The online cricket Mecca, ESPNCricinfo, has recently launched The Cordon, labelled as “a collection of cricket writing from outside the mainstream media”. Essentially, this is a collective of the best internet bloggers writing for the website to give a fresh approach to cricket writing and cricket journalism. This sparked a lively debate on Twitter where some people were happy to see some new ideas and new authors whilst others were not so welcoming to the views of some unknown, amateur writers. As an unknown amateur writer, I feel that I maybe have a right to offer my view on this topic – if only to draw vitriolic comments from people who don’t care what I think. Because if that happens – clearly I’m still the winner.
I can see where the ‘anti-Cordon’ people are coming from. Why do some people think they have a right, or an entitlement to be read by other people? It’s just their view, right? It’s just their opinion that is being shoved down our throats, so why should we listen to them? Well the point is that anybody can be a writer these days. If you disagree with what someone has written, you can comment on the piece and argue your case. That’s the beauty of the online format, not a drawback. And if you feel even more strongly about it, you can start a blog yourself and give your opinion to the internet guys. It’s what I did and it’s what you’re reading right now. Thanks for that by the way.
I subscribe to The Spin, a free weekly e-mail from The Guardian written by, amongst others, the excellent Andy Bull. This week he was focusing on this very subject where he lamented that the standard of investigative journalism has decreased in recent years. He bemoans the lack of writers covering County games (if anyone is reading and hiring (and paying), my e-mail is in the Contact Me section) and I cannot but agree with him on this topic. In fact, there is not much that Andy Bull says in this piece, that I disagree with. Having attended a course run by him and Mike Selvey, I can categorically say that Bull does not have a vested interest in holding back amateur writers – moreover, he is encouraging them.
Yet there are professional writers out there who are glancing over their collective shoulders at amateur writers, indeed, the rise of the blogger has been, and continues to be, a stratospheric perpetual ascent. The fact that somebody like me can sit in bed on a Tuesday afternoon, write 800 words, publish it to the internet and watch the hits come in whilst still wearing his pyjamas is enough to worry them over their future employment. Would they be so concerned if they were good writers? Or if they could, at least, manage to write some words twice a week without the assistance of that most thankless worker, the ghost writer? Let’s be honest here – these ‘writers’ are the former international cricketers – the Boycotts of this world – who write/dictate 500 reactionary, usually inflammatory words in order to sell newspapers and to take up column inches. Of course it is good to hear the opinion of someone who knows the game exceedingly well, but wouldn’t it be less frustrating to read a new opinion for a change? For a week at least?
As far as I see it, the whole ‘amateur v professional’ debate comes down to just those two points – firstly the non-writing fan feels put out that a normal person, like them, has actually bothered to logically, coherently and grammatically accurately put together their views on the internet rather than spouting them like a broken record in the stands at a cricket match or at the bar after a game. In fact they feel genuinely aggrieved when reading something that seems familiar to them – ‘that’s my idea, I said that’ – is normally their response; well guess what pal, if you chose to commit your views to the bottom of your pint after a game last August you’ve only got yourself to blame that this generic writer has it online.
Secondly – the growing disquiet amongst former professional cricketers seeing the rise of people writing about cricket on the internet has given force to the increasing unease at ‘the blogger’. This is, in my opinion at least, utterly unjustified. As an amateur cricket blogger who would quite like to become a professional cricket writer, I can absolutely guarantee you that unless you’re a) related to a professional cricket writer, b) a former international cricketer, or c) a genuinely excellent writer, you will not make it in the media profession without having an online blog. It’s the first part of your portfolio that a potential employer is after.
Even the very, very best started from this medium. And once they’ve made it, I hope they don’t forget where they began.