Recently Pokerati Dan posted the following on Twitter:
@Pokerati: the (temporary) lack of inspiration and passion in poker media’s coverage of late (guilty) makes me giggle.
His Tweet struck me because I have long been on the verge of writing something about my disappointment every year with the WSOP coverage.
Once a year every poker website and/or blog sends an army of journalists to Las Vegas to cover the biggest event in poker. And every year the vast majority of reporting is mediocre at best.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m friends with a lot of these writers (or was before I wrote this post) and I really don’t blame them. I blame the way the system is set up. It’s a meat grinder that chews people up for six weeks and drains them of all their creative juices.
First off, the people footing the bill for all this want something in return. Writers are forced to crank out X number of articles a day to prove their worth whether or not there is anything meaningful to report or not. So sites that might have been posting 2 or 3 articles a day before the WSOP are suddenly cranking out 15 or more posts a day covering some $3000 buy-in event that nobody really cares about. I’m sure the guys going deep care but most of us don’t need several updates a day on an event especially when every other site out there is also posting multiple updates a day. A good dinner break and end of day summary is fine unless there’s actually something newsworthy.
If you really want to go hog wild then provide a feed of how people finish in the tournament but don’t make that part of the reporting. If you’ve got a friend who’s deep in a tournament and you want that info then watch the live updates feed. There’s no reason to try and write a story every 10 minutes and post it on your regular feed. It’s too much noise.
It’s sort of the 24 hour news network effect. You have to fill the space. So every rumor, every bathroom break, every inside joke is reported on as if it has the same journalistic weight as discovering that Mars has condo colonies and little green men walking around.
Even ESPN has caught on to this and has radically scaled down coverage of the smaller events to feature the invitational, the Ante Up For Africa charity event, and the Main Event. Viewers simply wanted to see more Main Event so ESPN is giving it to them.
Second, you take all these writers and you throw them into 12 – 14 hour day grinds for 6 weeks and by the time the Main Event rolls around most of them have exhausted any sort of creativity or inspiration they might have had. Sure they wrote eloquently about the $1500 Go Fish One Eyed Jacks Are Wild Event #3 but go read their Twits by the Main Event and most of them are moaning and groaning about how they wish it would all be over and they could go home.
Here’s a quote from my good friend and poker journalist F-Train:
The last few days of the Main Event all I could think was, “Three more days of this nonsense.” “Two more days til it’s over.” And it has literally taken me a week to feel some semblance of normal again.
Here’s a suggestion – I have no journalistic background other than this blog so it may be FOS, but bear with me – why not save your best tournament reporters for the big events and send the junior writers to cover all the smaller events? Or better yet, have your best writers direct a small group of junior people who spend all day sitting on the rails doing chip counts and such and they feed all of that information back to a senior writer who compiles it all up and puts together one or two really solid pieces every day?
Third, a lot of what passes as journalism is simply PR. Along with all the major news sites every poker room that sends players to the WSOP also sends down their team of bloggers who narrowly focus on how players from their site are doing in each event.
To be fair, they do a decent job of covering the entire event but there is a distinct focus on specific players who are either affiliated with the site and/or qualified via that site. That’s nice and all but after awhile it starts to read a bit like propaganda. The tournament coverage and the writing about how the site’s players are doing seem like they should be completely separate things. Mixing the two just cheapens the reporting.
And it’s not what they write it’s also what they don’t write. Big name players being sponsored by other poker rooms get downplayed compared to their players. In the end, it’s simply not reporting. It’s PR.
So now that we have a year to think about how next year’s WSOP will be covered I hope that any poker writers who are still my friends after this post will figure out a better way to report. Maybe they take my suggestion on how to distribute the workload or perhaps they create different feeds so people can tune into summaries rather than a constant stream of updates. Whatever it is there is room for improvement and it only benefits everyone if coverage becomes better suited for the readers.
Photo cred to eliazar