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Double your pleasure

Try not to get confused this morning. My usual full Friday column is about Twitter; there's also a short piece about Erin Andrews that was planned and written as an unsigned leader. (It might seem a little starchier than usual.) Friday's comment section in the print edition turned out to be too full to contain it, but my editor wanted it on the web while the peg is still white-hot (and since it contains the magic words "Erin Andrews", I briefly get to pwn the Full Comment popularity chart).


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Comments (8)


Your takes on McNair, Andrews, and MMA makes me wonder if we even need sports specific columnists in this country anymore.

With the exception of Brunt, your sports related articles have run circles around anything offered by the national sports columnists.

When the topic starts veering away from the score of last night's game, why is not standard practice to bring someone from other departments of the newspaper to offer the best take? I mean is there anything in Blair's or Dowbiggin’s resumes that make them more qualified to write about gender double standards, or internet voyeurism, than you? I've never quite understood why, just because a story has some kind of connection to sports, that the story automatically falls to the "sports columnist." Why shouldn't the person who can offer the best perspective be given the column?

I have trouble seeing it as a problem. From my standpoint, I quite favour the somewhat unfair ecology whereby sports columnists who are chained to a beat deliver instant reactions to news that is only incidentally sports-related, and I get to react. I don't really give a crap which patch of dead-tree real estate my column-inches occupy, and I think the readers will naturally care less and less about this as time goes by, too. (It might be convenient if, say, the Posted Sports page put up links to my sports stuff, but if you're somebody who already follows Colby Cosh as a byline or brand, you're in no danger of missing any of the good stuff, right?) I'm not only given carte blanche to write about sports for the NP, it is positively encouraged.


I don't really give a crap which patch of dead-tree real estate my column-inches occupy, and I think the readers will naturally care less and less about this as time goes by, too.

This is essentially my point. Although I understand organizing a newspaper by subject matter (sports, business, ect.)in order to make it easier for the reader to find columns on the subjects they are interested in, I don't understand why columnists should be tied to a certain section of the newspaper.

The best example I can think of is the Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings. Although this was a story directly related to a sports franchise, it was not a sports story. It was a legal story, and to a certain extent, a business story. So it made absolutely no sense that it was covered almost exclusively by sports reporters.

Same with the Erin Andrews story. The person who could offer the best perspective on that story at a newspaper would be the pop culture writer, not Bruce Dowbiggin or Bruce Arthur (in Arthur's defense, he did a pretty good job). Surely the people most interested in the story would be people who follow sports, so it makes sense it should be in the sports section, but it doesn't make sense for a sports columnist to be writing about it.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that you can write about pretty much anything you want. You find topics you think you can offer good insight on, and you write about them, regardless of what the subject matter is. Why isn't the entire newspaper structured this way? Why can't Bruce Arthur write about some national, non sports related story, if he can offer a good perspective? Why isn't the legal writer doing the columns on the Coyotes' bankruptcy proceedings? Why can't the pop culture writer offer his take on Terrel Owens and his relationship with the media, and have that column carried in the sports section?


My guess as to why the newspaper isn't structured that way is that the average columnist doesn't have the breadth of knowledge to go beyond a defined area.

Why can't the pop culture writer offer his take on Terrel Owens and his relationship with the media, and have that column carried in the sports section?

It could, but it doesn't because individual columnists are contracted or hired to fill a certain hole on a certain page on certain days for a certain editor. You're mistaking the sections in your newspaper for a way of organizing information, when they're primarily a way of organizing work.


Both good points.

My next thought was that you have the vast majority of people doing what they've always done, filling in the guts for the section they've been assigned to, but then have your "superstar" writers float around and do whatever the hell they want. But for the most part, that's how things already work. You have the big names in the editorial section who seem to have quite a bit of freedom with respect to what they write about, and then you have the sections, where you have your big name columnists, and then the gut fillers.

I guess my question is, why aren't those big name columnists, the ones that are presently tied to a specific section, floating around too? One of your most important competitive advantages is the unique voice of your columnists. People have favourite columnists, and will purchase the bundled newspaper in order to get access to them. It seems to me that it only makes sense that you should leverage these people as much as possible, and part of that would be to have them write about the stories they're most qualified to write about, and not just the stories that happen to fall into their particular section.

So if it really is mostly just a matter of how their employment contracts are set up, or how work is structured and delegated, couldn't you argue that this would be a pretty good area to make a change? Say you're the big business section columnist. The vast majority of the time you're going to be writing about the big business story of the day. But under certain circumstances (like Balsillie purchasing a hockey team or something), shouldn't this person be able to slide over to the sports section and write the front page story in that section? Wouldn't that just make sense?

Anyway, I think I'm pulling a Vic Ferrari here and making an incredibly simple point seem way more complicated than it actually is. It just drives me nuts when sports columnist end up writing columns on subjects they clearly don't understand, and I don't see why that can't change.

I think that happens more than you realize. Corcoran was writing about Balsillie last year when this was a competition issue. At present, it's largely a legal/business issue and there's not really anyone in Canadian media with expertise in that particular field.

I agree with what you're saying about it being frustrating to read sports guys talking about something out of their depth. I don't know why they don't just contract these issues out. The blogosphere's full of bright people with a business and/or legal background. Offer them access to your resources (ie. give them the primary documents, the acquisition of which was basically like trying to do a drug deal in the present case in that you had to know a guy) and let them crank stories out.

Great headline. If your cookie has a bite-sized action and your reader completes the action, I think two things happen. Their self-confidence goes up (which feels good) and their trust in you increases.


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