Adventures in broadcasting
Hockey Night in Canada meets the blogosphere
Well, first of all, I thought the piece on Hockey Night in Canada last night was a terrific introduction to the blogosphere and the press box issue that we here have been batting around for some time now.
It's really incredibly difficult in a short piece like that to make blogging relevant to such a wide, disparate audience, but Elliotte Friedman and company do a nice job. We meet some of the particulars, hear from Ted Leonsis and the Pro Hockey Writers' Association, and afterward get a nice run through of a few sites by the venerable Ron MacLean.
It's that last bit that I believe is the single most significant part of the whole thing for the blogosphere: The fact that such respected, mainstream voices are piping up and saying "Yeah, I read blogs, and this is why" goes a long way toward legitimizing the medium. I often receive emails from hockey bloggers who are seeking credit for the way their work influences what appears in the mainstream media, and while I think some of that is overblown, it's also ridiculous to pretend the hard work of so many is not having an affect on NHL coverage.
And all many are asking for is that little hat tip in return.
Inside Hockey producer Jennifer Barr dropped me a note last weekend to say they would potentially be putting together a piece on hockey bloggers, and asked for my input. Friedman, Barr and a CBC crew then went to Washington for Wednesday's night's Panthers-Capitals game, where the majority of this segment was filmed.
On Friday afternoon, they came to The Globe and Mail newsroom for a quick, on-camera chat, something that put me in a bit of an awkward position. I feel as though I'm as much a part of the blogosphere as I am the media, but when it comes to putting bloggers in NHL press boxes, it's hard to find the middle ground. To a certain extent, I agree with Kevin Allen's concerns over just who can gain that access, but I also know that there are many, many bloggers out there who would shine if given increased access.
It's happened in Washington already with people like Jon Press, someone I've had the chance to meet and now keep in touch with, and I honestly can't see any reason why it wouldn't happen again and again in locales where the press box is far from full.
One of the questions Friedman asked was what had I done to help bloggers gain access to the press box, and the answer, frankly, is "not much" — at least outside of advocating for it on this site. I'm still a small fry when it comes to this industry — and given that's my livelihood, it will always take precedence over the work I do on this site — but I do feel as though this is an issue that deserves more support and that would benefit from just a little diversity of opinion on the media side of things.
As Leonsis said on his own site this morning, the blogosphere is here to stay, and it's really going to be about the two sides coexisting in the future. Teams ultimately hold the keys to the press box, and with several apparently on the verge of taking the plunge, we're likely going to see a radically altered hockey media landscape five or 10 years from now.
(Of course, as a friend pointed out last night, one of several elephants in the room here is the fact bloggers in the press box represent a form of competition for the media.)
There's been some really terrific discussion of the piece around the blogosphere so far, and I wanted to highlight a few of the interesting posts.
Here's Islanders Outsider:
I enjoyed the piece and thought it was fair. I do wish that coverage of this story would cease mentioning Islanders bloggers being permitted to wear jerseys. It's rarely mentioned that those who do wear jerseys are not in the actual press box and are required to remove their jerseys before entering the locker room. More attention should also be paid to the idea that, league-wide, some bloggers are intent on converting their blogs into new-media careers, and others are content to blog for the sake of blogging. The groups can, and should, co-exist, cooperate, and benefit from each other.An excellent point, one I completely agree with. It's a distinction that needs to be included here, as many bloggers are, and will always be, fans of certain teams, and I don't think that precludes them from providing coverage of their team.
No cheering in the press box is a fine axiom, but "no cheering for bloggers" doesn't have to be the only way to go. It works in Washington, and would elsewhere, but what the Islanders have introduced doesn't deserve to be dismissed out of hand.
As I've said before, honesty is paramount if you're going to provide quality coverage on a personal medium like a blog, and wearing the home colours is as honest as it gets.
Here's Nashville's No. 1 hockey booster, Dirk Hoag:
They spoke with Kevin Allen to get the professional sportswriter's view of the growing impact of hockey blogging, and he spouted some of the more obvious arguments about the whole sector being in its "infancy" ...Another solid point. Even this site, as of Friday, has been around three years, and seven or eight of the notables on my blogroll were hard at work pumping out hockey content long before I showed up.
... amateur online sportswriters have been going at it for over 10 years now, as Spector, PJ Swenson, myself, and others can attest. The field is hardly in its infancy, but rather, full-blown acne-ridden adolescence at least. I received full press access from the Red Wings back in 1997 and 1998 while writing for In the Crease, under terms which both parties agreed to; act like you belong there (no asking for autographs), and let the deadline-guys get their quotes first. It's not that hard, folks.
What's really in its infancy is the push for more access, something that, frankly, wouldn't have happened at all if not for Leonsis.
I also liked this post from Hockey's Ladies of Greatness (great name), which gives us a frank assessment of what it's like to be a fan blogger among the Washington press corps:
As someone who has benefited and will probably continue to benefit from the Caps' progressive policy towards bloggers I'm not convinced as to whether or not I belong in the press box. But I certainly appreciate the opportunity and try to make the most of it when given.And our friend Jes Golbez has what I'd call a more 'down with the media' perspective here.
Ultimately, the taped bits I did with Friedman didn't make it to air, something I sensed might happen at the time given my, let's say, less than controversial answers. (I'm also a pretty quiet, understated guy to be making waves on television.) I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a kick out of seeing this site brought up on the air by MacLean, but honestly what was the most satisfying was having the blog community recognized for its collective efforts.
Blogger, unfortunately, is still thought of as a derogatory term by many.
I make my living in the media, but I'm as proud of the fact I'm considered an integral member of the blogosphere — and I hope it stays that way. As I told Friedman in the interview, it's very difficult for me to take one side or the other on this issue given I'm a member of both camps, one of the few people working tirelessly to help both groups succeed.
And I certainly think that's possible.
"I don't think it's anything to fear; I think it's a business and social imperitive that we embrace it."UPDATE Tom Benjamin has an excellent post on all this over at his site.— Ted Leonsis