Olson goes to the 'dog

Posted by Iannucci | 4/30/2008 | 6 comments »
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While covering IndyCar festivities in Kansas this past weekend, pressdog decided to seize the opportunity of speaking with Jeff Olson, a.k.a. the motorsports journalist who thinks sports journalists all suck. As it turns out, Olson’s now infamous article was not all it seemed to be.

When I finished it, I felt fantastic. It was cathartic. And then the e-mails and calls started, and I began to think I’d stepped on it. I took a stab at sarcasm and fell a bit flat. Never thought people would seriously believe that I thought all sportswriters suck, but they did. I heard from many, many indignant sports journalists. But honestly, there is an element of schlock in this business. Nothing wrong with pointing that out, but I should have made it clear that I included myself among the schlock. At the very least, it made people talk.

(MORE from pressdog)
Which just proves you should leave the untrained word butchery of sarcasm to the untrained word butchers...and of course, I’m being sarcastic there.

Look, I’ve said before Olson’s a fabulous writer and if this is a case of a single piece falling flat then so be it. I was even a encouraged by the kind words he spoke of both pressdog and My Name Is IRL, knowing we need not worry about his future writing being less about racing and more about the coverage thereof. But sarcarsm or not, I just have to scratch my head when Olson says this.

I stand behind the idea that a majority of people in the press room at IRL events should not be there. They aren’t a) receiving a check for what they’re doing, or b) they aren’t producing anything. They’re impersonating journalists.
I’m sorry, but while “b” is a solid point “a” sounds a little like elitism. I’m rather sure the p-dog isn’t pulling a check for his endeavors, and this weekend he pretty much disproved that “a” part of the theory. If you can conduct yourself so as not to be a distraction and produce work that gets people excited about the product then you have fulfilled the obligation of the media credential. It doesn’t matter how much you’re earning or what media you use, because as the name implies it’s called a “media credential” and not “paid journalist impersonation card”.

And we're still not addressing the fact that his piece lamenting the "Us vs Them" among fans seemed all for "Us vs Them" in the media room.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but either way this entire discussion is starting to seem a little too self-involved for my taste - and that's partly my fault because I'm contributing to it. I’d rather start talking about The Month of May, to be perfectly honest.

(Photo: Bill Zahren Motorsports Journalism Impersonation Inc)


  1. pressdog // April 30, 2008 8:49 AM  

    Deep breaths. Notice the "or" between A and B. I think Jeff meant if you're doing A "OR" B, you're fine. Most every blogger I know is doing B. Thanks for the photo credit. I make an effort.

  2. John in Speedway // April 30, 2008 9:26 AM  

    Ahh yes, the month of May. I hope the weather is nice on Sunday. I will be at the track, bronze badge in full affect. Opening day is always interesting though, because all the big veteran teams keep their garages closed up. This year, with so many rookies and refreshers, Gasoline Alley should be hopping with action.

  3. Johnny // April 30, 2008 9:55 AM  


    I hear what you're saying, but at the same time we shouldn't have to parse "intending meaning" from a Super-Certified-Real-Deal-Should-Be-There-Getting-Checks™ writer like Olson. Surely such a paragon of the written word should apply more verbal clarity to such a response.

  4. Anonymous // April 30, 2008 10:43 AM  

    As someone who (a) does draw a check(s) for the most part (including the ones from photo and merchandise sales and Google AdSense/Amazon Associates) and (b) produces original content about a long-neglected (at the hands of journalists like Mr. Olson) American racing developmental league, I'm still not happy with the gang-bang Mr. Olson administered with his original, and now PressDog, comments.

    I read it fairly as "There are half-dozen of us print dinosaurs capable of reporting the news of motorsport; and the rest of you aren't worthy of licking our boots."

    That is as smug, elite and oafish as it gets friends.

    I'd give some credence to an argument that many of those in the blog spaces aren't trained formally in journalism; but even that argument can't refute the fact that some people can really write, despite their provincialism; and many so-called 'professionals' in the biz have not yet learned the craft sufficiently to make what they 'produce' readable.

    As I pointed out elsewhere, if the media relations personnel at the tracks took the same mindset as Mr. O we'd all still be lugging stone tablets into the john with us.

    In the long run, the marketplace always decides who's right in these matters. As traditional papers shut down their presses and go exclusively online JO will get to confront the prospect of joining those 'unwashed' among us.

    Good luck finding some friends in cyberspace Mr. Olson.

  5. Fred Hurley // April 30, 2008 6:42 PM  

    I think it was one of the TrackSide Online podcasts that one of the two guys said that he had a definite problem with people in the press area who only showed up when there was a meal served. Basically, people who treated it like a luxury box. He said all he wanted from someone with a press pass was for them to show up regularly, work hard to cover the sport, and dress appropriately. If they could handle that, then they were fine by him. Seemed reasonable to me.

  6. Anonymous // May 01, 2008 12:08 PM  

    You said:

    "If you can conduct yourself so as not to be a distraction and produce work that gets people excited about the product then you have fulfilled the obligation of the media credential."

    Seems like that would make sense, but I don't think that's the way the tracks and leagues see it. Instead, there seems to be a (fuzzy at times) distinction between news gathering/reporting (which they are willing to facilitate with credentials) and marketing (which generally they are not).

    Sure, they hope for good press and want to do what they can to make sure that the media can do their jobs, but positive stories that "get people excited" are not a requirement. Just look at some of the stories about the IRL and/or Indy 500 that have been published in the last decade and you can see that's not the case.

    There's certainly a "good ol' boy" network in place in the media and credentialing too... and that's all I will say about that.

    It will be interesting to see if and how the definition of "media" and the credentialing process change in the coming years. Most of the stories I read by "journalists" could have been written without actually being at the event, never mind having access to the media center and its luxuries.

    As times and technology change, what measures will be used to determine who gets in and who doesn't... Visitors? Page views? Revenue? Spelling and grammar? Who knows? It's going to be a while before it all gets sorted out. The ease of information distribution in today's world has turned everything upside down.

    If anything, the best bloggers out there (not to be confused with "anyone with a MySpace page") are working far harder and making far more sacrifices to produce their work. Seems like there should be a way to accommodate them rather than treat them the same as the average beer-swilling fan (not that there's anything wrong with being a beer-swilling fan).