CALGARY AB CANADA - AUGUST 4: Steve Staios of the Calgary Flames is interviewed by media after the NHL Heritage Classic Press Conference at McMahon Stadium on August 4 2010 in Calgary Alberta Canada. (Photo by Dylan Lynch/Getty Images)
Puck Daddy ran a story today about a group of NHL teams interested in restricting blogger access on the road i.e. if the visiting team is anti-blogger, then no bloggers can enter the visitors' locker room. They've even published a leaked draft of what a revised blogger policy will look like. As the words "SB Nation" were mentioned more than once in the original article, I thought I should comment.
First, let me note that while the story reports Blueshirt Banter as being "associated" with the Fire Sather rally in New York, the SBN site simply covered the event as they would any other relevant happening amongst the fanbase. I don't doubt Puck Daddy's assertion that the Rangers brass was upset to see Blueshirt Banter amongst the NHL-credentialed SBN coterie at this year's Draft, but that reaction is probably based more on their hope that everyone would pretend the event wasn't happening than it is on any realistic expectations of what constitutes 'responsible media.' Blueshirt Banter did not organize or sponsor the event in any way.
Reading that, I know that some of you are thinking, 'and what if they did organize and sponsor the event, so what?' If newspapers hold the credibility that the information will always be correct, then bloggers, as outsiders, hold the credibility that the information will never be controlled. And using that simplistic dichotomy, I'm sure many of you would demand that a blog foment an initiative to fire your general manager if logic dictated it necessary.
However, if you have those assumptions about us, then you should know that professional sports teams share them, and that's the problem. As far as they're concerned, we're engaging in Wild West journalism, motivated by page views and checked by no ethics whatsoever, just Federal and State law and the parties litigious enough to enforce it. In many ways, they make a strong argument. In terms of rabble rousing, that's something that the traditional media has, of course, done before, but always under a known quantity of checks and balances. Namely, if you call for someone's job then you're putting your own on the line. How many bloggers put their career or their livelihood on the line when they demand that a GM lose his?
Unfortunately, the argument starts to fall apart as you apply your assumptions to bloggers as a collective, assumptions about quality, credibility and accountability. I'll touch on that after the jump...
Quality and Credibility
The basic argument I've heard here is that bloggers aren't trained journalists, therefore they cannot guarantee coherent copy and do not operate within the guidelines that a reporter uses to ensure credibility. This argument assumes the wind isn't changing and that failing newspapers aren't laying off plenty of trained journalists who are turning to freelancing in alternative media.
That's not to say that we're all out of work journalists, but these days, one isn't illiterate and unethical by virtue of the medium of communication in which you find him. Also, it's not as if journalists are remaining employed by virtue of the quality of their writing and reporting, and irrespective of salary and union considerations. I'm pretty sure Gann Matsuda can outwork many of the clowns desperately holding on to their jobs.
Don't get me wrong, though. I understand the concern, that the locker room would be overrun by Eklunds. But it's not hard to filter out the rumor blogs, who gather page views through passing interest in absurdity, from worthwhile blogs, which obtain and maintain readership by articulating an informed and unique point of view, the sort of thing you remember and repeat in a sophisticated discussion. Quality is where you find it.
The Puck Daddy article points this out, but it's worth repeating. Yes, bloggers by and large don't make a living from their sites, but nearly all of the major hockey blogs have affiliated with some corporate partner. That affiliation makes it feasible for most of these bloggers to do this part time and still reach the widest audience possible. That affiliation should also act as a safeguard against the pessimistic assumption that all of us are itching to go on a libel or copyright infringement spree. Rest assured, we have bosses, and this job is a lot harder to do full scale and part time without them.