"I do not like anonymous blogging, chatrooming and talk-show calling. I think those can do more harm. I think everyone's opinion should be respected, and that those who offer those opinions do so with full disclosure of their name as columnists and reporters do on a daily basis."
So said the Austin American Statesman's Kirk Bohls . . . but I am getting ahead of myself, aren't I? A little history is in order here.
In the beginning, there was L.D. and L.D. identified The Narrative. Peter picked up on this theme at Burnt Orange Nation. The Lawgiver handed down The Official Ethics of MGoBlog (and, by extension, of the rest of us in the intercollegiate athletics blogosphere) and The House Rock Built issued The Blog-ifesto.
The increasingly important question before the house is where weblogs fit in the new media landscape. Not only do webloggers undeniably have a role, it appears increasingly clear that "a sea change is underway." The proper relationships of weblogs to one another and of the blogosphere to the mainstream news media remain works in progress and we continue to hash out the details.
Webloggers serve to keep the professional pundits honest and, although the relationships can be reciprocal from journalist to blogger and from blogger to journalist, we in the blogosphere have to own up to our mistakes even as we praise the rise of this novel medium of mass communication. The blogosphere taps into fans' visceral reactions against mainstream media, exposes partiality cloaked in the guise of neutrality, holds the experts accountable for their excesses, reveals the vacuity of some commentators, and even influences anchors' catch phrases through the stories webloggers cover.
As the blogosphere grows in influence and importance, though, attempts to establish standards for weblogging become all the more imperative. Kirk Bohls has a fair point and it is time the blogosphere turned the same bright light on itself that it regularly shines upon the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
The unspoken biases of E.S.P.N. and its anchors are a favorite topic of the intercollegiate athletics blogosphere, whether in a serious or a lighthearted vein. From Lou Holtz's unabashed affinity for teams he used to coach (especially Notre Dame and South Carolina) to Kirk Herbstreit's unconscious boosterism on behalf of his alma mater (Ohio State) to E.S.P.N.'s obvious efforts to promote its own programming under the pretense of objective journalism, fans understandably grow frustrated with the Worldwide Leader in Sports and webloggers have tapped into and amplified that justified dissatisfaction.
What of our own biases, though? If the blogosphere is keeping the punditry honest, who will watch the watchers? Can we really hold the mainstream media to account if, as Kirk Bohls observes, we fail to adhere to the very standards we are attempting to impose upon professional journalists?
None of us is a "college football fan" in the sense of being an aficionado of the game without any attachment to a particular team. Even if our affinity for our own favorite squad has blossomed into an affection for the sport as a whole, we all arrived at the enterprise through one team specifically before broadening our interests to the game generally. Any pretense to the contrary is disingenuous in the extreme.
Personally, I would prefer it if every weblogger, like Doug Gillett and Warren St. John, put his full name, his photograph, and his pertinent particulars on his blog, although I understand why many reputable participants in the blogosphere choose to use first names only (like Michael at the Atlanta Sports Blog) or to use pseudonyms (like Paul Westerdawg at the Georgia Sports Blog).
Real names and day jobs, though, are not mission critical. What ought to be expected of every college sports blogger---at a bare minimum---is a confession of his underlying allegiances. BlogPoll participants are required to declare their team affiliation, which, among other virtues, allows voting biases to be tracked and reported.
We criticize E.S.P.N. (quite reasonably) for pretending to be objective regarding matters about which the Worldwide Leader in Sports has probable partialities and potential conflicts of interest. We should expect no less from ourselves and, in sports, there is no more basic building block of bias than one's rooting interest.
Bruins Nation and I disagree on the legitimacy of Southern California's claim to a share of the 2003 national championship; I believe the A.P. No. 1 ranking remains just as valid in the B.C.S. era and he takes the opposite view. In order to assess the validity, vel non, of our respective positions, our readers need to know that one of us is an alumnus of the University of Georgia (which shares a conference with L.S.U.) and the other is an alumnus of the University of California at Los Angeles (which shares a city with U.S.C.). Fortunately, those facts are evident at first glance from the content, nomenclature, and color scheme of each of our weblogs, so no one could be deceived into believing either of us is claiming anything like neutrality upon the question.
The presence of acknowledged bias also lends additional credence to the views of those who are arguing against their own prejudices. Thus, L.D. earns respect and acquires credibility when he, as a Georgia fan, argues that "Georgia Tech has a better claim than Colorado" to the 1990 national championship and Nathan, as a Georgia Tech fan, wins points for setting aside his Yellow Jacket partisanship long enough to state that "outside of athletics Tech needs UGa to be a strong school." When someone argues against his own admitted preconceptions, he develops a reputation for integrity that causes a reasonable person to pause and give him the benefit of the doubt before dismissing any future postings of his as being the product of his knee-jerk reactions.
While few of us cover college football as comprehensively as Every Day Should Be Saturday, most of us try to venture beyond the purely provincial in our weblogging. Since making my move to SportsBlogs Nation, I have written about the 15 or 20 most important days in the history of the Southeastern Conference, the merits of the N.C.A.A. men's basketball tournament as compared to those of the college football postseason and the N.C.A.A. women's basketball tournament, the lawsuit against Warren St. John, football games I'd like to see, the Colin Cowherd incident, coaches who attempt to return to their old stomping grounds, the Texas Longhorns' failure to capture three national championships simultaneously, great moments in bad sponsorship, Bill Callahan's spring practice at Nebraska, why Pete Rose belongs in Cooperstown, why the Atlanta Falcons are the worst franchise in professional sports, the painstaking process of radically realigning (and partially revising) the membership of the major conferences in college football, the first pick of the N.F.L. draft, the best- and worst-dressed teams in college football, odd coaching fits in the college football ranks, why Hank Aaron should become a designated hitter, and live mascots gone wrong, none of which necessarily relates to University of Georgia athletics.
My loyalties, however, are open and undeniable. Everyone who reads this weblog knows I am a Georgia fan, knows the reasons why, and has had at least a passing familiarity with my background since, literally, the day Dawg Sports debuted.
The same forthrightness and accountability that we demand from the mainstream news media must be expected of our fellow webloggers, as well. Accordingly, I offer what I hope my fellow webloggers also will choose to offer, in some form or fashion:
My name is T. Kyle King. I am a native Georgian and I have lived in Georgia my entire life, as have my parents and their parents.
I attended the University of Georgia, where I earned a baccalaureate degree in political science from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and a law degree from the Joseph Henry Lumpkin School of Law. My wife and I met in Athens, where we were married in the Chapel on North Campus. (The Chapel bell was rung following the conclusion of the ceremony.) We have a son, who is three years old.
Professionally, I am engaged in the general civil practice of law in a small firm not far from where I was raised. I am a member of the South Metro Bulldog Club, the Henry County Bar Association, and the United Methodist Church. I am a former member of the Southlake Kiwanis Club (to which my father belonged before me) and an alumnus of the Phi Kappa Literary Society. While I was in college, I was a columnist for The Red and Black and, before that, a reporter for the Campus Observer.
I am a lifelong Bulldog fan from a family full of Bulldog fans. I am a football season ticket holder and, from 1999 to 2004, I was the co-host of a local cable television program called "The Dawg Show," which was (as the name implies) devoted to Georgia football. Over time, I began distributing the research I did for the show in the form of e-mails, which led eventually to my first foray into weblogging at Kyle on Football beginning last July.
That's who I am, that's where I'm coming from, and that's what you need to know about me when evaluating the truth, falsehood, honesty, and integrity of what I have to say about the subjects I address. Kirk Bohls lets you know who he is when he writes a column for the Austin American Statesman and he is right to call out those webloggers who do not do their readers the service of at least revealing enough details to permit an informed evaluation of their biases to be made.
We in the blogosphere want our commentary to be given the same deference and weight with which professional sports reporters' columns are regarded. We also want to be able to hold mainstream journalists accountable for their shortcomings. In order for those things to happen, we must hold ourselves to the same standards.
First and foremost, this requires allowing our readers to know enough---whether we use our real names or not---to allow them to assess for themselves whether we have axes to grind that call our credibility into question.
At the very least, it is necessary for a reputable blogger to tell you the hue he hemorrhages. Full disclosure may not be mandatory, but some meaningful disclosure (including, if nothing else, his team loyalty) is a prerequisite to any weblogger's being deemed worthy of your respect, your trust, and your attention.