Most of my turns here at TrueHoop have seen me create some sort of paean towards certain sportswriters, or detail some of the needless frustrations sports scribes have to endure. What I'm about to do with this post goes a little past that, and it probably won't be that popular: because it pits a guy who gets to write sports for a (always broke, always frustrating) living against proprietors of message boards that allow the fan to have an unfettered voice.
Most of these message board owners or webmasters pay the costs of these boards out of pocket, usually at a loss; and too-often have to deal with the petty sniping inherent in allowing anonymous fans to argue with each other over a sport and/or team they care quite a bit about. It's usually a thankless gig.
But that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. Or, at least, a little bit of tact.
Last week, Sactown Royalty's Tom Ziller pointed us all towards a Sacramento Kings message board that had lifted an entire interview between Henry Abbott and Kevin Martin's high school coach Scott Aronhalt, and pasted it within a thread.
The poster credited Henry, but offered no link to the actual post, and left the message board readers without a single reason to come over to TrueHoop to read anything else. Effectively usurping advertisers, and appropriating the hard work that Henry and his ESPN.com co-workers come through with every weekday for a WEBSITE YOU GET TO READ FOR FREE.
Let's let Tom take it from here:
Anyways, so yeah -- stealing Henry's hard work. Not cool. I made a post yesterday afternoon to that affect. I bet you can guess what happened to it. Deleted. Almost immediately. The post with the full article? Still there. Message: It's OK to steal; it's not OK to protest said stealing.
It wouldn't be a big deal if it were a one time occurance. It happens multiple times a day. They steal The [Sacramento] Bee's stuff, other blog stuff, SI, ESPN, anything that pops up on HoopsHype, pretty much any content which can be copied and pasted, they steal. And if you say a damn thing about it (or anything negative about [the message board], or by extension positive about another Kings community), your post gets deleted.
See what I did there? I quoted the guy. I didn't paste his entire post, even though he's done a better job at detailing this sort of skeeviness at all angles thus far. I also provided you with links to his blog above, in case you wanted to read more on this particular subject, or whatever else he has to say on his website.
But the message board we're talking about, and several others that are pretty dang popular, doesn't see any point in that. Pity.
Of course, as is my trademark, the first thing I did after reading TZ's initial take on the mess was to search my own name at the message board in question. Sure enough, an entire cut and paste of this column - which details who I thought to be the best and worst GMs in the NBA back in mid-June - was available to read on the site.
It doesn't provide a link to give me the hits needed to prove to editors, "hey, this guy's worth more than Antoine Walker jokes." Doesn't do anything for the editors that worked around the clock, on weekends, and in spite of the probable frustration of their bosses who may have wanted to spike what was originally filed as an 11,000-word column. It doesn't do anything for anyone save for a few message board denizens, who have to move their finger one fewer time to click over to the original column, and get to read it on a message board that replaces links, graphics and pictures with avatars, smiley faces, and clever signatures.
It stinks. And it's not something that writers should have to put up with just because we get to write about sports for money. And it especially boggles the mind as to why message board moderators would allow the content to be copied from a free website.
Listen, I'm always a day late and 49-dollars short, so I know the frustrations with ESPN's Insider. But I also remember when Insider was re-launched in 2001, with the NBA side of the site taking its biggest content boost from Chad Ford and Terry Brown, two guys I had worked with at Sportstalk.com. The NFL and MLB sides also hired writers from that site. I was the NBA guy that was left behind. I was hurt, I was ticked, I was living in an apartment that had just been flooded and Michael Jordan was about to debut in a Washington Wizards uniform.
And yet, bombing around RealGM's message boards back then, I kept a careful eye on posters that were cutting and pasting Insider content on threads, hoping the moderators didn't see. I tried to call out each of these posters - ESPN might be the Worldwide Leader, but there are writers with livelihoods at stake here. Don't endanger that. I'm not being overly dramatic, here.
And though I probably didn't have much influence, RealGM started cracking down on these posters. To this day, they make it so posters can only quote a snippet of any article or column online, and the poster has to provide a link - Insider or otherwise. And I don't think it has hurt those boards one iota, as there are still some awful good basketball conversations going on over there.
And if I, the spurned and angry one, can ask that these columns be taken out, then how hard is it for a message board moderator to go, "Hey, 'Jamison_steaksauce_87?' Not cool"?