerable as it is right now.

      • MadElf

        And, here we all are, talking about the ever downward spiraling condition of the Fourth Estate on a blog…a Sports blog.

      • Luke Seubert

        Well, the PD not backing up Grossi sort of proves my point about the priority being selling things, doesn’t it? With Craigslist gutting the once huge profit center that was daily newspaper classifieds, newspapers are now wholly dependent upon regular print ads for their shrinking revenues. As a result, newspapers are scared to get too tough or controversial. The Lerner family has enough pull in Cleveland to threaten, even if only slightly, the PD’s ad revenues. Even a slight loss in advertising is devastating to their weak bottom line these days. Hence, the PD threw Grossi under the bus.

        Back when newspapers were stronger and more profitable, with multiple revenue streams; the newspapers could easily afford to take a stand on controversial issues, write tough stories, and stand behind their reporters when they made mistakes or revealed shocking truths. Indeed, from such a position of financial strength, walking tall like this could gain even more revenue. So even back in the good old days, doing the right thing was potentially also doing the profitable thing, which still makes it all about selling toothpaste.

        Now Dave, you also state that blogs can play a vital role in media criticism. Media criticism is a fine and noble art, one which died out decades ago when the newspaper industry consolidated into local monopolies – the proverbial one paper town.

        However, while bloggers can take over the role of media criticism, how much impact will it have on these bureaucratic dinosaurs committed to their evolutionary deadend? Does all this flurry about the Plain Dealer and Mary Kay Cabot really have in impact? Will it make her write better stories? Will it compel the Plain Dealer to change its policies? If not, then what is the point of all of all this, except as an amusing personal exercise in bile spewing?

  8. I wrote this a year ago about what ails the sports pages of the modern newspaper: http://www.theclevelandfan.com/misc/general/7-general-archive/9344-are-daily-newspapers-still-relevant-with-sports-fans

    The biggest mistake the mainstream sports media in this town makes is not taking advantage of the access they have – to the team, the players and the league that they cover.

    Stop telling us what happened and start telling us why it happened. Maybe not in the Monday game story if you are the Browns beat reporter, but you have an entire week of space to fill and there is no way the PD would not run (and Browns fans would not read) a more-detailed look at what is going on or what happened with the team the previous week.

    We’re starting to see that with some of Tom Reed’s work, and hopefully the PD and the other print media outlets in town can follow suit. I have no such hope for talk radio in this town as I gave up on that a long time ago.

    And I’m not sure about the “Grossi is better” narrative. Better may be a relevant term as he had sunk pretty low in his final years at the PD, but for all the freedom he supposedly now has at ESPN there’s still not much there on a daily basis.

    Anyway, good topic.

    • Thanks for sending this link. Good read – I hope everyone has a look. I completely agree that at issue is that those with access are not using it.

    • jimkanicki

      that’s a great piece titus. (youll always be titus pullo to me.)

      Stop telling us what happened and start telling us why it happened.

      it’s exactly the point i was trying to make in yesterday’s post, but succinct.

    • WarbVIII

      You are Titus..cool,and I liked your linked post, buuut if circulation had not already been dropping(because of the first set of huge mergers to make media conglomerates,and the first wave of venture capatalists.) What you are asking for and want might still exist today,instead overall journalists folded and got with the program. Heck I remember way back when Marty was coaching this coverage and questions were asked and circulation was better for it…I remember back when Modell was shilling for public money for a new stadium and the city didn’t vote for it because we knew he was a low rent slumlord,I should add the national media at the time agreed and I stood just outside my school which was where folks voted at the time and asked folks to vote NO(I was in 8th grade if anyone cares). Like I said(and at this point am beating on a dead horse) is what passes today generally for journalism only makes it worse.

      • Gary Collins

        I still want to know how the Cleveland Fan could leave Bill Nelsen out of the discussion of the best No. 16 in Cleveland sports history.

  9. [...] post was born out of a convo over on Reboot.  (And which is now the subject of a broader ‘In defense of MKC post.’)  Max brought up the lack of meaningful reporting out of [...]

  10. WarbVIII

    As an aside since posting works today(for me)Thank You very much for posting my comment DK. Granted much of what I had said had been covered by the time it posted..but hey thats life,when I tried to make the post it was fresh and new.

  11. jimkanicki

    know this is late to the thread, but here is an example that cle-dot-com and suck dont have to go hand in hand. i think m.s. boyer does a good job.

    http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2013/02/cleveland_cavaliers_quiet_at_t.html

    • Sure. And I’m not down on the entire PD – there are still some good non-sports reporters out there. It’s just – well, you know.

  12. I really need to remind myself about The Reboot; every so often, I see a tweet that links to the site, so I just ended up seeing this post now. I read through all the comments — good viewpoints from everybody.

    Growing up, all I knew about when it came to Browns coverage was the Plain Dealer, which of course involved Grossi and Cabot. When the Internet started becoming more prominent, I started Dawgs By Nature in 2006. Over the years, I will say that I have only been verbally critical of either Cabot or Grossi maybe a handful of times. I can’t recall the exact reasons why, but it had something to do with me not feeling like they were putting 100% effort into credentialed access that they had.

    I’d like to think that over the years, I’ve gained perspective and an appreciation that everyone plays a part in the modern day media. Anyone who had read DBN knows that some of the material we use is dependent on stuff from the beat reporters, such as quotes obtained from players, coaches, etc. or the occasional posts that reference “sources.” We’ve also added a lot of guys on DBN who end up doing their own research and analysis, which is great to have a nice mix for both the casual and hardcore fans, with the bottom line always trying to be the stimulant of discussion (but not to the extreme lows contained in Cleveland.com comments).

    Twitter has really done wonders for my job as site manager of DBN. I found ways to fulfill my duties in the past, but these days, all you need is a 150-character tweet from a Glazer, Rapoport, Schefter, Caplan, any local reporter, etc. to inspire a full post that seems fresh. I think it’s created a good way to have sites like WFNY, Kanicki, DraftBrowns, Reboot, the SB Nation blogs, etc. to all network and promote each others’ stuff without really seeing each other as “rivals,” but rather complements of each other. In a way, albeit a small piece, someone like Cabot fits into that complement as well.

    • Thanks for contributing those thoughts. I have a lot of respect for the work you do at Dawgs By Nature. Although we’re probably pretty different in terms of style and backgrounds, we’re truly part of a “special” minority.

      As for some of your thoughts, I agree that reporters do not use credentialed access to their full advantage. On the rare and few times I had real access (which is a whole other story), I realized there were some limitations but also some great opportunities to get perspectives from all over the place. For example, I learned more about Mangini’s Browns from Sabby Piscatelli than I ever would from some Colt McCoy quotes. Of course, as you mention, traffic is geared towards the “casual” reader – which doesn’t always leave room for actual journalism.

      However, I contend that press conference material is not actually “reported” by anyone – especially beat reporters. This is material that is put out to anyone. What someone chooses to do with it is completely up to them – including a beat reporter trying to manufacture some fake controversy and/or a “blogger writing their own story around the quotes.

      Finally, I agree with the promotion of others’ sites. I’m not sure about WFNY – I think they try to be a mini-PD, which is kind of strange. However, the Draft Browns people, Kanicki, Frowns and others are pretty good about promoting community. This is why I tried the Five Questions series last fall, which I want to return to soon.

      As always – great job, Chris. Thanks for taking the time.

      • Yeah, a lot of the press conference stuff comes directly from ClevelandBrowns.com (as I’m sure you know), which I am assuming someone like Dan Murphy (member of the Browns PR staff) is transcribing. I’ve checked into other team sites, and there are a lot of teams who don’t seem to do that, so I’m happy for that in the sense that it gives me something easy/extra to talk about with very little work. As has been stated, though, it’s not like you’re going to find something “juicy” in most of those conferences, though.

        I’ve never applied for credentials with the Browns because I don’t have the time/desire to do that (maybe outside of training camp), and I don’t want to write in fear of catering to the wishes of the team too much. A lot of SB Nation bloggers from other NFL teams (and across other sports) are credentialed, so I’ve heard all the stories about the limitations and trying not to get on the wrong side of the organization and even the long-standing beat writers.

        I agree about the lesser known players telling some good stuff. One of the things I’m starting to do over at DBN is pay attention to which Browns players (or guests who talk about the Browns) are going to appear on radio shows. The beat reporters often don’t do stories on this stuff, and yet the material when I listen back and transcribe ends up being 100 times more compelling than the standard presser stuff.

        • Another thing about being credentialed is the post-game scene is kind of deflating. The coaches’ press conference is interesting, but those who aren’t with the PD and ask a more direct question tend to not get asked back. The ones who keep access ask vanilla questions and/or sit there, say nothing and just record quotes. The post-game locker room is a bit like herding cattle. The PR people direct reporters around the room: QB is ready, then RB, then…. This is why everyone tends to end up with the same material. You have to strike out on your own to find different players. And Grossi is really good at doing this exact thing. He has (or had since I’m talking about a couple years ago) “his guys.”

          This goes to my point that anyone can construct stories because all of the quote material is nearly identical. Anything beyond that is actual game analysis, which is what mainstream media outlets don’t do – because their “casual” fans don’t understand. I’ve found over the years that some of the best sources of analysis and info on different players and teams is through really good blogs. Since none of us make any money off of doing this, it’s the ones who have a real passion that actually go beyond lame headlines.

          Yet, I’m not trying to sound completely negative. I had a great experience, simply because it was that. I wasn’t “supposed” to be there, but I was – right along with Grossi and Terry Pluto and all the others. It’s definitely worth trying. If you do, you need to stress that you are part of SB Nation AND are regularly cited on Cleveland.com. Just seeing some of the personalities behind the scenes really gives you a different perspective.

          • Thanks for the insight. I have tried sending a couple of emails to people on the Browns’ PR staff in the past, just if I had a simple question on a certain topic I was doing a story on, but I’ve never gotten a response from any of them. The NFL itself has been great to SB Nation, though. I know SB Nation had four guys from the network go to the NFL Combine, and with pretty much every other big event, several guys get access.

  13. Luke Seubert

    In closing (maybe?), allow me to share a link to a fascinating article which touches on many of the subjects we have discussed here:
    Mainstream Media Meltdown!

    This article highlights my contention that contemporary journalism has been taken over by commercialism, and that the primary job of media today is to sell toothpaste. And yes, this is a looming disaster for our society.

    • That is a great article. It felt like it took me about two days to read it. Comprehensive. Maybe this how people feel when they read one of my posts. I think I’m switching to an all picture format – or maybe like newspapers, I would be better off selling fruit.

      Related – there’s a great old interview with David Simon of The Wire fame – where he talks about how news companies stopped funding their product way back in the 80′s – far before the technology landscape shifted. He also cites how the downfall also coincided with the bulk acquisitions of newspapers by huge media groups. Naturally, when a large group is out for profits and doesn’t understand or even care for its product, bad things will happen.

      Yes, the technology problem is not an easy one to solve, but somehow other forms of media have figured it out. It’s relevant, but is also a crutch.

  14. I don’t understand the point here. I think most grownups understand that Mary Kay isn’t the Matrix, but just someone who willfully remains plugged into it. In any event, it’s rather impossible to expose the machine for what it is without taking aim at her output. I don’t think anybody mentioned here makes it overly personal and it’s telling that the author doesn’t manage to cite a single example of MKC criticism that’s been unfair.

    Also, this is hilarious:

    Ironically, where would the Cleveland Browns bloggers be without this crap? For you see, when Browns bloggers need to fill their own column inches, when they need to write some filler crap of their own, what do they do?

    Oh, where where where would I be if the PD would just do its job, or if American media was otherwise halfway functional? God only knows, but I’d hope it would be somewhere where I’d feel much less of a “need” to “fill column inches” about football on the internet for free. To think of what I might do with such free time.

    • I hear you on the last thought. I’ve spent way too many hours thinking about this stuff (as my wife understandably reminds me of). I’ve often wondered what the point is – until I’m reminded via my next visit to Cleveland.com or Vic Carucci’s talking points thingy.

      Anyway….

      I loved the exchange that Luke’s post created and I’ve asked him for more. However, I think his second, third and fourth arguments conformed to the idea of debate for debate’s sake rather than stand out as tangible arguments. As for the role of bloggers, “they” become necessary as journalism declines (which is based on a LOT of factors). However, there are plenty of people who get along just fine with the kind of info-tainment that places like Cleveland.com and people like MKC produce.

      To each his/her own, I guess. Outside of the context of journalism, football as a whole has become watered down in the pursuit of drawing as many viewers as possible. This is why MKC can offer football analysis and very few question her. And this is also why it becomes necessary for bloggers – many of whom are very skilled in analyzing the game – to fill the void.

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