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Why I secretly love being part of footy's bad hot-take media

Cats coach Chris Scott talks to the media during a Geelong Cats AFL media session at Simonds Stadium on August 17, 2017 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Expert
19th September, 2017
32
1306 Reads

A week ago, the AFL media landscape was full of quick, nasty reactions to Geelong’s qualifying final loss to Richmond. Some of them were mine.

Chris Scott’s finals record is rubbish! Were Geelong right to give him a contract extension? He got lucky being in the right time and place with the 2011 flag.

If you had your ears open I’ll bet you heard all three sometime last week.

Here we are a week later and we’ve all decided we like Chris Scott again. Playing Patrick Dangerfield forward – bloody risky, but what a brilliant move! The Cats are surely in the premiership race again, almost to the minute exactly seven days after being ruled out of it.

In the pre-internet age, most people spent a relatively small amount of their day consuming news – reading a paper in the morning, watching TV news at night. That’s it.

Now, computers and smartphones bombard us with information almost constantly. It might sound like I’m complaining – I’m not. I wake up and check my alerts, I fall asleep seeing if anyone is up late tweeting anything funny. I know I should read a chapter of my book instead but I’m not good at being an adult.

The point is that the length of time between a news story happening and you hearing about it is becoming shorter and shorter as we spend more and more time connected to technology.

That’s why speed is now a selling point – in the past, we might have picked a particular media outlet for the quality of their coverage, now we’ll probably click on a story from just about anywhere if it’s something we haven’t seen before.

[latest_videos_strip category=”afl” name=”AFL”]

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No part of this sounds that bad so far – quicker generally is better when it comes to getting news, so long as ethics aren’t left behind for the virtue of speed and, while there are definitely some low points out there, most of the time they aren’t.

However, media is no longer just about pure news (as if it ever was!) because if it were, the newspaper would be a tenth its size and TV news might well be called off altogether two or three nights a week.

There’s always been some element of research, analysis and opinion in news coverage – an ideal world would see the boundaries between these clearly delineated so as to rid ourselves of bias, but we don’t live in one.

When news was reported about once a day, there was a decent chunk of time to make sure this was done properly – do some genuine research, come to a reasoned opinion, float it by someone else just to sense-check it. Whether or not it was always done right, there was certainly time to do so.

Frankly, from the perspective of working in the modern media, that sounds outlandish and ridiculous. If breaking news happens while I’m at my desk there’s a one-sentence-long story published within a minute. Within the next 15, I’ll build it out into a full article, more often than not featuring the long and short of my opinion.

As The Roar’s weekend editor, my role probably has more focus on covering live events than anyone else on the team, because the weekend of course is when most sports news happens.

That’s why this Saturday night you’ll find me with my finger on the button, ready to click publish on the first version of a match report for the Richmond versus Greater Western Sydney preliminary final. Don’t worry, it’ll be worth my while – I’ll be watching the site’s analytics light up right after.

During the home-and-away season, it’s the same story with my weekly AFL quick takes. Last year I called them AFL talking points, but I changed the name this year to be more honest – it’s my take, and it’s quick.

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The entire article, sometimes of 2000 words or more, is usually written in about an hour on a Sunday afternoon. I want it to go live the second the round ends and your Sunday evening begins, because it gets as much traffic in the two or three hours before you go to bed as it will all day on Monday.

Opinion is subject to the need for speed just as much as news is, because once you’ve read one pundit saying that Geelong losing to Richmond means Chris Scott is a bad coach, you’re much less likely to click on the next one you see.

Chris Scott Geelong Cats AFL 2017

(Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

The race is on to be the first in with the hottest take. No time for research, no time for sense-checking. If it happened on Monday and you talk about it on Thursday, the world has moved on.

The quality, understandably, takes a hit. The less time you spend genuinely researching and crafting an opinion, the less likely it is to be a good one, and all of us who put forward our view on the game have a storied history of times we were wrong.

Titus O’Reilly said it best – if footy pundits were surgeons, we’d have all been sacked for our horrendously low success rates a long time ago.

Personally, that doesn’t bother me. Of course I get it wrong! If you’re right 52 per cent of the time, you’re wrong 48 per cent of the time… and I’m not even right that often.

I love what an unpredictable game AFL is, and I love it when I predict something wrong, because it means I’ve been surprised again.

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All of us who put our opinion forward on the game professionally could stand to take ourselves a bit less seriously. It really is just a game after all, and you’re losing if you find yourself getting into a ruckus with randos on Twitter. Come on Kane Cornes (and everyone else), you’re better than that.

Fans complain, not unjustly, about the reactive media and rampant hot takes. But it’s just like when hot cross buns go on sale in January – everyone agrees that’s utterly ridiculous, but mate, they wouldn’t bake them if people weren’t buying.

I’m not saying hot takes are good – but I am saying you’re not a bad person for reading them, and I’m not a bad person for writing them. We’re talking about subject matter that is just a bit of fun, and if my point of view turns out to be wildly wrong, the sun will still rise tomorrow. Other topics might be a bit different.

The truth is, there’s nothing I enjoy more than being the first cab off the rank here on The Roar when there’s a big piece of AFL news. Even if it’s my day off, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing to get the story up – it’s a rush, man!

Telling you what’s new, and what I make of it, and if I have the time left in the day jumping in for a bit of banter and debate in the comments section – I can’t get enough of it. I’m just a fan with a keyboard, one lucky enough to make a living talking footy.

Maybe it’s a bit mad, and maybe it’s a bit unhealthy. Maybe I’m more than a bit of both.

But I’ll never tire of it. I hope you never do either.