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Welcome to the Club: David Hale Receives Dumb Insult, Gains Blog Cred

Personally, I don’t follow recruiting. It involves commitments of time and resources (for a Rivals or Scout subscription) I simply am not prepared to commit to tracking the college choices of teenage boys. One of the many benefits MaconDawg brings to this site is his ability to write about recruiting with wit and insight but without the leering creep factor of certain prominent analysts whose last names rhyme with "skimming."

As a regular reader of Dr. Saturday, I know that recruiting rankings typically are a fair rough guide of player performance---guys who come out of high school with a five-star rating are significantly more likely to be taken in the N.F.L. draft than guys who come out of high school with a one-star rating---but I also know that there annually are "can’t-miss" busts and unexpected overachievers. This attests less to the unreliability of any particular recruiting service than to the overall unpredictability of 18-year-old boys and the resulting uncertainty attendant to any attempt to project where those young men will be at 22. (Heck, sometimes it’s tough to predict at 21 where a fellow will be at 22.) Recruiting rankings are not a crapshoot, but neither are they an exact science.

Accordingly, it barely even registered with me when, in a lengthy and well-written piece to which I linked, David Hale offered a parenthetical aside noting rather innocuously that "the valuations by recruiting sites . . . are at least on occasion a bit dubious." This was an ancillary point not directly related to David’s larger, and well-argued, position, and it definitely was not a wholesale denunciation. Being a good reporter, he made sure to include plenty of qualifiers like "at least," "on occasion," and "a bit."

Unfortunately, it drew a disproportionate rebuke from a Rivals employee who, despite admitting that he was being "[v]ery [p]icky" in addressing what was "not even remotely the point of his article," nevertheless took David to task for "the flippant brush-off," tossing in a sideswipe at the newspaper industry and likening himself to a member of a minority group being subjected to discrimination.

Senator Blutarsky adequately exposed the proposterousness of the respondent’s claims of victimhood and a few other commenters chimed in, as well, but I wanted to take a moment to offer an observation about David’s cordial retort to his antagonist. Wrote the Macon journalist:

Yes, I work for a newspaper, which I assume makes me an "old world" journalist. But if you can find another "old world" beat reporter in this area who has embraced the Internet more or criticized newspapers more than I have, I'd love to meet him. (Heck, my next post after the Kiffin story was a response to Twitter inquiries!) I have no hard feelings toward the Internet sites at all. In fact, I write content for Scout's Web site and have worked closely with Dean Legge over the past year. Nearly every day I link to blogs covering Georgia that are far outside the mainstream -- not to mention links to Rivals on a regular basis. I'm on board. . . .

All I meant was that no evaluation of a high school player can be considered a completely accurate prediction of how he'll perform at the college level. Anyone who wants to argue with that is simply wearing blinders.

To suggest that I simply sit behind a desk and watch "Cheers" all day before typing up an uninformed story is utterly insulting. The fact is, I don't even own a desk (unless that's what's under the giant pile of papers and unpaid utility bills in my living room).

A couple of months ago, Maize ‘n’ Brew Dave got a discussion going about newspapers and the blogosphere, and, although I never got around to offering a proper response, I find it interesting that these sorts of criticisms are being directed at a guy like David Hale, whose reputation as a reporter is top-notch and who sets the standard for the ability of professional journalists and part-time bloggers peacefully to co-exist. (David and MaconDawg even treated one another as colleagues at a recent media event.)

At a time when SB Nation, Spencer Hall, and other representatives of the blogosphere are at a convention addressing the new directions in which sports media are moving, a technologically-savvy member of the Fourth Estate is getting taken to task for . . . what, exactly? Oh, right; David’s assailant tossed out this clever piece of snark:

I didn't see one guy from any newspaper out at the camps that I was at Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, etc. Kipp was at a different 7-on-7 camp so we could cover two camps. But I guess watching the recruits work out and compete is not as valid as sitting behind the computer watching Cheers and then saying "Hey, they were wrong about Mudcat. They must be dubious."

Rather than rip the guy a new one, David relied on a more subtle approach:

I was in Macon on Tuesday to talk to Mark Richt. I was at Butts-Mehre on Wednesday the entire day talking with players (and even said hello to Mr. Nabulsi, so he should know I was there). On Thursday I spoke with several other players on the phone for interviews. To suggest I don't get firsthand knowledge of the topics I write about is a joke, and if Mr. Nabulsi would like to compare time sheets from the past year, I'd be happy to do that.

David Hale takes the time to inject his personality into the things he writes which are not straight news pieces (although he writes plenty of straight news pieces), and, when he alludes to one of the several television shows his regular readers know he likes, what does he get for his troubles? Why, he draws an accusation that he’s just some guy sitting behind a computer watching "Cheers" and spouting off unsupported opinions.

You’ve hit the big time, David; next thing you know, Stewart Mandel will accuse you of blogging in your parents’ basement in your underwear without having shaved or showered. What this ought to make clear to all of us is that, in a world in which the lines increasingly are blurred, the old distinction between traditional and novel forms of media creates classifications which no longer serve to classify.

There are guys who get it and guys who don’t. Being a professional journalist doesn’t put you in the latter category, as David Hale demonstrates on a daily basis. There are self-appointed experts who make outrageous statements for their shock value and there are folks who try to be reasonable, right, and sincere as often as human frailty allows. Some of the reasonable ones, like David Hale, are full-time beat reporters; some of the reasonable ones, like the folks in "The Dawgosphere" with whom you are familiar, have unrelated day jobs and a dedication that heartfelt fandom has produced. Those of us in the latter category are proud to call the fellows in the former category our colleagues.

Go ‘Dawgs!