Thursday, June 24, 2010

So Now, Who Is the Expert?

The Big Sports Story
I have a voracious appetite of for online sports commentary, analysis, and rumors. Recently, whether Michigan State's basketball coach, Tom Izzo, would bolt to coach in the pros was the big story around her. At the news conference where he announced his decision to stay in East Lansing, the university president, A.D. and Coach Izzo all criticized "the media" for its role in hyping the story and running off half-cocked with unfounded rumors during the nine day "Will he or won't he?" drama.

The Old Guard
In response to these cliched jabs at the media, our resident dean of sports writing, Mitch Albom, metaphorically cleared his throat with a large harumph! and took the university to task for its criticism of those in his trade:

Look. An institute of higher learning already should know there is no such thing as a single "media" anymore. You cannot put credible newspapers or television stations in the same sentence as tweeters. You cannot lump legit Internet posts with a blog that begins in some guy's basement.

How ironic. If Albom was not so busy with his "entertainment plus news, traffic, sports and weather" radio show , book signings, etc. he might have noticed that his former sports writing buddies (as well as sportscasters) are hustling to become that blogging and tweeting guy in the basement.

What makes Albom an "expert" whose opinion on the Izzo decision has more value than others? He's a talented writer to be sure, but there is little evidence that he follows sports very closely with all his other lucrative distractions. While others lack the same talent for turning a phrase they have not lost their passion for sports. I'm more interested n their opinions. In this 24/7 news age, no voice should get preference simply because of an appointed position based on past journalistic accomplishments.

A Strained Analogy
What makes for expertise these days? I think about this question a good deal. I encourage my students to venture outside the box for their research, seeking untraditional sources of "expertise" for their CBL projects. My whole concept of M-Hub is premised about the importance of learning how to do this for future careers. Through my own initiative and my personal learning network, I have developed areas of "expertise" in educational technology. I actually have thirty hours of post-masters university work in a degree program in this domain. But the university credits toward a degree-- certainly the traditional way of measuring expertise -- are absolutely worthless compared to what I have learned independently.

So, yes Mitch, you write your column from a traditional perch under the Free Press banner (For all I know, you pounded out the words in your basement). But I no longer recognize your expertise on the day-to-day of sports. And since you don't deign to blog or tweet, I don't really follow you very closely. Perhaps your reputation is secure with all those folks who read ink on paper and see you photo above the fold. Good luck with all that.

Mitch developing his sports expertise at a Seven People You Meet in Heaven book signing. Flickr CC photo by [James]


Anonymous said...

There is one area where Albom is indeed an expert....... His own over inflated sense of self worth.

Chris Eldred said...

Is it correct to say that expertise is gained through experiences such as schooling or working in a given industry? You are developing expertise in CBL, if you aren't already an expert. However, isn't the line where other people assign expertise, or rather authority, right? I might consider you an expert in CBL, but would others?

I would accept that Albom is and expert in sports reporting, but his authority, as with the rest of print media is declining.

How we assign authority in todays minute by minute news cycle is important. If a blogger or twitter user (tweeter?) has a large readership or following, does that make the person an authority? (or expert?) Can an individual gain authority with a large audience without first gaining expertise?

How would you feel if Albom had a blog or used twitter? Would you except his expertise (and/or authority) then?

I'm just trying to wrap my head around this. Is expertise earned and authority assigned? If this is the case then aren't you really talking about Albom's authority on the new media journalism?

Larry Baker said...

Thanks for your questions and comments, Chris. I was guilty of blurring some points, and you have helped me to sharpen my thinking.

* A professor of education and I both might have authority in CBL. If you wanted to know its basis in educational philosophy you might best seek her out. But we should not automatically confer expertise on her because her cultural rank or degree. I think I might very well have more expertise on the dynamics of CBL in the classroom based on my experience (not on 30 graduate hours in ed tech).

*In the same way, a published author, a museum curator, and a hobbyist/blogger might be authorities on the Civil War. My blog post nudges the reader to question any automatic authority conferred on the first two over the third.

*I do not recognize Albom's expertise in sports as superior. His focus on becoming a popular author and radio personality puts him behind many lesser lights.

*When Mitch scolded MSU for criticizing "the media", I agreed with the gist of his point, but ironically he stereotyped new media (guy in the basement) and that really annoyed me. Ironically, I remeber when a Free Press reporter complained to me many years ago that Albom did not show up at the downtown office to write his column.

P.S. Readers should check out Chris's blog post on Evernote

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