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How Much Access Should Bloggers Have?

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Puck Daddy’s editor, Greg Wyshynski, busted out a gem of a column on the NHL and it’s changing relationship with bloggers (not necessarily for the better). 

I find the discussion interesting, since I write on both sides of the fence – on the one hand, I write for an undeniably MSM outlet in USA Today.  I’ve contributed freelance work to others, such as the Arizona Republic.  And what are we calling The Hockey News?  They’re a mainstream print-and-online magazine that files my work in the blog section but occasionally runs the same pieces in print as columns.

Equal access for all!

On the other, there’s this site, where I sit down, and literally start typing whatever I’m thinking about the NHL (conspiracy! Bias! Kitteeennnnsssss!!). 

The point is, where do we stand on offering different levels of access for different mediums, when really…. how do you qualify anyone these days?  What do you call what I do?  Blournalism?

In many cases, the line is just too blurry.

The biggest grey area of all (and my other home), Puck Daddy, makes no bones about the fact that it’s a blog, but…. it doesn’t really walk or talk like a duck, so….  is it a duck?

It seems to me PD has a higher journalistic standard than a number of established mainstream sources (they cite references via links, they don’t hide their biases which is more honest, they often cover games in person, they run original interviews, and have a high level of access and respect).

Shouldn’t there be some sort of elite qualifying status for bloggers to get full access (if they want it)?  Some sort of case-by-case, team-by-team review process?  Sure, it’s silly to say “blogs aren’t worthy of credentials” (as the well-covered Rangers and Oilers have), but at the same time, I actually would be wary about letting too many guys/gals into the press box or dressing room.

No reason to beat around the bush here, just sayin:  I know the etiquette.  I’ve watched games from press boxes, dealt with reporters, and been in the dressing room a thousand kabillion times.  I’m not going to cause problems, start a confrontation, or embarrass the name of bloggers.

This sort of thing is a bit too intense for my taste.

But I can’t say that a guy who’s never done it before would know how to conduct himself in the proper manner.  I’m sure teams are afraid of a guy taking up space that doesn’t know you shouldn’t ask the guy still punching holes in the wall why he didn’t bury that breakaway. 

And like any job or walk of life, there’s certain etiquette that needs to be followed to be taken seriously.  If we go golfing together for the first time, and you walk through my line, I’ll immediately take you less seriously as a golfer. 

Maybe getting access should take a combination of proving your page views and having a one-on-one meeting with the PR people (like a job interview) to qualify.  It’s tough to lump HockeyBuzz in with Puck Daddy in with Bourne’s Blog in with hockeywhatever.wordpress.com. 

Maybe you make a “no slandering the team” policy and try to sanitize it, the way it happens in other media forms.  Lord knows when I wrote that “nobody goes to Coyotes games because they’ve always sucked” in the Arizona Republic, the ‘Yotes would’ve loved to sanitize me straight out of the building, and probably would’ve preferred the state.  I mean, I’m opposed to sanitized writing, but we need to have criteria laid out so serious bloggers know what to aim for.

Whatever it is they do, I just don’t think a blanket policy would cut it.

******

Hey, you.  Yeah, you.  Go have yourself a nice Thursday.  And while you’re at it, follow me on Twitter.

Comments

40 Responses to “How Much Access Should Bloggers Have?”
  1. Danimal says:

    My fiancee dad grew up Detroit in the 1950′s/60′s. He had an aunt that was buddy buddy with the Lions and Tiger and Red Wings. (side bar: why do North American sports teams have mascots and other cartoonish names when Euro clubs simply role with their city/province name? Who decided that N. American teams needed nicknames?) anywho, said future father-in-law had regular access to all the Detroit teams and could regularly hang out with the players outside or in their locker room. But he said ANYONE could saddle up next to a player and chat them up, whether in/around the locker room or at the bar afterwards. My point being, what are the Rangers afraid of by denying access to people/bloggers who WANT to write/give publicity to their teams? In the end, “journalitists” and “bloggers” are all writers of free publicity.

  2. jtbourne says:

    This is my biggest argument for the Phoenix Coyotes, and why I want new owners and a new regime there (though the current ones have been good to me, I just want a fresh start with them) – basically, there’s a lack of interest/publicity/coverage about your team. I live here. I write for established media outlets. Why not flip me a little cash to have added, interesting (daily) coverage of your team? I’ve already written the proposal – the blog would be called “The Lone Coyote”. I’d kill it. Hell, I’d even polish it all Coyote-like!

  3. AiH says:

    In the proposal did you offer to post photos of coyote pups? You missed a big selling point if you didn’t.

    Google Image “coyote pup”. I dare you.

  4. Kennedy says:

    In the 50′s and 60′s people weren’t going to sell what a player told them to TMZ, or send an email to Deadspin with a cellphone pick of a guy doing shots the night before a playoff game. The concerns are completely different.

    @JTBOURNE – Does the concern here stem mostly from local bloggers? Not a guy like you or puckdaddy or Eklund…but the local – my team is awesome, your team sucks – type blogger (if such a thing exists). As an opposing team I could see wanting to protect my players from answering standard questions vs “Why did you punch my favorite player in the head in the second period? Why are you such a dirty player?” type questions. You can be biased but still be objective. I love the Leafs but I realize they are a bad team.

  5. Nadeau says:

    Eklund is probably the reason why teams don’t want bloggers in the room… I have checked his site on numerous occasions to find that what he “BREAKS” usually isnt true teams probably want to protect there players from even more he said she said crap than already happens

  6. Kennedy says:

    Eklund gets a bad rap. He reports RUMORS. Rumors, by definition, are not necessarily true.

  7. Danimal says:

    Kennedy – good point but would a casual fan who would run to TMZ/Deadspin even recognize a drunken NHLer? Many casual sports fans, and even a good portion of hockey fans would not recognize hockey players in public. Case in point. I’m at a Twins game this summer at Target Field. Derek Boogaard is sitting front row behind home plate drinking some beers with friends. He stands up to go somewhere, guy behind me says “wow, that guy is really tall.” My fiancee and i just shook our heads.

  8. James says:

    Access should be based on the quality of someone’s work and not whom they are employed by, IMO.

    I just would hope that teams wouldn’t make decisions merely based on who they like what they write and who they don’t.

  9. Kennedy says:

    It depends. Have you seen the pictures of Eddie the Eagle partying with those college kids? Stuff gets out that in the past never would have because no one carried cameras around in their pockets.

    Teams want control. Papers will criticize play on the ice but it usually doesn’t go beyond that. I think most media members know exactly what happened between Phaneuf and Iginla, Pronger in Edmonton, Kilger in Toronto, the Flyers partying – but they don’t report it because they are sports writers, not gossip columnists. I think JB had it right – bloggers have to pass the stink test. If the guy shows up to the interview in a Red Wings jersey with the name “Red Wings Suck” on the back, he probably shouldn’t get a Blackhawks media credential.

  10. KForbes says:

    I’ve been a writer with Hockey’s Future since 2002. HF doesn’t consider itself a blog, I guess we call ourselves an online magazine, although I agree with you on the line being blurry and grey.

    To go along with what you say about print/online, a lot of the beat writers in NHL cities now have online blogs that they use for more editorial based comments or quick news. Stuff that might not make it to the paper but for the diehards is still worthwhile.

    I know behind the scenes at HF, there’s definitely been plenty of discussion about if we should be blogging and if so what should it contain. A lot of comes from the fact that most of our content isn’t directly editorial. Sure the Top 20s are opinion based, but we try to anchor that opinion in something tangible (some of the writers are better than others, but in the same breath, those who are good stick around and those who don’t are more often than not not invited back).

    This will be my fourth season with CHL credentials and I also know the etiquette. With that said, I sympathize with media relations personnel who are asked to distinguish who is there to actual do work and who is there to ‘hang out’.

    A few years ago, the media guy here in Halifax asked that ‘you Internet guys’ not come into the pressbox any longer. Not a big deal for me, I was just there to watch the games, get story ideas, post my impressions on the players for use in future articles and so on. With the nature of our content, we don’t do game coverage and I prefer talking to players and coaches on off days. But I did ask a bit further about it. Apparently the GM was a little miffed about a group of guys from another website who for all appearances were just there to hang out and watch the game for free and eat the complimentary subs. The next year, I was told I could sit in the press box again, because I guess it was clear that I was doing work.

    What bothers me a bit is the way bloggers view some of this access as an Ivory Tower of sorts. That by keeping online folks (and I will lump myself in with the bloggers in this case) out of the press box and away from the dressing room is some sort of conspiracy with the mainstream media guys and the media relations guys. They’re binding together to keep the Internet guys out. In my experience, that simply is not the case. It’s more to do with the fact that online is such an unknown medium.

    You can’t tell from a website how someone is going to act when in a media scrum with Patrick Roy. You can’t tell from a website whether the person on the other side of the keyboard is an immature teenager or a professional. You can’t tell from a website if that person has some sort of vendetta or opinion that is going to rear its ugly head and bring embarrassment to the media relations department, the team or so on. Everyone can have a website and without much effort, everyone can have a website that at least ‘looks’ professional and well done.

    I guess it comes down to accountability. With the mainstream media, you know that the person is there on behalf of the paper/radio/TV station and he’s probably got some schooling behind and he probably knows how to behave. You also know that if he steps out of line, he could lose his job, so that’s keeping him honest.

    I know the word accountability is another sticky one with the online guys, because they look at some questionable things that the mainstream media guys might be able to pull off (hell, I’ve read my own words underneath someone else’s byline). But part of that comes from impatience.

    This is the Internet age. We expect everything immediately. That’s true in coverage as much as it is in access. But taking that word accountability and replacing it with trust and that becomes a bit easier.

    If I was talking to a blogger directly about his or her desire for access, I would advise them to work for it. And if they started replying that they’re doing the same amount of work at the mainstream guys, then I would say that they need to do more, and be better. Newspapermen, radio guys and TV cameras are in the dressing room because long ago, they earned it. It’s time for the Internet kids to buck up and earn it if they want it. I can’t do it for them, neither can Greg Wyshynski or Eric McErlain or whoever.

    It appears that the only way online is going to advance is one-by-one, with each outlet, each person proving their own worth. That can’t be that bad, can it?

  11. Neil says:

    I’m inclined to agree with you KForbes, I would imagine that teams feel differently about bloggers than traditional journalists because bloggers usually don’t work for anyone, or at least they don’t value their jobs as much because they probably aren’t getting paid nearly as much and it’s less likely they will get fired and screw up their chances with other papers by being stupid. Teams can deal with papers in a suits/lunch/conferencecall kinda way, not so much with most bloggers. And like KForbes said, journalists working at larger, established media outlets usually have qualifications and experience because they have beaten other people out for the job. However, the landscape is changing, lines are clearly blurring (journalists have blogs, blogs write pieces for papers…) and it seems that it is increasingly necessary to go on a case by case basis.

  12. Dominik says:

    The thing that every MSG-paranoid policy-pusher seems to miss about this is a pretty simple fact, and simple solution: Teams can revoke credentials from anyone. They can make life hard for anyone. If a MSM reporter screws up and crosses the proverbial line in the sand, the team can complain, make their case, maybe he’s removed from the beat, maybe they threaten to freeze him out until his employer responds. They can even revoke his access.

    It takes 15 minutes to check into any applicant’s backgrounds, peruse their links to existing stuff and check their traffic numbers, and decide whether they “merit” access. The reward is, if they’re good, you get more coverage. If they abuse your trust, simply throw them out. But this issue doesn’t seem to be about quality control (though it should be), it seems to be about a desire for content control and/or a lack of desire to adapt to the change that is staring an under-covered league in the face. The unnamed MSG people who said Blueshirt Banter was “in association with” the Fire Sather rally demonstrate that point in the way they’ve completely misrepresented what happened. Worse, they completely missed the point that that rally was covered by MSM writers who the club credentials!

    Like so many bloggers, I always feel odd when I’m categorized in this great nebulous mass of “bloggers, these people with a basement and a free Blogspot site” because writing is a profession (my profession in fact), an art even, for which “blogging” is just one medium (and print is another). There are outright clowns who write in both media, and brilliant geniuses, too. Their content and their traffic make it pretty easy to suss out which is which.

  13. Nathan says:

    KForbes’ post there needs to be copy and pasted on the end of every story regarding this matter from here on out.

  14. KForbes says:

    Thanks guys, I kind of got on a bit of a ramble there, but clearly this is a subject that I’ve put a lot of thought into over the years. The key thing is that despite this topic seemingly being a continuous discussion for the past five years, like Puck Daddy mentions, the NHL’s stance is still quite progressive when compared to other major sports leagues and it’s only going to grow from here. As one of you mentioned, it only helps the league to expand further into the new medium and as the bevy of online media coordinators and new media directors that have been hired by NHL teams in recent years, it’s clear that they are starting to realize that.

    It is, of course, a two way street and I don’t think it’s fair or proper to immediately expect that bloggers will be treated the same as more established media types. This is ignoring any comments about quality of work and simply recognizing that mainstream media has been there longer. We’re still at the forefront of where online media can and will go.

    Anyway, another story and then I’ll stop rambling.
    This spring, two buddies and I went to Toronto to, among other things, see a couple of Leafs games. As I mentioned, I’m from Halifax and my buddies are pretty big Leaf fans, so this was kind of a big deal for us. I had made plans to meet up with James Mirtle after one of the games to have a beer and shoot the shit.
    Now, with the nature of my work here in Halifax, there’s not many times that I get the chance to just ‘be a fan’, admittedly, there aren’t many times I have the desire to either. Part of it has to do with the ‘etiquette’ and a bit of it has to do with my own changing relationship with the sport, now that I’m working with it more as a job. So this trip allowed me the opportunity to let loose a bit.
    So there we were, me and my two buddies, all of us clad in Leafs sweaters (two of which were freshly purchased on the trip), walking into what clearly wasn’t a sports bar, to have a couple of drinks with Mirtle and a handful of other local media guys, all of whom were wearing nice suits.
    To say we stuck out a bit was probably an understatement. It was uncomfortably, a couple jokes were made on our behalf and after a while, we took off.
    But isn’t that a perfect example of that separation between mainstream and online? I think the mainstream guys and the media relations folks both worry that just opening the doors will let a bunch of guys, half drunk, in hockey jerseys into the fray.

    There needs to be standards, but it’s up to both sides to set that up. I don’t think the proper way to go about this is for online guys to simply hold out their hand and say ‘credential please’.

  15. Danimal says:

    to add another layer of detail on the blogger rights question, please see Philly wants to do:

    http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local-beat/Pay-Up-or-Shut-Up-Bloggers-Charged-300-for-Their-Thoughts-101302694.html

  16. Justin O'Neill says:

    Blogging isn’t journalism. That’s just a simple fact. Bloggers report on rumors, provide analysis, speak from areas of expertise about different parts of the game to enlighten less informed fans (like Justin Bourne, Barry Melrose, Eklund, etc.) – journalists do none of these things.

    Straight reporting offers what happened, how it happened, who it happened to and what the professional athletes and their support staff had to say about it following the game. Bloggers occasionally do this, but more often as JB notes above, they aren’t credentialed and don’t have the access to provide this type of information. Usually, reporters like Bob MacKenzie and Darren Dreger, professionals at respected news outlets, break what is only NEWS, not what might happen.

    Bloggers and columnists do similar types of work; the only difference (as far as I’m concerned) is that columnists have years of training and experience as a professional journalists, while bloggers, often, do not. I don’t see much of a difference between the two, and think that one could do the job of the other fairly easily, but columnists are the ones with the contacts to get the quotes and player reactions. Basically, columnists are bloggers with enough experience to be paid by major publications.

    Certain blogs (Puck Daddy) sometimes do journalism, but often mix in opinion, analysis, and lists that journalists wouldn’t touch.

  17. jtbourne says:

    Great comment, thanks Justin.

  18. Dominik says:

    “I don’t think the proper way to go about this is for online guys to simply hold out their hand and say ‘credential please’.”
    @kforbes: But are any online guys actually doing that? At least any who you or a team would even remotely take seriously? I’ve never been interested in credentials myself because of the nature and time investment in what I do, but to me, intuitively, you would always base credentials in this brave new world on the writer and his existing portfolio, and maybe on his affiliation if it’s a network or something (but even then, that’s hairy: some networks include the most unserious of “blogs” next to very sober, analytical ones).

    The old model was just “Is it a publication we know and want coverage from? Then their reporter is allowed.” But obviously that model is steadily being ripped shreds because there just aren’t that many “old media” publications left covering hockey. The new model should be more nuanced than that (which I think helps both the team and the writer). It’s just not that hard to evaluate what a writer is about. And if he’s just “some online guy with his hand out” a team obviously wouldn’t even need to respond. Whereas if it’s someone with a track record — e.g., what should keep Bourne from getting a credential, anywhere? — then the team can simply evaluate him, credential him, and if he burns them they can never credential him again. And tell all their friends the same.

    Sorry for rambling myself, but it always strikes me that arguing paper vs. online is like arguing about the gloss on the paper a book is printed on. Make this about the writer, and it’s a lot clearer problem to address.

  19. KForbes says:

    I guess where I was going with that is that I believe it is counter-productive (and might even hurt the effort) for bloggers or any online media to start to the sniping game, where they’re comparing their work to mainstream and their access to mainstream. It’s not an even playing ground at this point. Is that fair? Of course not. But that is the way things are and unleashing the Internet hordes to fight those battles will win no friends.

    Do you think the Oilers opinion of bloggers improved after a deluge of anonymous people from the online world emailed them and ripped them to shreds on message boards and blogs after the whole CoveredinOil fiasco?
    Do you think the writers at the Toronto Sun are more or less considerate of PPP after the same thing happened with that stuff about a translation?

    I understand the reasons why these things occurred. I get why the wounded party (the bloggers) opted to air all this stuff in the open for their audience to see. But does that help the overall effort?

    It’s not an ivory tower and it’s not an active conspiracy to keep online writers down. But you do have to play by the rules and remember that no one owes you anything. Have the Oilers or the Toronto Sun really suffered from my two examples? Sure, it might be different in smaller hockey markets, but those are also where there seems to be more progressive thinking.

    I guess it’s not necessarily having your hand out demanding access, but it’s that expectation that you’re going to be treated the same when in reality, you’re not. Any progress that any online guys make right now is a win for all of them, because it is still an emerging media stream. But in the same fashion, any defeat is a hit they all feel. Personally, if I was with CoveredinOil or PPP, I would have handled those things differently, but that’s me. I do think that the idea of this being a ‘fight’ for ‘rights’ is, at its core, a false assumption and that those who approach it with less of the thought of breaking through and pushing your way in and more with the idea of merit and working together for mutual benefit are the ones who ultimately have seen success.

  20. Sabresfan88 says:

    Great post, Justin. And KForbes, you have some excellent points, and I agree with just about everything you say.

    One other point that no one seems to be mentioning is the problem with reviewing blogs on a case-by-case basis. Sure, this would probably be the best way to decide who belongs in the press box, but it’s just not feasible. If NHL teams allowed anyone with a blog to apply for credentials, there would no doubt be a ton of interest, especially in large cities like Toronto that are well-represented online. While I agree that there’s probably an upside to eventually allowing bloggers some access (although even that is still debatable…the whole idea that bloggers are what they are because they *don’t* have access), is that upside at this point in time worth the time it would take the teams to look into each interested blog’s stats/history/posts, and maybe conduct some sort of interview? Is it worth the risks inherent in credentialing any person? Especially, as others have mentioned, people with little or no accountability? I’m not so sure of that just yet.

  21. Dominik says:

    I agree, the mob-style reaction in many quarters isn’t very helpful to the general discussion. And often I’d handle the reaction differently. (I should note that in PPP’s case, I don’t think they’re looking for access — they seemed to be looking for simple acknowledgment and fair credit when an MSM guy clearly repurposed their translation.)

    To me though, those mob reactions are just noise and beside the issue. (I’m not jumping on you; I’m just tired of how this issue is framed.) Those don’t represent the actions of “bloggers” or the actions of “online media” any more than Larry Brooks’ bald suggestion that the Kovalchuk contract reaction was based purely on a Gary Bettman “tantrum” and Bettman’s “personal” motives represented the actions of all “print reporters.” Rather, they’re the reactions of people, period — and online is a primary way people communicate in this world. The NHL’s luddite teams seem to lump “people who write online” into one giant vat. Do they make fan appreciation decisions based on one message board thread, or do they consider that any handful of online discussion corners may not represent the views of their fanbase as a whole?

    I guess I’m stunned this is even an issue anymore, other than for the few teams that already have more MSM coverage than they can fit in their own press box (you could argue the Rangers are one of those teams, although at the rate they’re going…). Four years ago the Capitals established a very well thought-out guide for credentialing independent bloggers. They have had zero issues (that I’m aware of) since implementing that. If they had one, they reserved the right to revoke access. It seems like the reasonable answer has been there, waiting to be copied, for four years. The NHL central office seems to get it; some of it’s teams do not.

  22. KForbes says:

    Great comments Dominik and Sabresfan,

    It’s no surprise that these luddite teams are the ones who can afford to drag their feet when faced with dealing with the online world. Just as the NHL is more progressive than some of the larger major professional sports leagues, which benefits them in the growth of their sport, the smaller teams are more progressive as it benefits them in growth in their community. So I guess another way to put it is that the Rangers and the Canadian teams are the NFL and MLB of the NHL, if that makes any sense.

    They’ll come around eventually and hopefully the entire scene will be a lot clearer than it is now when they do come to the table, in part thanks to the work of both the bloggers and teams like the Capitals.

    Speaking about the PPP thing, I know they’re not directly looking for access, but when you also acknowledge that at first glance the entire online world is judged the same (one giant vat), do these actions help or hinder the rest of the community’s efforts?
    I’m not talking censorship, but the blogosphere at times does operate as a family with the ‘protect your own’ mentality. For things that do nothing but stir up indignation, perhaps that’s not the best course of action. Because, as can be seen with the Blueshirt Banter/Fire Sather/NY Rangers thing, the teams are clearly watching closely and judging the community.
    Again, the idea of ‘being on your best behaviour’ may feel oppressive to some and I can respect that, but as mentioned, I think those who wish to be viewed as professionals need to be attentive to act appropriately. Kind of like the old adage about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have.

  23. Dominik says:

    @Sabresfan88 Certainly it could open it up to a lot of applications (particularly in Toronto), but I think you could put an intern in charge of filtering apps based on a pretty clear standard. I also think it wouldn’t take long before even the most hallucination-fueled blogger would understand that there’s no way he’s getting a sniff of a credential unless he/she’s established an actual record/portfolio, or perhaps even cultivated a relationship with a team. Same way I don’t bother applying for a Supreme Court clerkship. (I may be oversimplifying it, but I don’t think that’s far off the mark. This is doable.)

    @kForbes I agree, they’ll probably come around to some sort of clarity eventually. It’s funny, I’m not too worried about it because my professional writing duties are far outside of hockey, yet every once in a while I get sucked in because I feel like there is an easy solution (except for, as you put it so well, the “the NFL and MLB [clubs] of the NHL.”). I agree the actions of some can harm the community as a whole (it’s a bummer that the online brush gets painted so broadly — I can see where that would be a particular pain to you, since it directly affects a paying gig for you). But I still just fault the gatekeepers/teams on that one-size-fits-all perception. It’s like grouping NPR with a local TV outlet with Fox News with BET with US Weekly and saying “the media says.” They are media outlets of varying perspectives, who write/report at the behest of specific employers, with specific audiences in mind.

  24. Pat says:

    Awesome thoughts and comments…….here are a few from a hockey guy/fan……..

    1. Hockey is a sport that values their athletes paying their dues. This sentiment extends to the coaches, scouts, front office, and I have to believe the media (beat writers). I believe a lot of hockey people doubt that the majority of bloggers actually have paid any “dues” to earn access.
    2. I like Justin’s idea about actually interviewing with each team’s PR staff. I’m sure this would easily eliminate the pretenders. But there’s a fine line between team acceptance and team censorship, which leads to……
    3. The situation the Kings have developed. Is a team-controlled (payrolled) blogger what the league will ultimately (and only) allow?
    4. KForbes’ story about meeting Mirtle in TO represents a concern for the hockey old guard, and also reiterates my first point. Any legitimate journalist would distance himself from “fans” at a bar because of the perception of impartiality. I’m not knocking KForbes or his story, but I think that’s a good point on the learning curve for bloggers.
    5. Lastly…..and maybe most important in the social media world, is Twitter. Every rumor that get’s “tweeted” by any blogger is liable to get quoted on a website as a scoop. Is that fair journalism? In my opinion, no. Would teams be wary? Yes! Take the Kovalchuk situation from today. How many tweets have we seen saying the deal was approved…..only then to see thirty minutes later a retraction? It hurts the credibility of bloggers in the eyes of NHL execs.

    Food for thought. I’m looking forward to what you think.

  25. KForbes says:

    Thanks Pat and Dominik, every time I make a post, I’m fearful that no one is going to see it now that this isn’t the most recent post on Bourne’s site, so it’s good to see that someone out there is still paying attention.

    1) I don’t think teams will make the extra effort of a dedicate person, intern or not, just to deal with online applicants. I think it’s going to be a slow process and any progress is going to happen organically. The teams are aware of the coverage out there and so as the wheat continues to separate from the chaff, those blogs worthy of access should find the teams more willing to deal with them. Blueshirt Banter, who came into the news for the opposite reasons, actual posted about their own dealings with the Rangers and it’s more or less how I think is likely for most bloggers: http://www.blueshirtbanter.com/2010/8/27/1653324/our-follow-up-on-the-puck-daddy

    2) I don’t think it’s team censorship as much as it is playing the game and knowing the etiquette. There are things that I’ve heard at the rink that I haven’t published, there are opinions I have that I have chosen not to air. Call it self-censorship, call it self-preservation and maybe my coverage is weakened because I don’t explain the full story I heard behind a disappointing player or I don’t share my opinion on a particular coach or manager, but eventually, enough information gets out to get the point across. This is the same as any sort of journalism. There is a line to walk, knowing that line is part of the deal that comes with any sort of access.

    4) Yeah, the Mirtle story is kind of embarrassing to me. I was out for a night with the boys and walked into a situation that I wasn’t prepared for. It happens, so it goes. But like I said, it was an uncomfortably situation, so we booked it after a little bit. I can’t imagine what the other guys thought but hopefully my work speaks for itself. I don’t often consider myself a hockey ‘fan’ anymore, so this was an odd occurrence to be sure.

    5) The pressure to break the story and somehow be viewed as legit, thus attracting more visitors, upping pageviews, perhaps fuelling more advertising money and so on is alluring. I’m glad the work I do doesn’t involve breaking news. Twitter is dangerous in this regard. I don’t know how that can be easily resolved because of the ‘fame’ that comes with breaking a story or being on top of it. Another bump on the growing pains of online media.

  26. Pat says:

    KForbes…..great job all around. I actually take notes throughout your posts. Keep up the good work.

    Personally…..I think the whole blogging vs. NHL thing is a little premature. Like I said earlier….the bloggers are going to have to prove themselves. And some have…….but most haven’t. Meanwhile….I read the blogs…..but can also discern the difference between speculation and fact. Most folks can’t. That’s a big difference in the eyes of the NHL.

    I think this is a conversation that can be ongoing………hope it is……..

  27. crushasaurus says:

    As a blogger, I don’t expect credentials. But for my column work, it’s kind of essential if I want something of quality to be published.

  28. crushasaurus says:

    Wahey, early post. Love it.

    Anyway, I find it hard to get credentials for my column work purely because I’m a blogger. I’ll be working for magazines and because the majority of my income does not come from journalism, I can’t get a press card from a union. Our system is worse, I promise.

  29. Dominik says:

    @KForbes, re: dedicated person … You may be right, teams won’t make the effort — certainly the Rangers won’t. But interns are recruited and used as slaves all the time (and it’s so easy to find qualified interns dying to work with a pro sports team), so giving one the, say, weekly task of sifting through any blog credential applicants would be pretty easy work. If I’m the boss, I tell the intern, “Give me a report on who’s applying and let me know which ones you think are worth my time, based on standards X, Y and Z.” The issue there might be that some of these teams (Rangers) don’t really care to expand their coverage into the wilderness, but *most* U.S. teams would be foolish not to enable anyone who’s providing smart coverage. Ted Leonsis was uniquely positioned to get this (AOL background, undercovered team), but man, has he regretted it at all?

    re: Etiquette … THAT is the question I’ve always privately wondered about, with the conditions you mention (e.g. you hear things at the rink, you see things, but there is certain line you don’t cross). I fear a lot of idealistic would-be journalists would come in, catch wind of some juicy information, run with it in the thrill of the moment — Freedom of the press! The people must know! — and not realize what they’ve done was shabby or even borderline unethical until after the fact, if ever. That one’s a tough nut, because I don’t know that you can write a manual on it, as knowing what’s relevant and what’s not comes in part with experience. Twitter and journalism’s rather misplaced race to be first or to nab “EXCLUSIVE!”s only feeds that mentality. Agreed, neither of us are talking about censorship in that department, but rather the traditional (pre-conglomerate-hegemony) standard of what has “news value” and what within an organization is a legitimate source (e.g. Just because the equipment manager’s gopher told you this doesn’t mean it’s happening) on any specific topic.

    Agreed everybody, this has been a fun conversation. Nice to have a place where people are discussing it without histrionics.

  30. jtbourne says:

    Hey fellas – just kinda standing back on this one and letting the conversation unfold, well done. I’m gonna drop a plug for this thread on Twitter, see if anyone else has anything to add…

  31. KForbes says:

    The juicy information is a tantalizing line and at times I wonder if I’m holding myself back by sitting on some stuff. But I also know that if I ran with every story, rumour or whisper I heard in the press box, no one would talk to me for the legit work that I do publish.

    But yes, with the sport now becoming an all-year news item and the Internet offering instant access to news and notes, the quest to break the story, to be ‘first’ has in some ways become even more important than the content at times and definitely more important than actual accuracy.

    I could have written four different articles about Kirill Kabanov over the course of last season, encompassing different news that was the popular opinion of the time in regards to his status with the Russians, his injury, his attitude and where and when he was going to play. I could have been *first* on that story a few times there. But I also kept an open line with my editor and chose to hold off, to try to make sure what I ended up presenting was accurate and encompassing.

    I’ve already said that I don’t consider myself a blogger, but would Joe-Blow QMJHL Blogger, who might not have an editor or experience, react the same way? Or in December, would he have issued an all-points bulletin saying that Kabanov’s injury isn’t recovering as hoped and he’s gone for the season (something I was told at the time)? And which way helps or hinders his future access and coverage?

    I understand the appeal of breaking a story, but the practice of throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks isn’t the right way to do it. Look at how many questionable Twitter accounts are out there reporting Free Agent ‘rumours’. It’s a little out of hand.

  32. Pat says:

    KForbes….again….you and your good points. I think it comes down to a trust issue. Any of us with hockey connections could blog about all sorts of stuff, but when that gets traced back…….the connection is severed. That’s the ethical podium that the “pro journalists” sit upon.

    While I don’t blog myself, I read plenty of them. It’s frustrating when I see people just throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. It’s the same with Twitter. I get that people want to be the “first”, but it also gets ridiculous (there’s one particular person in mind that I won’t name). I always go back to one of the first lessons I learned in hockey…….no matter what you think or do, someone always sees and has judgment.

    I think this conversation is great and more importantly, necessary. I’m having fun reading everyone’s thoughts.

  33. HockeyBroad says:

    KForbes raised some excellent points about the etiquette in sports arenas. The fact is that yes, most bloggers wouldn’t know what is expected of them if they were put in a press-pass position – what they should wear, how they should act, how they will behave, etc. But assuming that a team takes the time to create mimimums for credential standards, and decide that a blogger’s contributions are worth embracing by granting them a press pass (however limited its structure might be), then the team should also take the time to have pre-season meeting on the expectations, rules, etc., of being part of the local “blogger press corps”. The numbers of a team’s “trusted hockey blogs” list should be limited, with the bulk (bulk being 2-5) being approved at the beginning of the season, and space for only one or two to be added mid/late season. It would only be in the team’s best interest to make sure the bloggers have the knowledge necessary to be regarded as competent participants of the media contingent, vs. “look who we let in the door, have at it”.

    I’ll have to disagree a little bit on what Justin O’Neill said, though. He says that “Bloggers report on rumors, provide analysis, speak from areas of expertise about different parts of the game to enlighten less informed fans” and that “journalists do none of these things”.

    If a writer is an unpaid blogger, yet they stick to facts, figures and photography, does that make them less of a journalist than somebody who is paid to be a writer full-time? Maybe they tell less of the story, but they can still tell as much as possible. There are so many levels of blogging – ranging from vapid fandom adoration all the way up to serious journalism – that it’s difficult to lump together ALL bloggers.

    The journalistic golden ideal is to be neutral and unbiased; but neutral and unbiased doesn’t sell newspapers. The better newspapers/news sites refrain from jumping on rumors until they’ve been confirmed, but they are hardly 100% free of analysis or commentary. (The idea of columnists far preceeds blogging, after all.) The best ones strive to be as middle of the road as possible, but the words selected to express things in an article, or the inflection or tone of voice of a broadcaster, can sway opinions just as strongly as colorfully worded articles can.

    Additionally, if a journalist wasn’t “speaking from areas of expertise about different parts of the game”, then how much can I, as a reader, trust that they what they’re talking about? It is that knowledge that helps round out a news piece and give a mental image about what happened. I don’t want to hear that a guy who has never seen a hockey game in his life is the new writer on my local hockey beat. The reason that certain writers and broadcasters are so widely trusted is not only are they reporting things as factually as possible, but they also have the wealth of experience that you, the reader/watcher, know that they know what they’re talking about.

    As KForbes said, bloggers also need to understand they can’t simply call up teams and say “Creds, please.” Bloggers need to treat teams, players, staff etc. with respect; getting creds is a privilege, not a right. Likewise, the league/teams shouldn’t simply blow off or dismiss bloggers with some kind of assumption that just because they’re unpaid must mean they’re sitting in the basement, ranting off ideas. A good start has been made this week with these issues getting a bit more air and discussion.

  34. KForbes says:

    Again, I just don’t see the NHL teams who are at this point resistant to credentialing bloggers taking the extra effort to hire an intern to go through and verify interested blogs, nor would they want to hold some sort of media training bootcamp for the Internet media. Please note, when I talk about these reluctant NHL teams, I specifically mean the guys like the Rangers and the Canadian teams.

    Obviously the smaller teams are more willing to assume some risk here for the sake of getting the coverage. Their own communications staff is probably able to assess likely candidates (without poking fun, I assume the workload for the media guys in a place like Tampa Bay is a little bit lighter then it would be in New York).

    But with that said, I understand the merit of media training for bloggers, but I just don’t see teams making the effort. Might be just me though. Frankly, I learned through doing and I don’t have formal journalism training, but I feel I might be an oddity in that sense.

    Maybe you ‘try out’ the bloggers in the same way you ‘try out’ some players and credential some guys for the rookie camp/preseason and then judge them based not just on their behaviour and actions at the rink but also on the quality of work that they produce? Again, it’s a fine line between judging merit and the perception of playing the role as censor.

    HockeyBroad – Quite the interesting article on your own website about this. I encourage the rest of you to take a gander as well.

    Something else to keep this ball rolling: the leaked proposed NHL guidelines from Puck Daddy: http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Leaked-NHL-guidelines-for-how-teams-credential-?urn=nhl-265453
    Thoughts?
    My first question is what is considered a national news gathering agency?

  35. KForbes says:

    sorry here’s the link to the Hockey Broad article: http://www.hockeybroad.com/2010/08/so-you-want-to-be-credentialed-blogger.html

    Also reading the comment that someone left there and something came to mind: if any guidelines start tying in traffic (not age or quantity of work, but purely the number of visitors) as one of the benchmarks for access, does that discourage other new blogs from pushing themselves into the limelight? When given the choice between Blog A with access and Blog B without, where does the average fan go?

    Sort of like if both Bourne and Puck Daddy were vying to cover an NHL event with Puck Daddy ‘winning’ the pass because of higher traffic numbers. Who do you think is going to see even more traffic as time goes by?

    Again, not talking about quality of work, just talking about how to judge deserving blogs.

  36. HockeyBroad says:

    Thanks for linking my article, KForbes.

    When I suggested media training, I wasn’t suggesting “here’s a full-day course”. More like, sit down for at least 15-30 minutes with any selected bloggers and say, “Here’s the expectations, rules and guidelines, are there any other questions you can think of?.” It would only serve the team’s interest to take the time to do this, and from a ‘return on investment’ standpoint, it’s better to get things straight up front rather than kick people out the door for not knowing any better.

    Plus, as a blogger, I’d feel sort of insulted/annoyed if I made it past the interview/vetting process and somehow made a blunder about something I didn’t know there were any rules for, and got creds yanked because of it. It would feel like it was a situation being set up for failure, and where the team could then say, “See, the experiment didn’t work, we refuse to do this anymore.”

    The idea of site traffic could be just one marker among several. Obviously, knowing that a site is credentialed should, in theory, help drive further traffic to it. But if you had to pick between the guy who had 300 hits to his site last month vs the guy who got 5,000, which would make more sense, if all other things were relatively equal (time invested, number of postings, etc)?

  37. Pat says:

    Still kind of funny that one of the points I tried to make has been overlooked. A hockey locker room is a place where you EARN your way. How have bloggers earned their way? Anyone that’s been in hockey knows the pecking order.

  38. KForbes says:

    Pat,
    As much as your locker room analogy is nice, this is also a business and they are going to make business decisions here. The Internet has been the ‘shiny new toy’ for a while here and people are flocking to it in droves to get their news. Mainstream media is feeling the effects. And while no one has quite figured out to profit from the Internet world (witness Newsweek and their paywall or even Hockey’s Future being owned by what in essence is an advertising company), as business tries to figure it out, there has been a rise of ‘citizen journalism’ which mostly presents itself as bloggers.

    I don’t think it is a matter of earning their way and I will acknowledge that some blogs do put out content that can stand up alongside of anything you get from a newspaper or magazine without any shame. But really, this whole thing is a lot to do with this huge sect of online interest that can’t be ignored.

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