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.