Cincinnati Bengals beat writer, Mark Curnutte, after nine seasons, is leaving the beat to do "general assignment/enterprise" stuff "with a concentration on social issues."
I feel intellectually stagnated and burned out by the 24-7 requirements of an NFL beat. I'm worn out by chasing dead air - comments made by Bengals players or a coach on ESPN or a radio station in Los Angeles or Atlanta.
Curnutte generally conveys his experiences, his frustrations, and an "epilogue" in his final, yet personal, piece on the Bengals beat. For as long as I've done this blogging thing, I've referenced my share of his pieces. It was information. Information. I didn't need someone to confirm my own opinion; which is to say a point of view that I don't share with commenters on that site, nor with others unrelated.
Constantly under fire for limiting, if not totally disavowing, opinion, his beat was primarily focused on providing you with information. Injuries. Practices. Game recaps. Interviews. Dorks like us take it from there.
Being able to define the difference between a beat writer, and a columnist, is critical; if anything for one's own sanity. Expecting opinion, rather than fact in all other subject matters, spoils what's written. If there's a political issue, covered by a "beat", that formulates an opinion somewhere on the fifth paragraph, uproar by the opposition is often screamed, and the true context, the stuff that's actually fact, gets grouped with opinion; often disregarded. Fans of either CNN or Fox News easily represents this. Slant, spin, are often descriptions by the opposition. Sports is different. Too many people are relying on the opinion of guys like Curnutte to confirm their own. Trust me, if you rely your opinion on ANYONE else, much less a beat reporter, then the problem isn't a guy like Curnutte.
To a degree, I'm defending Curnutte from the shotgun blasts pointed at him. Why? I've always known what to expect. Facts, information, etc., that helps dorks like me succeed; formulating an opinion based on the relevant information that's presented. Without Curnutte, or the position that exists like Curnutte's, then we're in the dark. Constantly. Guys on the beat discover the information, while guys like Dustin Dow (who we also really like for different reasons) fails to get the answer due to representations of a question that stirs emotions and outbreaks. That doesn't help us, even if we giggle for no reason other than having a non-coach speak world, if only for a day.
Guys like Paul Daugherty exist to fill that need for readers; to formulate an opinion, make others feel better that their opinion is in the majority, and the uphill battle against those that oppose your opinion is few, limited and easy. Yet, ironically enough, when your opinion is in the minority, you're energetic, strong, and aggressive. Paul's done that, walking to the beat of slamming the Bengals front office (all of which expected, and appreciated). Often times, you might not like his opinion, but that's not the point. It's his job to provide one.
If Curnutte did the same thing, I'd read him less. At some point, I just want to be informed. Not reacting to what I'm reading; I never learn that way because I'm too busy countering the biased slant. Same thing applies to Hobson. Though, ironically (if not hypocritically), I've admitted several times that Chick Ludwig is my favorite; successfully walking the line between beat, and a blog solely representing opinion.
Think of it like this. Blogs gained momentum and popularity based on one thing. Blogs were the alternative to the mainstream media. Many people started acknowledging that the "opinion" represented by the mainstream media, shoved down our throats, became too suffocating. Why? Because opinion was thought to skew the facts way too much. We questioned it. Some claim a devious undertone worldwide conspiracy. Others are simply looking for alternatives, a new medium. Blogs exploded, talk radio dominated. Not because the information was there, rather it was darkened with a slant, and we all knew that the slant was there. It made us angry. Based on whatever view you hold, the alternatives were growing. Are still growing. And will grow furthermore.
In the end, with a beat writer, I just want facts. I have my own opinion and have saturated these very pages with it for three years, and the three years before that at BengalsZone. And the five years before that on my old site with my name. I highly appreciate different opinion, for the love of the debate, with the acknowledgment that I really don't know everything. Keeping balance is critical, being open minded is everything. And I've shifted my opinion based on what you guys have said on the comments before. There's no reason to expect it won't happen again. Growth depends on it.
My only point is this: there is a difference between a beat writer and a columnist, if such discrepancies remain difficult to separate. The beat writers are there to inform; the very foundation of journalism. I've never taken to it myself, because I like spreading my opinion like some spoiled brat. But it's not about me. Never is, nor was. It's about the topic. The information, dissected and opinioned upon. We don't complain about what's written; rather categorize it, absorb it, and reflect it. The beat writer is done, information presented. Opinion follows; not from the original writer, rather columnists and blogs, or simply in the form of bar room banter.
In our case, it's about the Bengals. We slam the Bengals when they play poorly. We praise them when they fulfill our most basic expectation: a win on Sunday. We're critical of the front office for failures that we feel restrict the overall product. Opinion is our job -- as fans. We exist because of it. We're alternatives, we're unique. Any relative blog that exists, never exists without the information. Otherwise, we'd sound like trivial and petty blabbermouths that are simply uninformed. Readers typically see that. Read less. Move on to something else. Find the alternative. We're not here to inform you; that's where the beat comes in. We're here to react, if not stimulate you, and ourselves. We're here to paint a picture of the information, why it's good, bad, or really bad.
While I won't rank him amongst the best or worse beat writers in the history of newspapers, Mark Curnutte did serve a basic need. He provided information, passed that onto you, so then you could formulate an opinion. If you needed an opinion, then seek the alternative. Seek Daugherty, a blog, a discussion forum, or better yet, formulate it yourself. After all, it's always about growth. It's always about the information.