Social Media and the Underground Battle between Online and Mainstream Boxing Journalism

Albert Baker
Photo: Lina Baker IG @seeyouringside

Attending a fight card as a member of the online boxing media is like dating a smoking hot woman after she just got a divorce. You’re just the rebound, and you may not be staying there long unless you’re really good.

It’s not uncommon to see new aspiring writers and photographers at every fight, it’s a perennial cycle as motivated young fans make an attempt to do more with their undying love for the sport of boxing. Is there anything wrong with a fan trying to further the sport with their writings, photos, or graphic designs and edits on social media?

The short answer is no, the long answer is yet to be determined. The explosion of social media has given birth to the newest form of boxing news. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat are all homes to literally thousands of accounts that claim to “Provide the latest Boxing news and Interviews” boasting tens of thousands of followers.

Social Media as defined in Merriam-Websters Dictionary: forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos).

Journalism, no it’s not journalism.

News, yes it’s a form of spreading the news in an interactive manner that allows fans to engage with each other through witty, un-witty, or downright vulgar comments. So this begs the question; should social media accounts with thousands or millions of followers be treated the same as established online or print boxing media?

No, they should not. “Why shouldn’t they be? I mean they get thousands of “Likes” and they have the coolest photo edits, and they have like 50,000 followers on Instagram; that’s a huge audience.”

I’m glad you asked.

One of the dirty secrets of boxing social media is that many of these accounts have a purchased following.

Oh yes, I said it.

A boxing social media page doesn’t go from creation to 50,000 or even 10,000 followers in one month without major advertising or endorsements.

Those followers, those likes, those comments.

They were purchased.

A simple google search of “can I buy likes and comments on Instagram?” will turn up hundreds of organizations just waiting to build your unknown social media page into the next false juggernaut of boxing social media.

This doesn’t mean that these pages don’t hold value, because they do. The young demographic tends not to read well written analysis or thought provoking opinions. Their brains are trained to scan through social media, double tap a like and move on to the next photo as they shotgun blast their minds with miniscule amounts of information to create a false sense of complete situational understanding.

Mission accomplished; the task of providing news is done, whether by 15 second video or photo with a one sentence (usually poorly written) caption. The news has been absorbed.

Then there’s the news websites.

The online boxing news website, is the biggest enemy of the boxing media establishment. Boasting a hoard of writers around the globe that cover boxing pro-bono, the boxing news website has a flexibility and flair that traditional main-stream news outlets don’t have.

Always quality content? Only a small select few. Thought provoking opinion and analysis? Let’s shrink that pool even smaller. Do they criticize the power houses of the industry when it is warranted? Now we’re down to a handful.

The online website coupled with a solid “honest” social media account is a formidable news delivery platform. So what gives? Why isn’t there a rolling out of the red carpet for these individuals by promotional public relations representatives during fights? Why do some promoters or organizations shun the online writer or social media correspondent?

Professionalism.

I can’t think of anything more embarrassing than seeing a young writer or correspondent with a media badge asking for a selfie with a fighter or promoter. As I look down the line of writers ringside it’s easy to spot that guy or gal with a beer getting loud like a fan. If I see it, the promoter and mainstream media members see it too. This behavior builds an opinion that all bloggers or writers are just fans looking to score some free seats to get closer to their favorite fighters, not professional journalists.

The online writer usually doesn’t abide by the Society of Professional Journalism’s code of ethics, making him/her able to spew whatever their heart desires without recourse for their comments. Writing is a responsibility, no matter how large or small your audience; the writer has a duty to remain unbiased to provide a factual account of a situation.

Mark Turley from InstantBoxing.com’s “Turley on Tuesday” wrote about the “hearty approval by the nodding dogs of social media, people who love to attach themselves to perceived success” in a demonstration of the capitulation of the media to push a promoters agenda in order to propel themselves more into the media spotlight, whilst earning favor from the objects of their complete fandom.

Who is the main-stream boxing media?

The paid, the powerful, the established. These are the shapers of boxing dialogue, a simple tweet from a mainstream media member of the boxing news-world can shape public opinion or be taken at face value by the masses, regardless of factual basis. The main-stream of boxing media contributor often has a disdain for the social media, and online news outfit. And it’s understandable why.

The main stream writer believes the online writer or social media correspondent has not earned the right for their work to be published. “Every asshole with a blog thinks they’re a boxing writer”. That’s a pretty valid opinion when you look at the dearth of unprofessional fans given media credentials under the guise of online media. The main-stream writer has been around much longer than most online writers, and some have been pushed to online publications because of the low numbers of print outlets that cover boxing regularly.

The roster of writers for the BWAA (Boxing Writers Association of America) is a list of who’s who of ringside correspondents and pundits. Names that once held the power of the world’s boxing conversation.

More and more the grip on the direction of the boxing conversation is loosening as the audience for modern social media and website news outlets grow. As the technology generation advances and the use of low cost software to create professional quality media becomes cheaper, audiences will turn to the outlet that provides media that piques its interest.

It’s up to the online news outlets to hold its contributors to a professional standard. Professional is professional no amount of cool, modern, or trendy can replace hard work and good old fashioned professionalism.

2 Comments on Social Media and the Underground Battle between Online and Mainstream Boxing Journalism

  1. Albert, it’s good to know I’m not alone out here in the boxing journalist’s universe. I was a professional broadcast journalist for 15 years, found a little more stable way to make a living running my own PR firm, but never left the business completely. When I had the chance to continue using my skills by writing for a legitimate online news website (the former online edition of the Washington Times newspaper), I went for it.

    Legitimate traditional journalism is unfortunately becoming a part-time job for many people, especially covering a sport that isn’t mainstream anymore. But this is no reason to let standards deteriorate. Columns riddled with writing mistakes and videos full of profanity and fan shout-outs aren’t good reporting. Fans deserve better.

    How sad that I nearly fainted reading references to the Society of Professional Journalists (yes, I’m a dues paying member) and the BWAA in the same column. Both are rare as unicorns. Let’s keep fighting the good fight for quality journalism not beholden to any promoter or publicist, pun intended.

    • Cool and hip doesn’t always mean good. I’m not sure if there’s just a lack of pride in the quality of work, or no sense of achievement to compel these guys to do better.

      Some of these websites or Instagram pages were created to feed fan ego’s and score free seats in the name of a profession that some take serious.

      The real shame is that some promoters, or PR reps actually encourage these guys.

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