Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Poker Journalism?

[Content Disclosure: 100% Poker, 32% Journalism, 12% Style, 4% Stupidity, 2% Does it really matter?]

"Trying to be a first-rate reporter on the average American newspaper is like trying to play Bach's 'St. Matthew's Passion' on a ukulele." ----- ----- Ben Bagdikian

Journalistic Integrity. Some of us still expect that from the media reporting from the White House or Parliament, a court room, war zone or even standing in front of a weather map; but from a poker room?

Most of the information labeled "poker news" comes from writers who have little or no training in journalism. And why should they? You don't need any fancy degree just to write, certainly not to write about poker and definitely not to write a post on a random blog. I mean the essence of blogging is regular and irregular folks saying what they think, feel, hate or love. No credentials required.

On the other hand, poker players making a living, doing a job that has become entertainment and even news. They have some right to expect a level of professionalism from those who would call themselves "poker media". The casinos and corporations, who do business in poker, should expect some level of ethical reporting from those who seek to cover their business and certainly from those who might be critical of how they are doing their jobs. The turnover has always been high in the ill defined position of poker journalist. The qualifications have not and are still not particularly high and the paid positions are disappearing just like everywhere else.

But when will each new on screen video personality be measured by the level of their poker knowledge and not by the exposure of their cleavage? When will the WPT and WSOP television coverage come up to the level of the viewership? "A Queen and a Queen only" should never be uttered by anyone ever again. The goal everyone in poker journalism should strive for is, of course,
Andy Glazer. Know the game, know the players, respect the game, earn the respect of the players and of your readers.

Every poker writer should have done some tournament reporting. You have to have stayed up most of the night waiting for the winner of a $1500 Razz bracelet or suffered through a never-ending Stud hi/lo final table to understand the game and the participants. You need to have been there for the really tricky floor calls and truly understand how critical or devastating good and bad floor staff can be. You must have written something actually interesting for your audience about the first day of a seven day tournament, where everyone knows that nothing happens on day one.

Sure poker players are not athletes. There are no rules on steroids or any other drugs. No big contracts, few if any late night firearm incidents but yes, poker players have a high level of degeneracy compared to the general public. It is gambling after all, no matter now much the corporate suits try to clean up the game. But what is and what is not fair game for reporting? A married player with a hooker at 3 AM, is that newsworthy? What about a WSOP final table player at the craps tables until dawn the day of his big shot?

To be a poker journalist, you must have at least thought about the audience consuming your words and about the players you are covering. What do you owe your readers? What do the players deserve? Those discussions usually take place at a bar, very late with other members of the media. You learn there are not always perfect right answers but clearly there some that are wrong. Either that or you are a blogger, there is a difference.

3 comments:

Drizztdj said...

As someday I hope to get a tap on the shoulder to do a live tourney, this is a great vantage point of how tourney reporting should be.

Thanks.

Kevin Mathers said...

The sad thing is that I expect most of the people who read this will have no idea who Andy Glazer is.

PokerShrink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.