I’ve been blogging off and on for over ten years now. I’ve never been able to make a living off of writing, but I have – on rare occasions – gotten some form of compensation for it. It hasn’t always been actual money; I’ve written for free swag, webspace, and beer, among other things. This shouldn’t be surprising for someone who signed up for three-and-a-half years to potentially enter burning buildings in exchange for “free t-shirts and beer.” But 99% of my writing/blogging has been for no compensation outside of the thrill of seeing my name online and hearing someone say that they read my post and that I got a handful of hits on the website.
Anyway, I’ve kind of talked about this in the past when I rambled about Puck Daddy, but that post was about visibility and opportunity. Today’s rambling is about responsibility.
SBNation is a network of about 40 bazillion individual sports blog websites, kind of united under one banner. Every team has a website, as does every sport, with SBNation kind of operating as a grand overseer, promoting the best posts of its individual websites (one of which I’m very fond of) on its central SBNation website. Most (if not all) of these websites existed before SBNation came along and SBNation-alized them, so content and editorial quality can vary greatly.
Which brings us to today.
The SBNation blog that covers the Southern California Angels baseball team (Halos Heaven) posted what I’m sure they considered the hottest of all the hot takes yesterday afternoon/evening, ripping newly-dealt outfielder (and relapsed addict) Josh Hamilton on his way out of Anaheim. This wasn’t the typical takedown of a failed free agent signing, or even a soapbox editorial about Hamilton’s inability to control his addictions. This was flat out visceral hatred.
In the post, the author began by calling Hamilton a “coddled hillbilly”, then predicted Hamilton would die “of a drug related manner” while using graphic imagery of the car accident that killed Steve Howe, a former player and addict. The post has since come down (it’s yet to be known who took it down, though it’s unlikely the author did), but you can view a screenshot of it here:
The contents of a post like this read like something you’d see in the comments section below a post, or on some message board – not on a site that’s part of a network like SBNation that’s attempting to make itself a legitimate source of sports news. So where was the editor, you ask?
That was the editor.
There, buried under the pseudonym “Rev Halofan”1, is the person responsible for all the Angels-related content for SBNation. Halos Heaven doesn’t list specific “editors” in their masthead, but considering his profile is at the top of the masthead (and under the title “Leaders Of The Free World”), I’m going to assume he’d have more power over what’s posted on the site than any other contributors.
Why is he the editor? Who knows. Websites over time use “editor” as a prestige title for writers who’ve been with the site the longest to differentiate them from the newbies. This can be problematic, because over time people leave, and maybe that guy who had “editor” stuck by his name is the only one who has it, and you know what? Being in charge is fun. Not having anyone to answer to is nice. So, adding someone else to your little editor group might make you lose a little bit of that power, and maybe you aren’t ready for that just yet.
Look – editing is the dirtiest job in blogging2; you have to take crap and turn it into something legible. You have to coddle your writers to keep writing, since they’re basically doing it for free. And, in a case like this one, you’d have to be the firewall – the one who turns around and says “look – we can’t post this” and risk the fallout from an established writer/content generator because you don’t believe in them. But if you’re SBNation and you want these sites to be taken with any kind of seriousness, you’ve got to establish some kind of standard. There’s a reason people still roll their eyes at Bleacher Report even after Turner bought them and prominently displayed their brand on television.3 Drop a few bucks and compensate some sort of editor at each site. Hold each author accountable for their words.
Crap like this makes blogging look bad, and when it’s done on this big of a scale, it makes every struggling blogger getting 12 pagehits a day band their head against their desk. I feel bad for my friends over at Canes Country and other SBNation websites who just had their reputations take a hit today.
UPDATE: it was SBNation (and not Halos Heaven) that took down the post, and they’ve “parted ways” with Gleason according to a press release. No word as to who’s going to take over as editor of the site, or who will handle their social media accounts, since it seems like Gleason holds them as well.