Friday, November 16, 2007

On bloggers

Brian Burke, Ted Leonsis, Helene Elliott and others weigh in on the bloggers/media discussion in a lengthy post by Christy Finn today.

Here's Burke on putting bloggers in the Ducks' press box:
“With a journalist, I know they’ve had some training. I know there will be a fact checker and an editor to keep them accountable. I will know what to expect from [journalists] because if they take a bribe or report false information, they’ll get fired. With bloggers, there’s no safeguard and no guarantees.”
There is one way Burke has considered the matter. “The only way I would ever give a blogger credentials is if they signed a contract obligating the author to report responsibly and accurately, or lose their credential.”
It's interesting to begin to see other team executives weigh in on this business, as I know it's something Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has advocated the league champion as he has. So far, the Islanders have been the only team to wade in with Washington, and even then they've attached conditions (or "training wheels") to the new access.

Still, I do think there's an evolution here taking place, where teams will, one-by-one, start to entrust new media with increased responsibilities. The line between what's a blogger and what's media has already been rubbed out in a lot of cases (Where do I fit in? How about someone like Jes Golbez, who writes for an AOL blog?) and it'll be more and more difficult to deny access in places where the press boxes sit empty.

Someone should sign Burke's contract.

18 Comments:

At 12:56 PM, November 16, 2007, Anonymous Matt said...

If journalists report false information they get fired? No offense to your career of choice James, but SINCE WHEN?

 
At 1:11 PM, November 16, 2007, Anonymous Matt said...

To further my point: while Burke sounds perfectly level-headed, he is labouring under the very common misconception that a "blogger's" success is directly proportional to the fanciful bullshit they make up out of thin air.

If a reporter writes something that proves false, he only has to convince his boss that there was an acceptable reason to believe it, and he keeps his job, same salary, etc.

If someone writing their own blog publishes something that proves false, he or she takes the credibility hit regardless of how good the excuse is (nowhere to hide).

But there's no need to argue on a theoretical basis here. I could name at least 10 professional hockey journalists that have reported more false information in the past 6 months than a single blogger on your sidebar.

 
At 1:22 PM, November 16, 2007, Blogger Richard Pollock said...

I think the point you made at the end of the article hits home the most. If bloggers are attempting to crack the press-box for a (hypothetical) leafs/habs playoff matchup. then that most likely wouldn't be possible. However, with the lack of NHL coverage in North American papers, bloggers should be welcome in many of the empty press boxes that fill the league in order to create a buzz and hype that lacks in many markets.

 
At 1:46 PM, November 16, 2007, Anonymous Keith said...

If Burke thinks the media has any accountability, he really needs to read the drivel of Bruce Dowbiggin (NHLPA hack, and author of a book on the last CBA, of which he repeatedly proved he had no understanding) or Al Strachan (made up rumours). Not to mention Howard Berger, who is in a little hot water over the Avery affair, and our current favourite in Calgary, Marty York, who was responsibile for this:

Unnamed "sources" in York's head invent rumour of Mike Keenan's impending dismissal

Frankly, after Eric Duhatchek, there is a very large drop in the quality of hockey journalism. I trust bloggers and regular people posting on message boards far, far, far more than I do the likes of the clowns I list above.

 
At 2:02 PM, November 16, 2007, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

Someone should sign Burke's contract.

I'll have to see the fine print first. Plus I'm pretty lazy; it might have to show up in my inbox on its own accord.

 
At 2:13 PM, November 16, 2007, Blogger Chris said...

You mean to tell me that all of this time, I could have been taking bribes???

 
At 2:13 PM, November 16, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Guys — I don't think saying there are media members who are less than stellar is a great argument for putting bloggers into the press box.

 
At 2:14 PM, November 16, 2007, Anonymous PJ said...

Is someone like James Duthie considered a journalist? I don't know if I've ever seen him do a serious piece.

 
At 2:33 PM, November 16, 2007, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

To further my point: while Burke sounds perfectly level-headed, he is labouring under the very common misconception that a "blogger's" success is directly proportional to the fanciful bullshit they make up out of thin air.

AKA, the Eklund effect.

I know if I ever write anything that is factually false, someone is going to discover it and call BS on me. I've always been pretty good at correcting the mistake and owning up to it. Even if it's just a slight stat mistake, I've been caught a few times and simply made the change. Bloggers can easily do that whileas print journalists can't.

As for papers, we've seen the likes of Tony Gallagher and Al Strachan make livings off of reporting rumours and other BS they here. It may or may not be true, but that doesn't stop them from reporting it. How, exactly, do they have more credibility than the average blogger? Because they work for a major newspaper? How can Burke cry about credibility in the press when he's fought Al Strachan over BS that was put in the papers?

I can understand why major markets like Vancouver aren't blog-friendly, but markets like Anaheim ought to be thankful for the free press they'll get.

As for going to games ... if I am going to be credentialed for a game, why/what am I going to be fabricating information? If anything, I'm more likely to BS if I'm never in the press box to begin with. If I am at the game, I'll report what I see, and probably have to answer to somebody if I make up something (OMG, Henrik doesn't wear underwear!)

end rambling ...

 
At 2:43 PM, November 16, 2007, Anonymous Keith said...

You have a point, James, but honestly, after spending ten years posting on bbs/message boards, I find it a rare day when a journalist offers any greater insight than any random layperson does. Take any person with average writing skills, and a passion for the game, and I'll match them up against any hockey journalist.

So really, why not put them in the press box? I know I am far, far more likely to read your blog, the Battle of Alberta blog and Calgarypuck than I am the Calgary Sun or Edmonton Journal. If sports teams want greater coverage, then catering to the internet crowd is the way to do it.

People today want a diversity of opinions. One writer's bias just doesn't cut it anymore.

And, fwiw, my comments about those four specific writers had more to do with Burke's absurd argument that there is a high level of accountability in the paid media. I could go off on a rant about the Sun Media chain following their handling of a murder that once occured in my family. Sufficed to say, in my opinion, selling papers is far, far more important to mass market media than factual accuracy is.

 
At 2:45 PM, November 16, 2007, Anonymous PPP said...

James, I think the point that those guys are making (and the Jiri Tlusty situation in TO reinforces that) is that while journalists are held up as paragons of virtue that only report the facts, are never wrong, never insult anyone, and raise stray puppies and kittens you could easily argue that they in fact are much worse than bloggers because they have a veneer of acceptability that gives their work more credence.

In Jiri's case, the four or five Leaf bloggers that I read all saw the Jiri Tlusty pictures when Deadspin published it but saw no need to splash the pictures across our minimally read sites or to condemn an entire franchise on the basis of said pictures. The writing from blogs was on the outrageous reaction (which Wharnsby and Shoalts actually did a good job of putting into perspective).

I mean, it must bother you and the other serious bloggers that you are lumped in with the 'low-rent Perez Hilton' when many sportswriters are talking about blogs.

 
At 2:55 PM, November 16, 2007, Blogger Finny said...

I'm trying to work on that contract bit...

& thanks for the heads up (not to mention, your own input).

 
At 3:00 PM, November 16, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I mean, it must bother you and the other serious bloggers that you are lumped in with the 'low-rent Perez Hilton' when many sportswriters are talking about blogs.

Why? It can't be my personal crusade to enlighten everyone else.

I know what I think about the quality of what's out there, and to me that's what's important. I know a lot of people think what I'm doing here is amateurish, etc., but that's their problem frankly.

As I said, there's an evolution taking place, and at some point there won't be any room for ignorance on the issue. Right now there is.

 
At 3:05 PM, November 16, 2007, Anonymous PPP said...

As I said, there's an evolution taking place, and at some point there won't be any room for ignorance on the issue. Right now there is.

That's a good point. I guess I just get frustrated because I have buddies that are of a similar mindset to much of the MSM so everytime you mention something that you see on a large blog I'll get the inevitable "Did you pick that up in blogland?"

 
At 3:37 PM, November 16, 2007, Blogger Art Vandelay said...

Bloviating Burke is easy to figure out. He can control a professional reporter by yanking the press pass, bullying the reporter himself, or leaning on his boss (see: Strachan or Pratt).

If he tries to spook a blogger, it's likely to end up as a transcript or uploadable sound file on the blogger's website. Where the whole world can experience what a jack@zz Burke is. (Think of the Seinfeld episode where struggling comedian Kathy Griffin turns every meeting with Jerry into material for her one-woman show).

I worked at a "major Canadian daily." "Facts" are selective and often illusory. Deadlines, on the other hand, are paramount. I'd take Mirtle and Lowetide over most of the @zzhats on TV/radio or in print anyday.

 
At 4:44 PM, November 16, 2007, Anonymous beingbobbyorr said...

signed a contract obligating the author to report responsibly and accurately

Where did Brian Burke get the impression that bloggers are in the business of "reporting"? The most valuable bloging (to me) is subjective/opinion pieces that look at the game from new, wide-field-of-view angles. In a broadband-internet-500-channel universe, narrative text describing game action (accompanied by cliche-ridden quotes) is irrelevent. This is how the dinosaurs died: being unable to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.

 
At 4:47 PM, November 16, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Except some of these dinosaurs can see the asteroid coming, and they're fashioning giant asteroid-destroying lasers.

Or something.

I think it's time to post on hockey again. Or Tlusty.

 
At 5:40 PM, November 16, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

Art Vanderlay sums up my feelings on this. However, I do have to come to the defence of Al Strachan.

I remember when he broke the story that Pronger wanted out of Edmonton, he was crucified as a rumour monger by the hockey journalist world, and all the so called "hockey intelligentsia". When he was proven right no one had the guts to apologized to him.

Second, the recent civil trail over the ownership of the Vancouver Canucks has proven that he was correct about Burke's contract demands.

 

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