It’s been decades since Buffalo was more than just a “one horse town” regarding sports journalism. Frankly, it was a very dark day in WNY when the Courier-Express closed up shop in 1982. I remember how we all mourned the loss of competing opinions and analysis. I also lost a precious source of comfort from the homeland after moving to Albuquerque earlier that same year.
Throughout the ensuing decades the only way to get my Bills and Sabres fix was through SHOUT! magazine and the Buffalo News. I remember reading and re-reading articles by Larry Felser trying to glean anything I could from his poignant observations. I miss him to this day.
Buffalo is not unique regarding the creative destruction happening in the newspaper industry today. How we source our news/sports today is rapidly morphing as bloggers (cough, cough) abound and social media exploded on the scene. Fans can and players can directly interact with one another in a direct medium of communication (Facebook, but especially Twitter).
We don’t even know what the sports journalism landscape will look like five years from now. Virtual and augmented reality may change how we physically watch live sports in the near future, let alone how journalists will cover the topics of the day. It’s a glorious time to be a sports fan. No matter where you live, you can find anything you want to know about your favorite sports teams, 24/7.
Consequently, no one should have been too surprised by the recent shake-up at the Buffalo News when several long-time esteemed professional journalists left for greener pastures in an apparent downsizing move. Like many in the FAMbase, I was horrified by the drip, drip, drip loss of one journalist after another whose writing I’ve both cursed and cherished for decades.
Many of you who’ve read my blather over the years know how much I value Jerry Sullivan’s role as WNY’s community curmudgeon. Rigorous skeptics are in short supply, so instead of being constantly trolled on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve been clear about how important it is for us to read things that don’t necessarily please us all the time. My path to get to that realization took awhile and sometimes you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone.
So when another fine journalist, Matthew Fairburn, announced he was moving on from NewYorkUpstate.com last week, it was another blow to my morning coffee reading routine. Thankfully, before hurling myself off a nearby buffalo jump up the road, tweets appeared from BillsMafia members guessing they would be hired by The Athletic, who were expanding their coverage to Buffalo.
Low and behold, it happened.
Now our BillsMafia family is blessed to once again have a diversity of opinion coming from more than one source of sports journalism. Mind you, there are other sports journalists for other outlets in Buffalo, but the Buffalo News was the main gig in town. John Wawrow of the Associated Press was the lone voice from another source for many years, and we are blessed to be “stuck with him”.
Given all the changes happening in the Buffalo sports media market of late, I'm saddened to announce:
You folks are still stuck with me.
— John Wawrow (@john_wawrow) June 13, 2018
In fact, I’m up for “Crooked” Mike Rodak of ESPN to step up to the plate and accept his inevitable role as WNY community curmudgeon. Mr. Sullivan’s shoes will be hard to replace, but Mr. Rodak is certainly a current frontrunner to take over this important role.
I’ve never been shy about my admiration for professional journalists, especially over the last ten years. I could only dream of being a storyteller who impacts so many lives like Tim Graham does on a regular basis. Sadly, my ability to be a creative writer after decades of being constricted by the technical writing requirements in oncology research caused whatever skill I might have had to completely atrophy at this point.
The bottom line to the big changes we’re seeing is creative destruction of any profession is tough business. It comes hard and fast and without sentimentality. It happened in the profession of nursing many years ago, so I have some personal awareness of how unsettling it can be to have your profession completely upended by outside forces.
However, the bottom line in this case is clear. The biggest winner in the revolution of sports media is clearly BillsMafia in this case. Whether you like or agree with any given journalist is less relevant to the overall benefit of having two major sports media outlets competing for your attention. Competition brings out the best in everyone, and we are all about to find out how great journalism is enhanced by it.
Editor’s babble: What perfect timing for @TheAthleticBUF to bring WNY sports media to the next level. The Bills and Sabres are on the rise and we have the best in the business covering our favorite teams from different sources. This doesn’t have to be about Buffalo News v AthleticBUF, it can be about celebrating even more diversity of opinion. It’s a glorious time to be a fan of WNY sports. If you can stand the drippiness, you can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.