Dave Meltzer on an episode of Live Audio Wrestling Sunday promised he would break a huge story about WWE. Say what you want about the man, but he knows how to sell a product. It’s too bad that the big news was that a Federal Election Commission complaint was filed against WWE in Connecticut, something that probably was reported for the cost of a newspaper in that state or even gotten for free (or technically, for the price of the bandwidth and Internet subscription service used for looking it up online, still negligible) online. Yet, Meltzer charges money for news behind his paywall, or at the very best, makes you wade through a block of text advertisements for his paysite or newsletter before getting to the meat in his daily updates on the site.
Yet, what is worthy about the news that he, Mike Johnson, Dave Scherer, Wade Keller and everyone else who runs a dirtsheet sell to the paying customer? It’s nothing special for the most part, at least from the news side of things. A lot of what is reported is backstage gossip about who’s getting pushed, who’s debuting and who’s in the doghouse.
Granted, some of these mavens have other redeeming qualities. Meltzer himself has a lot of worth within the wrestling journalism community not because he reports wrestling news with any amount of quality, but because his analytic skills are top notch, because he writes really thorough obituaries and because he’s more of a MMA journalist than he is wrestling journalist anymore. That being said, if they’re billing themselves as wrestling journalists, then shouldn’t they be reporting news and not rumors, speculation or hearsay from an employee who is a sting operation away from losing his or her job?
This wouldn’t be an issue if the paywall was there to act as an insider-type gate like ESPN has. ESPN, for all its faults, is a model for sports journalism online, and even though I’ve contended for the two or three years that wrestling is so not a sport, these people continue to act as if it is. So why not ape ESPN’s model? That would mean the real news is free, and I’m not talking about “WHAT WWE SUPERSTAR IS IN THE DOGHOUSE?” or “EVAN BOURNE IS IN LAS VEGAS LOOKING TO SCORE UFC TICKETS GUYS!” (which is something that Bryan Alvarez, Meltzer’s co-conspirator and perhaps the worst of the major dirtsheet writers in terms of point of view and writing ability) either.
They should provide the news that’s available, like who flunked Wellness tests and why, signings, injuries and goings on of things that actually happen, not spoiler reporting (which is all their main news stuff is anyway, an attempt at posting spoilers for events that haven’t taken place yet). Their paywalls can be a gateway to their insider section where they post all the rumors they have labeled as rumors, not as news (which is journalistic dishonesty at its finest). Then, they complement all of that with actual, real commentary about all facets of the industry, not just guys like Alvarez ranting about how everything WWE or TNA is doing will amount to NO BUYS!
Of course, why should these men, who have been doing this forever and a day, listen to me, some ass writing for a blog on the Internet? Well, they don’t have to. I really don’t care how they run their business models per se, even if I have criticisms. What I do care about is how they dominate the conversation all the time, like their news and their analysis is the only thing. They lord over the dialogue, and yet people who might fill that gap where actual, mainstream sports-style journalism would be (or more accurately, entertainment writing as in the vein of movie or TV criticism) are marginalized to the “blogging level”, being told that we don’t understand how the business works. The best is when people who write the sheets or who blindly defend them call people like me “marks” as if they’re part of the wrestler fraternity, when a lot of times, wrestlers despise them the most. But I digress.
This point of view has made me out to be some kind of hater amongst some of the faithful. I’ve been accused of being “jealous of people who are behind the paywall” and wanting to “smear” dirtsheet writers with “scraps”. Well, actually, I have been behind the paywall before. I had a subscription to the Observer newsletter for a couple of months, and everything I criticize it for is something that I’ve seen myself. Again, they can have their world and charge their customers for BS rumors passed off as news. What people do with their money is of no concern to me.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.
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