The world wasn’t always like this. In bygone years, publishers and newspapers and I don’t know, art galleries, were the sole gate keepers of content and what content made it out into the world to be consumed by the public.
That empire has fallen.
Whether you use Lulu, or Smashwords, or Kindle Direct Publishing (note on that one: don’t), or just start up a blog or a website and have at it, no one needs some asshole telling them their work is or isn’t good enough. I, and a lot of people my age, have seen both sides of it, remembering the days of looking up agents and editors and sending out query letters, only to meet with rejection. In writing, it’s somewhat of a joke; there wasn’t just one dickhead that passed on Harry Potter…there were 12. Think about that, twelve people whose sole job it is to figure out what makes for good and marketable writing passed on a series that has sold one book for every 15 people ON EARTH.
At some point as a writer you stop telling yourself “even the greats get rejected” and start telling yourself “these people don’t know what the fuck they’re doing, why should I… 1. trust them and 2. give them a substantial portion of my earnings when I don’t have to?”
Why indeed. Especially when you can get paid more money and sooner if you play your cards right.
With other forms of content creation, that epiphany isn’t even necessary. The line between amateur and professional is really, really faint…if it’s even there at all. With many sports teams opening their doors to bloggers (that meet certain criteria), it’s basically gone. There is, for example, little difference between the newspaper beat writer for a team and the passionate blogger, at least in terms of who is a professional, and who isn’t. They’re somewhat incomparable because they tend to operate under different sets of rules with different goals in mind, but you can’t look at something like this, and tell the writer they aren’t a professional. I didn’t get paid for that, and other fantastic women’s hockey writers aren’t either, but our work is better than everything any of the “professionals” are producing.
I picked that particular example because of the recent actions of Mark Madden who went on a long misogynist rant at ESPN Reporter Britt McHenry for asking the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins to interview star center Sidney Crosby when he comes out of quarantine (he has mumps). Madden was incensed because he mistakenly believed McHenry asked to interview Crosby while he was still in quarantine.
Seriously. This jackass fucked up a key detail and used his misinterpretation of events to wax poetic (lol) on how women are all unprofessional dumb sluts who don’t know shit because they’re women and also shouldn’t show off their bodies because Walter Cronkite never wore a thong. That is part of an actual thing he said.
Of course since Mark Madden is a self-described Professional, which is what he has unequivocally said Britt is not, he and his producer took responsibility for screwing up and apologized.
This is, unfortunately, how these things play out in sports journalism. Women are crucified for the slightest mistake while men can be unrepentant assholes and get things straight up wrong, but never see consequences. Like, you know, the Puck Daddy writer who said “[Play-by’play] is a role, [and] male voice better fills it, for me.”
The disappearing line between professionalism and amateurism is important to note because it means more women now have access to a field that, judging by recent events, sees them as masturbation sleeves and porn troves with an inconvenient brain attached. Unsurprisingly, many women have decided they don’t want to have anything to do with sports journalism.
And it’s not just idiots like Mark Madden whom, from what people told me on Twitter, has been a well known asshole for forever. It’s the Pittsburgh Penguins, who partner with Madden’s radio station and have had precisely dick to say about the situation. Or in that silence, they’ve said this very loudly:
“Hey women writers and reporters, we’re not looking out for you. We don’t have your interests at heart. You’re not safe around us or in our building.”
Although I hold out hope that they’ll do the right thing (or at least a good thing) and ditch their association with Madden and work to repair their relationship with their female fans. My gut tells me they’ll do the former, but won’t see any need to do the latter, and that’s a shame for women who are going to pass on a field or a sport that they’re passionate about, and for the Penguins and other fans who are going to lose out on the thoughts and work of talented people.
Surely we can do better, right?