Media trends are fascinating. In the 21st century where there are constant innovations in how to bring a message forth to your audience, the way the best of the best opt to tell a story is very interesting when you’re cognizant of what’s going on.
Sports media is inherently compelling. Covering an intrinsically emotional topic does half the job for you whereas, for example, captivating North Americans with the story of how Blackberries are still super popular in Indonesia requires a little bit more tact. You have to create that tie and set it alight.
The problem of a lockout affecting the major player in a sport is obvious. You lose that natural bond between an outlet and its readership by scorching the middle ground. And coupling that with an audience that is confused by what it wants under the circumstances only serves to exacerbate the difficulties.
None of this is to complain about the issue of course. I, for one, am enjoying the conundrum posed by the lockout as an individual who enjoys hockey writing. A lot of very talented people are being forced to flex a bit harder than they normally would, and that talent is shining through more clearly than ever. It’s tough to get a grasp on how skilled one is with the written word when their trademark piece is a game recap.
When there’s no game to recap that little push to reach beyond your comfort zone makes ability and creativity much more readily apparent. Anyone who reads can have great respect for that. That moment in the midst of a piece or a mini-documentary with someone who knows what they’re doing brings great self-awareness. You are wholly aware that class is in session.
The kicker here is, of course, that the ability of one to effectively do their job is squarely tied into their ability to tell a story. With words, sounds or images the writer/journalist/blogger/producer/etc’s job is to take the audience from point A to point B while holding their attention, ideally presenting their material in some sort of logical progression and leaving them something to think about when they hit the end.
In a digital age — with you, who is reading this right now being an active participant in what I’m about to write — this is a wholly difficult task. Stop for a second and scan the page. Buttons everywhere! You could click anything and be on the other end of the internet in five seconds and totally forget how you got there. Ideally I haven’t lost any of you by breaking the fourth wall.
How is this relevant to the NHL or the lockout or the coverage of both? Well, indulge me for a moment.
We’ve all hit a point with these proceedings where we’re left with complete and utter fatigue. Donald Fehr comes out and spews his rhetoric for a bit, and then the Bettman/Daly Tag-Team Champions of the world tandem come out and lay their points on equally thick. There is no logical progression.
We aren’t moving forward or backward or upward or sideways. We’re just twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom which time dictates we will achieve at some point.
The ability to tell a story becomes next to impossible. Have you ever read a novel that re-hashed the same events 23 times in 23 chapters and felt satisfied when you closed the book one last time? Of course not. Reading that would be slogging your brain into mush. You’d come to the end, have a really stiff drink and ideally pass out, trying to forget what you just did to yourself.
“It’s December 10, 2012. Hi I’m the NHL Lockout, welcome to Jackass!”
Now, for those of you who read anything I write on a semi-regular basis (
Not only do the story makers prevent remotely comprehensible coverage of this situation, but the audience turns the onus on the media into an abyss of narratives. You can’t weave a story based on the goings-on of the NHL because it has been done daily since September. You can’t weave a story based on what the audience wants because they don’t know what they want.
A comment section on any lockout story typically unravels as follows: 1) Interesting piece, but I think…. 2) LOL who caresssss? BLUE JAYS! 3) This post is bad and you should feel bad and I’m going to try and make you feel bad.
Covering hockey for a living is an unbelievably sweet gig. Though as the fading hair colors of various television personalities indicate, internalizing your ability to do the job can wear on you quickly when the job is, for all intents and purposes, on-hold.
Covering a sport during a lockout is a zero-sum game. Regardless of what you do, there are going to be enough detractors that whatever headway you thought you made on how to approach the situation will evaporate. Basketball media wasn’t having any fun a year ago, and now the hockey contingent who thought it was hilarious at the time are finding out that karma stings.
Appreciate the folks who are shining through above everyone else and just know that those others are trying super hard. The muse may be taking the year off, folks. But, just know, we’re twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom. We’ll get there eventually. Murphy’s Law says so.