Sunday, July 17, 2005

My dear Tom letter...

I promised Tom a response to his very critical portrayal of the hockey media, something he nicely highlighted in a recent comment on his site.
The third fact is that it there are too many conflicts of interest to believe that the first two facts are coincidences. Hockey sells newspapers and hockey tickets. Reporters need access and teams need publicity. One hand washes the other.
Tom, this is exactly what I wanted you to spell out. Because I've never said you can't be critical of the hockey media — go right ahead, it's often deserved. What I will say is that this hand washing is where you err.

So, according to your post, teams will deny reporters access should they write something criticizing the team? That is utter nonsense TB... can you imagine the PR nightmare with having a newspaper up in arms over such a ban? There's little connection between the teams and the mainstream print media, and reporters like the Star's Damien Cox so routinely criticize the Maple Leafs that it's part of their shtick.

Teams and the league, for the most part, revile the coverage they receive from columnists. On the flip side, the NHLPA isn't exactly enamoured with what is written about their membership.

You are far from the only one writing about crooked ownership and a mismanaged league. Find me a column praising the work Gary Bettman has done as commissioner... find someone saying expansion was good for the league... or that the fan has benefited from any of his moves the last 15 years.
It is far more subtle than that. If you don't think the right way, you don't get hired. If you don't write between the unexplained goalposts you will not get published and if you don't get published, you won't last long in the business.
It's garbage TB. What you're doing certainly has its worth, but it can have that value without discrediting the mainstream press. Sometimes, granted, you pick up on angles that should receive much more play in the media.

Attribute that to a generation of columnists who have been around this game and this league a long, long time — even through the last labour dispute. Attribute it to laziness, to poor journalism, to a lack of ingenuity and creative genius. Maybe sports editors hire columnists with which they share the same arcane viewpoints or are looking for someone who can please the masses with his scribblings.

Do not, however, try to portray the failings of the hockey press as the result of an bias with the league. As a guy who has sat in with senior writers and editors at THN and both of Canada's national newspapers, it's simply not true.

These guys aren't crooked — at least the ones I've worked with. Everyone is after the same thing in journalism, whether it's sports or news or entertainment... they're after the truth behind whatever they're writing about. If they've failed in this regard (which, with the haphazard CBA analysis, it seems they have), by all means criticize that.

Have the hockey media failed the public with their assessment of the new CBA? Is it, as you purport, another death knell for small market teams?

We'll know for sure in the next few years. In my estimation, the damage won't be quite pronounced as you're saying, but, then again, the only one who believed this labour dispute would forever solve hockey's problems was Gary Bettman. Now that he's gotten a salary cap, the job for which ownership hired him all those years ago, it's time to jettison him as far from the game as possible.

There will be damage done to the game from this deal, and it is possible too much was sacrificed to gain a cap for the league. As I've said on this site, another lockout in six years is not out of the question.

Ahem, a brief aside there. There are plenty of people in the sports media who have an NHLPA bias. Many guys are friends with players, agents and PA executives. Heck, the sports editor at The Globe — hi Steve — worked for years for the NHLPA. You're saying he was hired by The Globe to direct the newspaper's NHL coverage towards pleasing NHL ownership? It's laughable.

It's not true, and you're as out to lunch as the guys you're skewering if you think so.


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