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Monday, September 6th 2010

10:00 AM

Blogs vs. MSM in Sports

This bears repeating.  This debate just keeps going on as the season draws closer.  My take on it.

As someone who has been covering the New York Islanders in one form or another since October 2005, I found yesterday’s firestorm over blogger access to visiting NHL team’s locker rooms both interesting and disturbing.  Additionally disturbing to me is the idea that there is a grey area as to where “bloggers” fit within the media food chain.

In one conversation I had yesterday there were three categories:  Main Stream Media, Web Media and then “bloggers.”  I wasn’t quite sure what the difference between “web media” and “blogger” is.  Is “Web Media” anyone who writes for an established site that is monetized and has an established following?  Do those who run BlogTalk radio shows classify as Web Media?  Is a blogger someone who doesn’t have an affiliation with a “recognized” website?  I am confused.  Not only am I confused, but I truly hate the term “blogger.”  The media itself, looking to maintain its power of information has painted those who perform the task with a broad brush as super fans living at home with their mother staring at computer screens with nothing else to do but gripe about what bothers them.  Okay, I understand they were worried.  They had a right to be worried.  Web based “blogging” has nibbled away at their market and they have had to work that much harder to stay ahead of the curve.

As I was told by a friend at the NY Times, the minute I was paid for anything I wrote, I was considered “professional.”  While that thought is lovely, I would like to think of myself under the following term; Citizen Journalist.  Yes, that is what I am.  Do I have an affiliation with a recognized web based platform?  Yes I do.  Do I receive a 1099 at the end of the year for services rendered?  Yes I do.  Am I a fan of the sport I cover?  You bet your media tag I am!

Is that so bad?  If I was not a “fan” would I be able to write effectively about the sport?  Would I want to work all hours at this (often thankless) second job of mine if I wasn’t passionate about it?  I work at blogging because I am passionate about hockey and I am (most of the time) proud of what I have accomplished. The three year relationship I have had with the NY Islanders blogging about this team has been exceptional.  It is an experience I cherish and I can only hope the Islanders have benefited as much from it as I have. 

I have no problem with the NHL creating guidelines to credential bloggers.  That is fair and reasonable.  I was also under the impression that these guidelines already existed.  (Or so I was told in 2006 when the NYI Blog Box was established.)  However, if the NHL itself has a policy to credential these bloggers, then those with actual credentials should not be kept out of visiting team locker rooms should they feel they need to be there.

That being said, I have been in a visiting team’s locker room ONCE in four years.  It was a special situation and I went through not only my own PR Director, but the visiting team’s PR rep as well.  I presented my request for interview, outlined my questions and was granted access.  No harm, no foul, no problem.

So, when I hear comments about how “bloggers” conduct themselves in an unprofessional manner or have no sense of responsibility for their work, I want to scream.  It brings to mind what Mayor Bloomberg once said about New York City.  “There are idiots everywhere.  When you have a lot more people in one place, you are going to have a lot more idiots.”  There are plenty of unprofessional MSM jerks just as there are unprofessional blogger jerks. (No, I’m not going to name them.)

Access is not only a privilege – it is power.  If the teams themselves make it more difficult for those who have earned the right to that access and do not abuse the privilege just to keep the jerks out, then we all lose.  The NHL will lose the expanded coverage it is receiving on a platform they themselves are working diligently to cultivate, the team will lose good will with its fan base as they may feel a disconnect, and some of those who work hard at what they do will have their creativity or ability to report news hampered.

Four years later, I thought we had come further than this when it came to new media.

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