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matt ogborn, @mattogborn, the sport collective, @sportcollective, #spurnthechurn, long-form journalism, churnalism Matt Ogborn @mattogborn

I’ve had enough of churnalism and I sincerely hope you have too.

Of getting short changed by newspapers, magazines and websites who bow down to computer algorhythms instead of the fierce beating heart of a story. Who pride their bottom line ahead of eliciting genuine human emotion for the power of good or change. Who treat curiosity and intellect like a plague on their very souls.

It is time to stand up people. I have never been afraid to face the world and be counted on anything in life, but something like this needs your help as well. It needs your passion. It needs your desire to be treated like someone whose opinion counts.

I have been a journalist for 16 years now and I have never seen it this bad. Scores of talented colleagues, who got into journalism for all the right reasons, are being treated like cerebral criminals - asked to produce risible copy that wouldn’t have seen the light of day when I first started out.

Tied down to desks Monday to Friday when they should be out and about working every conceivable angle on a story for their readers. How can you make a difference, you may ask?

Stop reading crap that is lifted wholesale from press releases or produced on the whim of a trending Internet keyword or crude celebrity. Seek out stories that move you like a brilliant book, thought provoking film, controversial play or sublime piece of music.

In short, let the powers that be know that the nation will not be dumbed down so they can dine in the best restaurants, stay in the most exclusive hotels or hoover up holiday homes without a second thought for the very people that got them there in the first place.

This isn’t just confined to these fair isles, it is sweeping the world second by second. When do we say, “Enough is enough”?

Sports journalism, my life blood over the years, is currently infested with this malevolent virus. Not only does the quality drop, the heads do too.

It’s not enough that ex-sportsmen and women are welcomed into the fold like long lost siblings, irrespective of the veracity of their opinions, us long-time journalists then have to sit through interminable, sycophantic hot air from cardboard cutout presenters whose smug demeanour merely emphasises the perilous state we currently put up with.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some presenters, along with ex-sportsmen and women, who elevate themselves above the parlous norm with charm, wit and insight, nevertheless they are in the minority.

Why should the others take a long, hard look in the mirror, while the gravy train rumbles along at a deafening pace? Because it is doing the public a grave disservice, that’s why.

Rank and file journalists who put up with mediocre pay and long hours, yet retain an incredible passion for the things they choose to cover, are left on the sidelines. All they want to do is hold that mirror up to society, so the common person can make sense of the world around them. Is that really too much to ask?

I sense a backlash against the fascination for the horrifically manipulative machinations of the showbiz world or banal PR smothered back slapping of the sporting arena, however I truly do not want it to be a passing phase. I want people to seek out publications and websites that challenge the status quo, that treat YOU the audience with the respect it deserves. They are out there, you just need to look a little longer and deeper.

Blogging may have given rise to a litany of forgettable pieces in the early days, but it has also allowed a new generation of forward thinking writers the chance to air their cherished views outside of the mainstream media. Whenever I get disheartened these days, I come across a rewarding blog piece that reflects the passion and hope which seized hold of me during the mid 90s and thankfully still survives to this day against the odds.

This is where the revolution is happening, out there in cyberspace where the power of social media and a trusted circle of friends can harness a calvacade of emotions through the vessel of a well-written, thoroughly researched story.

God knows how, but there are newspapers and magazines on the shelves too that continue to fly in the face of moral corporate malfeasance. I cannot do without my dose of Boxing Monthly every four weeks, the honesty, insight and humour laced throughout the equal of anything out there in any sphere.

I read The Guardian cover to cover every Monday and Saturday to boot, their views often tallying with mine. Even when they don’t, I have been given food for thought on why they think differently and take it on board for future reference.

I make a point of seeking out absorbing long-form journalism @longreads on Twitter, the breadth and ambition of the highlighted articles leaving me breathless with envy and excitement. These are just a few examples of the true heroes out there, the people that refuse to be talked down to.

Before I sign off, I must remind you that it is you, and only you, that can turn the tide. You pay good money to hear what we, the journalists, have to say so the ball is in your court. I hope with all my heart that you choose the road to redemption otherwise the faceless executive feathers their nest further to the detriment of the greater good.

In a time when people power can make a difference, look within yourself to tip the scales back in your favour.

Matt is a freelance writer for ITV.com, SLAMonline and ABTA Golf magazine. Check out his Ogmosis blog

7 Responses to “Comment: Spurn the churn”

  1. kevin mitchell April 7, 2011

    We need more of this. Good luck

  2. Matt,

    Interesting stuff. I think too many publications both newspapers and magazines are being run by accountants.

    So long as the pages are filled, the quality of what fills them is unimportant.

    Good luck with your venture.


  3. Good idea and good luck with keeping the site going.

  4. Glyn Leach May 2, 2011

    Thanks for the kind words within such a worthy and accurate summation of what IS happening Matt. Good luck with the venture, anything I can do to help please feel free to ask.

    (I particularly appreciate the bit about avoiding a 9-5 desk and unswervingly support your stance!)

  5. Peter Deville June 28, 2011

    Agree with the general crux. Too many people are wasting years of training and experience to become ‘cut and paste monkeys’.

  6. Will Black August 19, 2011

    Nice idea, honourable even, except you’ve kind of contradicted yourselves in your attacks on SEO-driven articles by including so many tags on your web pages. The fact that you all include your websites, email addresses and twitter ids displays an over-whelming desire to have people follow you and read your stuff… You don’t like “churnalism” but your happy to use the same computer algorhythms in order to reach a wider audience. A tad hypocritical, no?

  7. mattogborn August 20, 2011

    Thanks for writing in, Will, however I think you have missed the point. We write our articles first with no SEO input whatsoever, then tag up after so people can find our features easier. Big difference between that and the SEO-dictated online pieces that look to hoover up hits with little or no editorial thought behind them. If we didn’t include our websites, emails and Twitter IDs, we would have to rely on word of mouth alone with no marketing budget to spread the word outside of online. Words like yours make me even more determined to treat sports fans with respect and help a new generation of talented young writers get exposure.


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