Embracing The IndyCar Blogger Moniker

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All the way back in February, we learned that John Oreovicz was being unceremoniously dumped by ESPN.com through no fault of his own. Most of you know that Oreovicz did an excellent job as their motorsports writer for more than a decade, especially in his coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, he was one of the earliest victims of the bloodbath at ESPN this past spring that saw them cut loose many familiar faces and voices that we had grown to know over the years.

But this isn’t about ESPN. Earlier this week, Oreovicz put up the following post on Facebook about his placeholder in the Media Center at Toronto last week.

Oreo

It got a lot of play. Comments varied from telling him he is doing the right thing by working for himself and things will turn around, to the varied reactions to the word “blogger”. Most agreed the word was not a flattering label. Oreo himself said on there that “…the word resonates badly with professional journalists”. My good friend, Paul Dalbey of More Front Wing, chimed in by saying that he always hated the term and did all he could to avoid it.

I certainly understand John Oreovicz not liking the term “blogger”, and I get it when he says how it is a dirty word among professional journalists. In his eyes, he has taken a demotion and he perceives himself as a few rungs down the ladder from where he was last season. The thing is, he’s doing what he needs to do until he is picked up by a site that will pay him.

Paul Dalbey and I usually completely agree on most things, but on this issue we differ. I’ve never shied away from the blogger moniker. What else am I? I’m certainly not a journalist. I know the word “blog” comes from the phrase web log and somewhere along the line was shortened to blog. It’s not a very pretty sounding name. It’s right up there with eggnog and yogurt. But it’s easier to say than “an article or website run by a total amateur” which is what it is.

Journalists went to college and majored in journalism. Not only do they learn how to properly structure a sentence, they are taught what they should and should not put in print. They are taught news-sourcing and interviewing skills. I know none of these things. That’s why I rarely do interviews and I’m certainly not a news source. I also choose not to go the route that some bloggers have done, which is to simply cut and paste generic press releases sent from IndyCar. Instead, I simply give my opinion. Some agree with it and some don’t, but for better or worse, it’s always my opinion.

Journalists are also paid for their craft. If your IndyCar writing is not putting your food on the table or paying your mortgage, then you’re not a real journalist. I am not a journalist and don’t pretend to be one. It used to be that one could build a nice career in motorsports journalism. With layoffs at major websites and the impending death of newspapers in major markets, a lucrative career in motorsports journalism is going the way of the land-line telephone.

The icon of sports print media, Sports Illustrated, just announced major changes in their format and approach. They are actually contemplating going to a bi-weekly publication focusing more on features and less news. When I subscribed to SI in the eighties, I knew the scores of games but I relied on SI to tell me what happened and how it played out. Their writing was good and the photography was excellent. But times have changed. How many people want to wait until Thursday to find out what happened in a football game the previous Saturday? In these times, not many.

Availability of information is not the only thing that has changed, so have reading habits. Quite honestly, my articles are way too long by today’s standards. Most people today don’t have the attention span for some of my posts. The article I wrote for Wednesday on the future of Helio Castroneves was 2,048 words. While that one was even a little long for me, the standard on most websites for an article today is about 600 words.

My question is, why have bloggers been given such a bad name? Well, I can partially answer my own question. Many overstep their bounds. In his comments on Oreo’s Facebook post, Paul Dalbey went on to say that “…most of the fly-by-night sites that made it so bad have exited as quickly as they came”. That part I completely agree with.

There are some good IndyCar bloggers out there. Some started several years ago, while others have come on board recently. I’ve always said my site is best compared to Mark Wilkinson’s New Track Record. He and I think alike and he writes much better than I do. Plus, his site is pretty straight forward and doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles – just like this one. One of the newer sites you should check out is Mike Silver’s The First Fifty races Are The Hardest – alluding to last year being Mike’s fiftieth Indianapolis 500. Jeff Iannucci has resurfaced in a quieter fashion with One Lap Down and you should also check out Matt Archuleta’s Through the Turbulence. For another female perspective other than my wife Susan’s, check out I Kissed the Bricks. I have all of these and others listed to the right on my Blogroll.

But for every well-meaning IndyCar blogger that does this out of the love of the sport, there is one that does it just to yuck it up with drivers and try to copy the humor of former blogger Roy Hobson or our friend Pressdog. It usually falls short. Then there are those that plagiarize ideas and re-word them. They are the ones that flame out after a few months.

But one of the biggest transgressions in my opinion is for a blogger to not know their place, whether it’s in the Media Center, the garage area, the pits or victory lane. I would never think of elbowing a Marshall Pruett to try and get a better view of the podium after a race. I’ve seen some bloggers that have been granted pit access completely abuse it by going up to a pit box and asking questions of someone like Mike Hull during practice, as if they were Jon Beekhuis. It makes me embarrassed for them and concerns me that they may ruin access for all bloggers.

It’s also embarrassing to see a blogger go try to pal around with Robin Miller in the Media Center. I’ve had media access since 2010 and I don’t think I’ve ever said a word to Robin Miller. Over the years, many media types have been kind enough to come up and introduce themselves to me. From that point on, I figure it’s open-season to chat with them. But Robin Miller and many others seem to have no time for bloggers and that’s fine. I get it.

Quite honestly, if I were a Robin Miller, John Oreovicz or Curt Cavin when he was still writing for the Indy Star, I’m not sure I would be too receptive to bloggers either. We get the same rights and privileges that the real journalists get, yet we are not in their profession. I have a full-time job that has nothing to do with racing or writing. This is my hobby, but I have the same access as those that have done this for a living for decades. Is that really fair? If I were in their shoes, I would say no.

Then there is the fact that some bloggers actually do a good job and are churning out some decent stuff for free and cutting into their livelihood. I can certainly understand some resentment from the longtime members of the press coming into play with regards to these upstart interlopers that are taking over their world.

So to see some of my fellow bloggers try to act like they’re in “The Club” is a little embarrassing. Fortunately, they are the ones that Paul was referring to and almost all of them have gone by the wayside. When I started this site in 2009, there were countless IndyCar blogs out there. They are almost all gone – some regrettably, some mercifully. The ones I miss the most are More Front Wing, Pressdog.com and The Silent Pagoda. I won’t list the ones that I was glad to see go away, but there were a few.

But is blogger a bad word? In my book, no. How else would you differentiate the rank amateurs like me from those that do this for a living and a lot better than most of us could? I enjoy doing this and I feel very fortunate that I’ve built up a loyal following of very knowledgeable readers over the years. This site has led to things I never even dreamed about, but best of all – I’ve made some great friendships over the years that never would have come about had I not started blogging.

So count me as one who sees no shame in being a lowly blogger. It’s led to a lifetime of memories for me, although I’ve not made a dime doing it.

George Phillips

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15 Responses to “Embracing The IndyCar Blogger Moniker”

  1. S0CSeven Says:

    I like all the Indycar bloggers, but maybe you should update your ‘Blogroll’ . Some of these wonderful people haven’t posted in years.

    • That’s true, but you’d be surprised how many hits per day I still get from “My Name is IRL”. Silent Pagoda still provides laughs through its archives. Many people still like to check out many of them. There are a couple that do need to be purged from there. Every now and then I clean it up, but many of the relics will stay so long as their link is still good. – GP

  2. Thanks for the mention, George. I do my blog just for fun and have enjoyed the interactions with other race fans that have come from it.

  3. I never give it a thought. I get a lot of info and discovery of what is going on in the series and the previous race, drivers and teams. I find, as well, that the comments section can deliver that same information. Also, because many bloggers now have access to the media events where I am also getting the news, race setups, etc. I plan on incorporating John’s blog into my consumption of IndyCar news.

  4. Ron Ford Says:

    I am one who does not like the word “blog”, so in my mind I think of George’s work product as a column. I do not have the time or interest in reading stuff by other racing bloggers or bloggerettes. I even skip this column when George dabbles with Dalbey. I greatly appreciate the time and effort that Geoge puts into this column. I am happy that he has acquired enough of a reputation in racing circles to get some perks such as media center access and possibly a free classic tenderloin each May. Thank you George for whatever this is.

  5. Excellent discussion. Having been a “blogger” since 2003, I find it a convenient way to connect with other people who share my interests. I also use it as a log to catalog experiences and memories.
    When I write professionally, for pay, I am required to use certain style formats and refer to people using the parameters laid out by the Institution that is paying for the piece.
    Blogging is free writing, where I am unbound from the Chicago manual of style and allowed the freedom to express my opinion. I treasure that opportunity, even if nobody ever reads or responds.
    Write on…

  6. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    I’ve been asked multiple times, as a blogger of no considerable note, why I don’t apply for media access or credentials. The answer, to me, is simple – I’m not a journalist.

    I’m a fan and I’m an amateur blogger. I know my writing well enough to know that it is average at best when compared to the journotype, and my thoughts are ALL opinion/editorial and scarcely journalistic in any way. I don’t shy away from the term “blogger”. It’s an accurate description, albeit associated with those, as George states, who sadly see themselves on equal footing with the true professionals.

    Op/Ed is the frosting on the cake of journalism, for which I don’t bake. How can I justify coming to the ‘media center’, swiping frosting off the top of the cake and walking out? I cannot so I don’t. I’m also close to many currently and formerly employed journalists and editors of those things we used to call newspapers. Until you’ve actually seen or lived what they do, you should never attempt to assume a similar identity or associate yourself.

    Another reason is that I prefer to remain a fan first. As much as the additional access to the already ample opportunities that Indycar provides is enticing, I never felt right about asking for them. If they were ever to deem my work such that they want to offer them to me (which ain’tagonnahappen), I’d likely accept.

    Until such time, I’m happy to remain a fan first and an unpaid blogger with a keyboard and an opinion on most anything, second.

    (for the record, I am married and do not live in my parents’ basement)

  7. I have to agree with DZ. I do not seek credentials, I write my opinions when the spirit moves me. Sometimes during the looong off season I write more but during the season I realize I am not a wordsmith. I leave that to the TDZ’s of the world. I find your dose of reality refreshing George and love this post!

  8. billytheskink Says:

    I would think racing journalists would have some level of appreciation for bloggers who behave respectably in the media environment. They all keep fans engaged in the sport. I would be surprised if Indycar bloggers did not drive more traffic to the journalists than they take away.

    Anyways, if you are worried about the label “blogger”, you could start wearing flannel to races and calling yourself a logger… Is it any wonder why I’ve never tried to follow in the footsteps of The Silent Pagoda and Pressdog?

  9. johnoreovicz Says:

    Thanks for treating my post in a dignified and classy way, George. And for what it’s worth, my blog is not called Indyoreo – it’s johnoreovicz.com, informally known as Oreopolis. I’m working on several side projects, so I haven’t been posting much new content.

  10. Chris Lukens Says:

    Considering the low esteem the public has for “Professional Journalists” these days, I would think being an “Independent Blogger” is actually a step up.

  11. I thank you again, George, for blogging multiple times per week, year after year, for our infotainment. I’m amazed month after month that you have topics to think about and write of. Sometimes a topic is predictable, such as potential Castroneves move. Many Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I wonder what I will read of. Kudos to you for persevering in blogging for not a penny. I know that you do it for your satisfaction and self-expression. But I know it’s also work.
    May I ask how many persons you ‘reach’ — how many IndyCar want to read you after so many mediocre bloggers have stopped?
    ever admiring,
    Brian

  12. Ron Ford Says:

    I’m patiently waiting for you to do a “cold open” on “One Take Only”.

  13. […] Phillips recently wrote a Blog Post and graciously mentioned my sleepy little blog. That was just the kick I needed to get me to […]

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