Tackling the “Old School vs. New School” Debate
by Charles Jay
There has been a fair amount of discussion on this website about “Old School vs. New School” when it comes to the sport of boxing, and it probably deserves to be discussed, with some myths dispelled.
This latest round of debate was fueled by a story posted on this website (http://www.boxinginsider.com/columns/chisora-haye-brawl-the-post-fight-presser-should-have-been-banned/) where the author attributed the post-fight press conference brawl between Dereck Chisora and David Haye, at least in part, to the presence of internet writers who fell outside the boundaries of the so-called “legit press.”
With all due respect, some things need to be said to straighten these things out, and for this I am going to have to write something here from a personal standpoint. The author of this piece has brought up his vast “experience” as a credential. Well, I have experienced this business (boxing, that is) from ALL sides, being involved in the promotion itself, setting up press conferences, doing other nuts and bolts (e.g., matchmaking, booking) that had an impact on the product that was seen in the ring. I have been a writer covering the events, and I have dealt with the writers covering events from the other side.
And I will you first of all that there is nothing greater that has ever happened to boxing, or has more potential to catapult boxing to another level, than the internet. In fact, that potential has yet to be realized. When I was managing fighters and/or doing publicity or promotions, consulting at casinos, or whatever, I WISH there was an outlet like that. If I was running a press event – before or after – I’d have invited anyone with a laptop and a Facebook page or a Twitter account with any decent number of followers to come, record, take pictures, upload them and send them out to whoever they could.
That’s because anybody who can reach people, and expand that reach beyond their own presence, is a media outlet of sorts these days. What used to be strictly the province of word-of-mouth in the past has been surpassed and/or supplanted by something that is viral in nature. So there is nothing “illegitimate” at all about media coming from somewhere that might be outside the terriotry occupied by the traditional sources. To lack understanding of that is to die from irrelevance.
Maybe that is really where this “Old School vs. New School” argument needs to go. Some people have characterized this as a conflict between those who are old and those who are young, or those who are veterans and those who are up-and-comers. That is missing the point to the extent that it corrupts the dialogue.
It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, it matters what your ideas are. If a 29-year-old newspaper writer ripped off a story from a 49-year-old internet columnist, just because he thought that an internet story was not going to get any attention or respect, it is the YOUNGER guy who has the “Old School” mentality. That’s because he didn’t understand the evolution of things. I don’t know how long you’ve been around, but this thing used to happen quite a bit.
And it’s funny – speaking from a personal perspective – because in a recent discussion with the publisher of this website, he said one of the writers had referred to me as “old school,” which is kind of silly. As a boxing writer, I am almost entirely a creature of the internet. In fact, I was one the front lines of this battle between one mindset and another from 2000-2001, when two rather well-known boxing writers essentially swiped stories I had broken, well AFTER they had been broken, I might add. One of them actually called me up, grilled me on how I had come about my story, and published it under his own byline with the word “Exclusive” preceding the title.
I fought back, of course, and what I had on my side that would not have been possible without the new technology was a way of documenting the story’s publication. Not only had it already been published on a website, but there was an email list of boxing people who received the story in their inboxes, along with a posting on boxing newsgroups that had already prompted much discussion.
These guys, as it turned out, were rather ignorant of what the internet could do and who it could reach.
That same situation doesn’t necessarily persist today, although there is a resentment toward the medium on the part of some, because of its “democratic” nature. Previously, they were the gatekeepers of information, and those people had all the power. The news had to go through them, and therefore they had a more exalted position. Today, newspaper columnists and magazine writers who cover boxing have comparatively little power based solely on what they put into print. That is unsettling to some of them, and as a reaction they will continue to denigrate the internet-based writer.
Indeed, the internet is a democratic medium. If you want to be a boxing writer, host a boxing radio show, or do boxing videos, no one is going to refuse you the opportunity. Again, that dynamic is something that threatens the “establishment” of those who call themselves “journalists.” Allow me to make a frank observation here: I happen to be acquainted with just about all of the “establishment” writers, and most of them don’t know all that much. In fact, even though there may be a lot of garbage written on the internet, by virtue of its democratic nature, there is a lot of good stuff too, and I consider the internet writers in general to be more serious about what they do.
Of course, whether you’re young or old, upstart or veteran, internet or print, if you don’t offer substance you don’t offer anything.
That having been said, I don’t want to be unfair about it, so I should mention that when I was running The Sweet Science (another boxing website), I hired a lot of people; among them were plenty of boxing writers from daily newspapers. Some of them were quite ordinary. However some of them really answered the bell, and that is because they appreciated what the internet could do for the quality of their stories, as well as expanding their own geographical reach . They expressed that within the constraints of a newspaper, and often under an editor’s direction, they could only explore a subject to a certain extent, and that with no limits on what they could write about, or how long, internet writing was an experience that “freed” them. Quite a bit of good work came as a result.
It’s one thing to be “old school” (non-capitalized) in terms of personal values or ethics (there’s nothing wrong with that at all), but we’re talking within the context of boxing and the way media sees it and deals with it. So within those parameters I guess one of the conclusions I would come to here is that regardless of your age or level of experience, being “New School” means that you can sense where the world is going and you make an effort to get there as fast as you can. Being “Old School,” on the other hand, might mean that you are trying to ignore it for as long as possible.
That might be the state boxing is in right now. Obviously everyone knows that the internet exists and that they will go there to find the latest news, results, gossip, etc. Promoters do what they can to use internet writers to their advantage, and they may have their own Facebook pages and so on. But they haven’t really harnessed all of this power and energy in a way that it could grow the audience considerably.
I’m not sure if many people who run the sport of boxing as we know it understand the idea that one could publish a piece of content, whether it is in the written word, audio or video, and it could have a life that takes it far beyond the location on which it is originally posted. They don’t understand that social media can not only be a real sales tool, but it can be a media channel in and of itself. They are very slow in going to the next dimension with pay-per-view by expanding it to other platforms. They aren’t doing anything “institutional” in the way of their approach to selling the sport, by which they can offer a product of greater overall value, thus making their own product more valuable. AND they don’t realize that today’s enthusiastic blogger with fifty readers can very conceivably become tomorrow’s mini-mogul with two million, relatively quickly. Relationships are so important in any business, and maybe there needs to be more awareness that through the online (and let’s throw in mobile) world, a relationship with one could transform itself to a relationship with millions.
Perhaps a failure to grasp THAT makes someone “Old School.”
Finally, since we got a little far flung, let me draw a conclusion about the allegations in the story we referred to at the top. Under no circumstances did bloggers – and I don’t care how many there were – incite a brawl at ANY press conference. Most of the people in boxing are complete gentlemen when it comes to any public gathering. What it took to ignite something like this was no more complicated then one fighter (Moron #1) who thought he could gain something by scuffling with another fighter (Moron #2).
Anyone who would reward him for that is officially Moron #3.
If that represents “old school” (non-capitalized) thinking to you, then it’s TFB.