Monday, March 17, 2008

Barring the blog

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has instituted a new policy banning full-time bloggers from the team's locker room, drawing an official protest from The Dallas Morning News, which employs the only writer so far banned.

In an e-mail sent to Cuban on Monday, Bob Yates, deputy managing editor/sports of The Morning News, wrote that the policy "is a veiled attempt at retribution" against Morning News reporter Tim MacMahon, who has been blogging about the Mavericks since 2006.
I'm more than a little loathe to link to any item that involves Mark Cuban, if only because nonsense like this makes me think he simply enjoys making news.

I can't imagine a hip billionaire sports team owner honestly holding some of the opinions Cuban serves up in this article and on his blog, opinions such as "a blogger is a blogger is a blogger" and "by taking on the branding, standard and posting habits of the blogosphere, newspapers have worked their way down to the least common demoninator [sic] of publishing in what appears to be an effort to troll for page views."

Cripes. I'll admit, I don't follow the NBA particularly close and, as a result, don't hear too often from Mr. Cuban, but let's just say he doesn't compare favourably to hockey's owner about the blogosphere, Ted Leonsis, whose open-door policy has been terrific for the Capitals.

Now, you don't have to have said policy to earn my respect — I'm fine with the idea that some teams simply aren't yet comfortable admitting bloggers into the press box. I actually thought it was pretty odd going to a Capitals game last season as a "blogger" and getting the royal treatment, a seat in the owner's box to watch the game, alongside family and friends, simply because of the medium I use to cover hockey.

But to boot out a member of the press who has been covering the team for a half season because you don't agree with the newspaper's business model? Or because every blog is equal?


I've said this many times, but it always bears repeating: Cuban's like many, many people in pro sports and the media in that the term "blog" has a negative connotation simply because it's a medium that is so easy to use.

But there's no one way to categorize blogs as a whole, and as a result, no overarching quality that defines them all. Cuban may think newspapers having blogs is a terrible idea, something that demeans "the brand," but I wonder why then so many organizations are having so much success using the medium to better interact with and attract readers? (Habs Inside/Out comes to mind.)

The fact that "anyone can blog" is a terrific thing, and ultimately, quality wins out. Garbage content doesn't find an audience, and that's true of blogs whether they're run by the mainstream media or, well, Mark Cuban. (Who seems to stop by when I link to his blog. Hi Mark!)

If newspapers or other media organizations produce terrible blogs, then yes, of course, they will fail. But in my mind the work of Craig Custance, Seth Rorabaugh, Rich Hammond and others offers a great deal, along with access that the majority of the blogosphere lacks.

How can the answer here be to take that access away from everyone?

On a related aside, it's come to my attention that the fellows at Orland Kurtenblog have been denied credentials for the Canucks this season, despite their affiliation with the Vancouver Province.

I'll say only this: At some point, the distinction between what's a media blog and what isn't is going to be rather hard to make.



At 8:00 a.m., March 17, 2008, Anonymous MikeP said...

Sorry, run that by me again? Mark Cuban, who has a blog himself (and a poorly spellchecked one at that, his defense was something along the lines of "you get the unedited me" or some such happy crappy) now says that blogs are the LCD?

Yeah, you're right, he just likes making news.

Not sure that I agree with the royal treatment stuff, but why isn't Cuban banning himself from the locker room?

At 8:05 a.m., March 17, 2008, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Excellent points! Let the free market place decide which blogs are worth reading and which are garbage. This is not unlike what occurs with all media, or any product for that matter!
2) If some (Like this blog) possess quality, it will attaract/keep readers. Other less well written ones will not and whither on the vine. A rather easy way to determine which die and which survive.
3) As for Cuban, he may have very thin skin. Not liking when other less powerful (poorer) folks say negative things about him. Tough Mark!

At 8:15 a.m., March 17, 2008, Anonymous baroque said...

What was the old adage - something about never picking a fight with those who buy ink by the ton?

Probably not a good idea to pick fights with the internet nowadays. The digital pen is even more powerful than the ink pen.

At 8:28 a.m., March 17, 2008, Anonymous Ken Kokanie said...

Interesting. Hard to imagine the NBA equivalent of Bob McKenzie or Darren Dreger being denied access to the press box or lockerroom because they publish "blogs" for their employers.

At 10:26 a.m., March 17, 2008, Anonymous Interchangeable Parts said...

A blog is a blog is a blog in that a "blog" is just a technological platform for writing. The quality of the writing is what differentiates a good blog from a bad blog from an irrelevant blog. Just the way the quality of the writing is what differentiates a good newspaper from a bad newspaper from an irrelevant newspaper. A brief polling of our friends and colleagues around the blogosphere in the form of a short questionnaire revealed that sussing out authority and relevance is a very easy task for readers.

Moreover, you mention newspapers can use blogs to "interact with readers". Devils fans have learned this season, thanks to the excellent blog of beat writer Tom Gulitti ("Fire & Ice", which is hosted by the Bergen Record), that blogs can also offer an avenue for readers to interact with the team. In addition to his excellent articles, Gulitti actively responds to comments left on his blog. Fans can leave questions about the players and management and Gulitti responds quickly with answers after talking directly to the source. That's right -- Devils fans are getting answers. Devils fans. If anything proves the awesome power of the technological platform of blogging, that certainly does!

At 12:16 p.m., March 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Said blogger was barred from the post game interview room - a place with restricted space. What Cuban said was that it wasn't fair that one blogger was admitted just because of where they work if he couldn't admit all of the bloggers.

At 1:16 p.m., March 17, 2008, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Cuban's like many, many people in pro sports and the media in that the term "blog" has a negative connotation simply because it's a medium that is so easy to use.

What are you talking about? He has his own blog, and you are suggesting that he looks down on blogging? His point was that he doesn't have enough room in the locker room for everyone, so he isn't going to give bloggers for MSM sites access just because they work for MSM sites. Their access is to be limited, just like every other blogger's. Seems like a pretty consistent point of view, and one that I have no problem with, as long as he's open to finding more ways to increase access for all in the future.

As for Leonis, it's easy to have an open-door policy on bloggers when no one else is covering your team. There'd be much less need for him to be benevolent to bloggers if he was owner of the Washington Redskins, for example.

Instead of criticizing Cuban, you should be turning your eye towards your own industry, which for the most part still treats non-MSM bloggers with absolute disdain. The problem lies there, not with Mark Cuban. It's probably much easier to bite the hand that doesn't feed you, though.

At 1:57 p.m., March 17, 2008, Blogger mike said...

I think James is suggesting that Mark Cuban is a hypocrite and a bit of a tool.

These suggestions are quite reasonable, and they can be interchanged with these words as well--shameless, self-promoter, oxygen thief, walking annoyance, needlessly loud, and page-boy haircut wearer.

Men like Cuban, James Dolan, and the Steinbrenners show us all that you don't have to be smart to be wealthy. It's a valuable public service they offer, really....if Cuban doesn't deserve to be criticized for this specific instance, I can think of at least ten other instances where harsh criticism would apply to his actions and overall attitude.

At 2:29 p.m., March 17, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Andy, there's no difference between a reporter writing for a website and writing for the newspaper's blog. Our guys file to the hockey blog all the time from the early skate.

Locker room access can't be determined based on what medium you write for; would that then mean that I couldn't access the locker room because I was writing for both the paper and a blog? What's the distinction?

The Mavericks had no problem fitting this fellow in the locker room beforehand.

Instead of criticizing Cuban, you should be turning your eye towards your own industry, which for the most part still treats non-MSM bloggers with absolute disdain.

Not from where I sit. The industry is starting blogs and supporting them, and getting some of the most well-known writers in the industry to contribute to the blogosphere.

I should criticize that?

At 5:40 p.m., March 20, 2008, Anonymous desdemona said...

Did I read that right? Mark Cuban said in his blog "I don't ever consider a blog an authoritative source. I don't ever expect that all sources were confirmed and facts were check. Regardless of who hosts it."

Did he just discredit himself?

I'm not a writer in any medium, so correct me if I'm wrong, but since Cuban is the owner of an NBA team, doesn't he have to watch what he says in his blog about his team and the League he is a part of? He claims that no blog has editorial or accuracy standards, so does that mean that anyone reading his blog should automatically assumet that they're not readling anything truthful? Doesn't he doesn't think that his own blog has to be held to any standards - or is it different 'cause he's Mark Cuban?

Cuban: "My experience in reading blogs has favored bloggers not affiliated with major media companies, but that could be my unique bias" - says the guy who is Chairman of HDNet.

He later said "i explained to them that Stein not only wrote primarily features on ESPN.Com, but also was a TV commentator, and those two elements of his job differentiated him from what their blogger did." I thought he didn't rely on blogger affiliated with major media affiliates...

I'm so confused.

I realize that this is a late response, but I just had to say something.


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