Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Blogs in a box

The hot topic du jour is, once again, the Islanders' Blog Box, which has opened for business and drawn some interest from the mainstream media. Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch took in the festivities with 11 bloggers (Dick in a box?) and reported on the team's "grand experiment" on Monday:
The "NYI Blog Box" has a physical home in the arena as well as cyberspace. The team set up three tables for bloggers at the top of the Coliseum's lower bowl. The tables featured wireless access, media guides and the same game notes used by the traditional press. Then there is the "Blog Box" on the team's website that houses the actual blogs.
I've weighed in on this business before, and basically I think it's a decent enough idea and an encouraging sign that teams are opening up their operations like this.

Hockey blog overlord Eric McErlain disagrees:
But if you had taken a trip to the "Blog Box" on Long Island on Saturday night, you would have seen something quite different: A group of fans segregated from the rest of the press who were only allowed guided access to Islanders players and no access to the visiting locker room at all. Most galling of all, many of the box bloggers trooped down to the Islanders locker room wearing Islanders jerseys.
Call the blog police!

Honestly, Eric titled his anti-Blog Box manifesto 'The Blog Box Fails the New Media Test', which is more of a joke than some hockey fans having the time of their life taking the Islanders up on a unique opportunity.

One that involved free pretzels, no less.

Now, Eric's been a big part of putting bloggers in the press box — and on the radar — in every sport, not just hockey, and from seeing him in action, I know that he does a nice job taking a professional approach, functioning like a beat reporter and toiling over everything that he produces in that role for Off Wing Opinion. But the thing is, it's not as if there's only one way to go about generating content from a press box or a Blog Box — and there's no reason one of those 11 brave souls couldn't become someone just like Eric by starting out under this new arrangement.

On the flip side, I also don't see why others can't enjoy the experience as hockey fans, whoop it up and pump out whatever they want on their blogs. (Besides, for all of the coverage we're seeing piped out of the Capitals' press box these days, how critical a voice are we getting? Here was a team that was a bottom feeder last season that offered plenty of opportunities to be dumped on, but did we really see that from Ted Leonsis's new legion of blogglings?)

So, why not wear a jersey, talk to a few players and produce some team-friendly content? These aren't people trying to pass themselves off as professionals, and that type of material is what we're going to get most of the time, anyway, regardless of appearances.

Here's one of the Blog Boxers quoted in the Sports Illustrated piece:
"I felt somewhere between a fan and media," said Ken Rosenblatt, a 34-year-old writer/editor who is the proprietor of the Islanders Outsider blog. "It was like we were special guests in some way. It wasn't just like being a fan."
That sounds about right to me, and where's the harm in that?

Now, the blog items that came out of the exercise aren't really anything that's up my alley, but hey, this is the beginning and I'm sure we'll see some improvement as these folks go along. (I thought this fellow, for one, did a decent enough job, and he's made the effort to take photos and get some digital recording equipment for future interview sessions. So you can't tell me he's not taking it seriously.)

Some may make this a hobby that evolves into a site like Off Wing, but for the majority, it's just a way to get a closer look at their team — much like a more traditional booster club.

It's not a sign of the apocalypse, for bloggers or the media. Here's Eric again:
But the folks that are involved need to know that they're being used by Eklund and the Islanders, and in the process, doing more damage to the credibility of sports blogging than they can understand.
Rubbish. If Eric's got a decent argument as to how the Blog Box damages the credibility of my site, I'd love to hear it. As far as I'm concerned, as long as there's a certain degree of honesty involved, the more the merrier in the blogosphere.

And marching into the dressing room in the home colours is about as honest as it gets.



On a related note, however, I will take issue with the selection process the team used here, as like Eric, I can't understand why Kevin Murphy from Islanders Army wasn't brought on board.

Granted, there were more than 100 applicants, but I'm willing to wager none had as established and well-trafficked a site as Murphy's blog, which as far as I'm concerned is one of the top 20 or 30 team blogs out there. He's also the only Islanders blogger I know of who is actually actively engaged with the hockey blog community (a must as far as I'm concerned), as none of the Boxers have so much as a blogroll link to any of the notable bloggers out there.

The conspiracy theorist in me would chalk that up to HockeyBuzz's involvement in this business, but I'm willing to bet we'll see Murphy in the Box by midseason.

As he should be.

UPDATE Islanders Army's now been invited to the press box for Wednesday night's game.
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Labels: , ,

29 Comments:

At 2:13 AM, October 10, 2007, Anonymous Danny Tolensky said...

Great post James. I was going to write something on this tonight but you've already said it perfectly. Some people take this whole thing a little too seriously.

 
At 2:18 AM, October 10, 2007, Blogger HockeyTownTodd said...

Very Nice..and..I agree with you

 
At 7:08 AM, October 10, 2007, Anonymous Michael Schuerlein said...

James,

You know I not one to shy from commenting on the controversial - and I had posted over there to agree with some points but disagree with others. My comment didn't make it to the site though.

I was actually one of the people who wore a jersey, and I stated I felt comfortable most of the time - we were after all instructed to dress that way. Will I do the same tonight? It has me thinking twice honestly.

The one thing I don't like about the way Eric presents his story - he portrays his view based on someone who as at the Coliseum first hand - which isn't fair. I know he is basically the guy who started this whole thing, but it's a shame he had to be so down on the Isles attempt at this.

For starters, several of us did not sit in the "box", not that there is anything wrong with the box - I chose to sat (and have done so since) in my season ticket seats and check in at the box every so often.

As far as a blog roll, I was planning on that - we have all spoken together in group emails and have become very friendly with one another. We are more like friends and co-workers now then anything else - and as Tom Liodice put it "More like a team instead of an individual".

Furthermore - I bought a digital voice recorder because everyone else had on at the home opener.

You know I appreciate the positive comment on my site, I said that a few times now.

I add links to the blogs I frequent often, and yours is definately one that needs to be added!

Michael Schuerlein
www.islesblogger.com

 
At 8:31 AM, October 10, 2007, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) We wonder how the 'bloggers' in the box, etc. will be treated IF the isles start to nose dive and the blog reports are less than complimentary to the host team?
2) Its all peachy when the 'Bloggers' say nice things, but not unlike the paid bloggers (the press) teams aren't happy with negative coverage. The team has no/little control over press articles, but will they try to 'edit' blogger content, or only allow 'friendly' bloggers in?

 
At 9:23 AM, October 10, 2007, Blogger BlackCapricorn said...

James:

I completely understand your point and agree with it for the most part. However, I think what Eric is getting at and has been bantered about the interwebs for a year now is what is the role of the hockey blog?

Blogs and the internet are becoming THE go to source for hockey fans, supplanting tv and newspapers, and there seems to be 2 forms of blogs emerging, fan blogs for their teams and professional blogs like yours and Eric's (and to some extent the Globe & Mail and TSN blogs).

So, as teams are weighing whether to grant more access to bloggers or to set up ground-rules for blogs in the future, should there be a line drawn between fans with blogs and hockey bloggers? I think to some degree there should as I get most of my information on hockey from you and other internet sites. If you had an overwhleming bias for a team or were in the pocket of a team that colors the information you present, in my mind. The "homers" shouldn't have all the access to the team.

Now, about what Michael said, I would like him to expand on his statement "we were after all instructed to dress that way." I realize this is an evolving process of allowing blogs access to teams and I am certainly jealous of Michael for having greater access than I as a fan but is his quote a symptom of the team trying to control the content to the ones they bequeath access to (as Faux stated)?

 
At 9:39 AM, October 10, 2007, Anonymous Katebits said...

Thanks for chiming in on this, James. As someone who writes a purposefully frivolous and unprofessional sports blog, I was pretty taken aback by McErlain's piece, particularly his suggestion that the Islanders bloggers are damaging the credibility of sports bloggers everywhere.

As I see it, there is no such thing as "credibility" in blogging. That's kind of the point. Any old fool can start blogging. The real beauty of blogging is that every blog represents itself, and itself only.

If you want to operate within a defined set of rules, you should call yourself a journalist.

 
At 10:23 AM, October 10, 2007, Anonymous Michael Schuerlein said...

Man I really need to stop posting so early in the morning. Sorry for the errors.

To clarify, the Islanders told us to dress like fans if we wanted, but to make sure we respected the working press. At the time I didn't think twice about wearing a jersey, so I am glad there are varying opinions on that topic.

Michael Schuerlein
www.islesblogger.com

Posted via mobile

 
At 10:35 AM, October 10, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

Maybe we're missing the point. Sure I don't know who anybody writing in the Islanders' Blog Box is, but here we all are talking about the Islanders.

Would we be talking about them had they not done this?

Chemmy

posted via a computer

 
At 12:00 PM, October 10, 2007, Anonymous Chris DeGroat said...

James,

HockeyBuzz didn't have any input on the bloggers in the blog box. They were actually picked before the agreement was in place.

Nice job throwing Eric under the bus. He's off base here, as usual.

Chris

 
At 12:25 PM, October 10, 2007, Blogger Brushback said...

Somewhat funny quote in the SI article from Chris Botta, regarding the parade of bloggers into the Islanders dressing room:

"These are good people. We didn't do background checks, but we're fairly confident none of them have records."

Well, that's certainly reassuring!

 
At 12:31 PM, October 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"These are good people. We didn't do background checks, but we're fairly confident none of them have records."

At least, none for posting naked hockey player pictures on YouTube...and isn't that the most important thing? :)

 
At 12:40 PM, October 10, 2007, Blogger Brushback said...

By the way, Mr. Mirtle, you know I loved this part:

"Here was a team that was a bottom feeder last season that offered plenty of opportunities to be dumped on, but did we really see that from Ted Leonsis’s new legion of blogglings?"

*chuckle*

 
At 1:02 PM, October 10, 2007, Anonymous eklund said...

James,

As usual, you are dead on with this article. We should not begrudge any fan for taking this great opportunity and living it up. We also should not begrudge the Isles for this progressive idea.

And yes, we had nothing to do with picking bloggers at all in this case. We were never asked at all to lend an opinion.

 
At 1:04 PM, October 10, 2007, Blogger McLea said...

Chemmy

posted via a computer


+1

 
At 1:17 PM, October 10, 2007, Blogger Bubba said...

Nice job James. Although I can see both sides, I agree with you about this.

 
At 1:18 PM, October 10, 2007, Blogger McLea said...

The problem is that "blogger" has almost become a meaningless term. Some people use blogging as a platform to launch themselves into a career in journalism (or at least to start collecting a paycheck for their work), so these people are obviously concerned about the credibility attached to the word "blogger" and how they are perceived by professional journalists.

On the other hand you have people who blog because it's fun and it's something they enjoy doing. These people have no interest in having their blogging turn into something bigger, and really could careless what journalists think of bloggers. They're just fans sharing their thoughts, nothing more nothing less.

Eric wants to be perceived as a serious professional, so it's no surprise that he disagrees with the "blog box." Joe Sports Fan blogger is just some guy writing about his favourite team, so of course he's going to think getting free tickets and pretzels is great deal, and won't see anything wrong with wearing a jersey. He's not trying to be a serious journalist, so why should he act like one?

The problem is that Joe Sports Fan and Eric, despite having totally different interests and goals, are both labelled "bloggers," and that's where the problem lies. Eric thinks that Joe Sports Fan makes him look bad, and from his standpoint it makes sense, but I think it's ridiculous that he gets lumped together with Joe Sports Fan in the first place.

 
At 1:35 PM, October 10, 2007, Blogger McLea said...

And I don't think James is the best person to be commenting on Eric's piece. James doesn't have to worry about credibility issues because he already has it because he works for the Globe & Mail. So of course it isn't an issue for him.

But if James was a Bill Simmons type, trying to use his blog to launch a career for himself, then I guarantee he would be singing a different tune. Especially if he thought he was doing high quality work, but yet still found himself being derisively labelled a "blogger," one of those guys that wears their jersey to the game and eats free pretzels.

 
At 2:22 PM, October 10, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

The problem is that Joe Sports Fan and Eric, despite having totally different interests and goals, are both labelled "bloggers," and that's where the problem lies. Eric thinks that Joe Sports Fan makes him look bad, and from his standpoint it makes sense, but I think it's ridiculous that he gets lumped together with Joe Sports Fan in the first place.

If someone can't look at what Eric's doing, and differentiate that from what Islanders fans are producing, that's their problem — not ours.

But if James was a Bill Simmons type, trying to use his blog to launch a career for himself, then I guarantee he would be singing a different tune. Especially if he thought he was doing high quality work, but yet still found himself being derisively labelled a "blogger," one of those guys that wears their jersey to the game and eats free pretzels.

This and other blogs have been a big part of establishing myself in the media, opening new doors, etc. I would absolutely argue I'm somewhere in between the two extremes you lay out, and yes, I get labelled a "blogger" all the time within my own industry.

But at some point, you have to move pass that general ignorance and rely on what you're producing to establish credibility. I used to worry about the 'stigma' attached to the label, but now I wear it proudly.

I'm just as much a blogger as someone who works in the media, and that's not a problem.

 
At 3:45 PM, October 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Normally, I'd channel my inner Justin Timberlake and pummel anyone referring to me as "dick" in any form. Except I laughed out loud when I read it. Interesting comments here. I appreciate people reading this piece.

Best,
Richard Deitsch

 
At 5:36 PM, October 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue over bloggers wearing an Isles jersey or not is rather silly. Having an objective press is a great fantasy, but it is merely a fantasy.

The bloggers in question at the Isles game didn't hide behind the paper thin cloak of objectivity and were open and honest about their allegiances.

We could only wish for such transparency in all facets of the media today, for we would all be a better informed public not trying to guess whether or not a certain reporter was inserting his or her own opinion into a news story.

 
At 7:27 PM, October 10, 2007, Blogger grease trap said...

You'd never see the Edmjnton Investors Group allow something like this.

 
At 7:29 PM, October 10, 2007, Blogger grease trap said...

Of course, that's supposed to read: Edmonton. Although there may be some Norwegian corporation by that name...

 
At 8:16 PM, October 10, 2007, Blogger Brushback said...

"Having an objective press is a great fantasy, but it is merely a fantasy.

The bloggers in question at the Isles game didn't hide behind the paper thin cloak of objectivity and were open and honest about their allegiances.

We could only wish for such transparency in all facets of the media today, for we would all be a better informed public not trying to guess whether or not a certain reporter was inserting his or her own opinion into a news story."


That's fraidy-cat talk.

In essence, you'd rather hand your wallet to the next guy you see and just presume he was planning to mug you, rather than take a chance by walking past him that he might be a good citizen.

 
At 10:47 AM, October 11, 2007, Blogger Caps Dreamer said...

As a Caps fan blogger, I take issue with the "Ted blogglings" quote in your post. I have and will continue to be critical of the team, coaching and management when necessary. Read passshootscore.blogspot.com, particularly, the posts from last year and you'll see that.

Regardless, I think there is room for "professional" bloggers and fan bloggers and I agree with the points mclea makes about that.

 
At 11:18 AM, October 11, 2007, Anonymous Gustafsson said...

While we've been supportive of the changes being made in Washington and been treated very well by the organization, we are not a mouthpiece for the them. We have been critical when we saw the need. The knee-jerks after the games that are posted have critical elements as well.

 
At 1:26 PM, October 11, 2007, Blogger Dominik said...

Very nice post.

On the "credibility" of bloggers - Wow, I'm so tired of this concern. It always sounds like someone framing a debate to fit their own career wishes.

Since *any*one can blog, there are now so, so many "writers" (can we agree on that term?) whose work is viewable, whether in print or online. For all of them, isn't the work judged by its content rather than whether it is done on blog software vs. a word processor?

Me, I frequent the blogs that have good *content* -- regardless of whether the creator wears a suit to a game or sits on his couch in his PJs watching Center Ice.

If a blogger wears a jersey to a interview, what's the problem? That tells me (and the player) he's doing this -- as a hobby -- because he passionately cares about the team's performance, rather than as a job because his employer has assigned him to cover hockey. If I really care beyond that, I'll check out his stuff and judge it on its own merits.

http://mvn.com/nhl-islanders/

 
At 2:21 PM, October 11, 2007, Blogger Brushback said...

"As a Caps fan blogger, I take issue with the 'Ted blogglings' quote in your post.

"While we've been supportive of the changes being made in Washington and been treated very well by the organization, we are not a mouthpiece for the them. We have been critical when we saw the need."

Not buying it.

Compare the Caps blogs to the Oilers blogs, for instance, and you'll see how wimpy the Caps blogs are.

 
At 7:49 PM, October 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ted's Blogglings"?

What exactly are you implying? That paying someone's way to Russia to cover a hockey tournament will get you this in return?

http://www.onfrozenblog.com/2007/10/09/just-hand-us-the-cup/

 
At 7:34 PM, October 12, 2007, Blogger Blitzen said...

Great post.

There's a ton of "content" out there on any number of subjects in the form of blogs, wikis, or forum discussions for that matter. The consumer is smart enough to select what he or she wants to read.

I am a blogger for a major junior team for which I am also a season ticket holder. I don't need free tickets or pretzels. It would be great if the team allowed a little access to help us enrich our content.

The readers of and the contributors to this site do not live under any hallucination that we are professional sports journalists. Real professional sports journalists are not threatened by our online musing.

There's room for us all. This guy needs to chill out.

 

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