In a Very Special Episode of the podcast, Ben Crawford and Matt Wisner, the co-founders of the New Generation T&F magazine, came on RYM to get deep into the philosophy and inner workings of track and field media. No subject was left unaddressed, which at times made for a revealing and uncomfortable conversation, but one that will definitely make you think. We also got into high school stories, the Mountain Dew mile, and Matt’s season opener and had a lot of fun along the way.
Ben Crawford is a University of Oregon student and photographer who rose to prominence on the running YouTube scene with his coverage of the Men of Oregon’s summer training and manages a channel with over 40,000 followers.
Matt Wisner is a 1:48 800m runner and 3:42 1500m runner who ran for Duke University before transferring to Oregon for his final year of collegiate eligibility. He was briefly the facility record holder at the renovated Hayward Field when he won his section of the 1500 at the Hayward Opener this past weekend.
How they define ‘new generation’:
BC: There’s definitely a big gap between people who are like ‘social media is bad’ and people who say ‘the sport’s dying.’ Social media is the future; if you brand yourself and are able to showcase your personality you’re able to get more fans and in turn be able to make more money, create more revenue. And obviously, the faster you are on the track the better it’s going to work out for you.
MW: We hear all this talk about ‘pushing the sport forward,’ but to us, pushing the sport forward means both more fans and more engaged fans. What’s going to make people watch a [whole] 5k? If you know the runners in the race, if you have stakes and know their personality and what they’re up to, you won’t take a bathroom break during the 5k.
On the value of running Youtube:
BC: Providing content that’s new, and fresh, and different is valuable. It may appeal to a lot of people or to a small subsection, but the act of doing something different and putting yourself out there is inspiring for people to see and say, ‘If they did that, I can go and do something of my own in the sport.’
On placing controversial figures into context:
MW: We want to cover things journalistically, and if something is noteworthy and interesting, we want to put it in our magazine. You have to hold people accountable for their words, but at the same time we also genuinely want to know what people think. Ultimately, depiction is not endorsement, and people can and do speak for themselves.
On running culture:
MW: There are so many different cultures within ‘the sport,’ and we want to depict all of it. We want to be wary of defining the culture narrowly, but at the same time, the quirky weirdo distance runners are what drew me to the sport in the first place. I was this kid who hated the boys’ soccer team and wanted to go hang out with those weird kids who were boys and girls and, y’know, shaved their legs sometimes.
BC: You want to make [running culture] inviting to have mainstream appeal… you want it to be fun and not too weird or too serious [….] You look at Track and Field News and those other magazines, and it’s very much defined by a dominant culture. People say ‘running is the sport for everyone,’ but you look at what’s portrayed and it’s [narrow.] If you want to change it, one of the first thins you have to do is make it so anyone can look at it and say, ‘that person reminds me of myself and I feel inspired by them.’