More on the Blog Box...

So today I am going to commit the cardinal sin of hockey blogging... I am going to rip Eric McErlain of Off Wing and the NHL Fanhouse. This is in response to his verbal beatdown of the NY Islanders Blog Box yesterday.

First let me say that I really respect McErlain and he is a pioneer, not just in hockey but in the the blogosphere, for getting bloggers recognized as legitimate media. His efforts with the Capitals and DC United has helped open doors and taken blogging from the "sitting in underwear in your parents basement" to being recognized as an acceptable form of gaining information. He is so influential, and good at what he does, that he is probably more responsible for the Islanders even considering the blog box.

McErlain seems to be following in the footsteps of Albert Einstein. Einstein was stubbornly hesitant to accept Quantum Mechanics, even though his efforts and work helped create it. Likewise McErlain is hesitant to accept the new Islanders Blog Box, even though his effort and work helped create it. The headline from his latest piece in the fanhouse reads: "The Blog Box fails the New Media Test," yet really what he should have said was "The blog box fails the old media test."
Excuse me if I stifle a groan here. Over the course of the entire 2006-07 season I spent in the press box with the Washington Capitals (35 games overall), I was never identified as a blogger. I was simply treated like any other member of the working press and was granted the same access and privileges -- including access to the visiting locker room if I wanted. Of course, that also meant I had the same responsibilities, which meant staying out of the way of the beat writers who had deadlines to meet, moving if I was blocking a camera angle, as well as making sure I didn't step on team logo on the center of the locker room carpet.

Excuse me if I stifle a groan here but while Mr. McErlain is content, and even strives for, the recognition of being a "legitimate" reporter that is not the goal of all, and even most, bloggers. Part of blogging's allure and charm is that bloggers are real fans able to say what they want free of the shackles of mainstream media. He said it best himself, this is NEW media and new media needs new rules. We're not paid professionals who are responsible for reporting an objective account of what's going on, many of us are fans and the reason people read our blog is to get our passionate, hopefully well-thought out and well-written thoughts on our team. But we're writing from a fan's perspective.

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.

Exactly the way it should be, I don't find anything galling about this at all. By all accounts none of the bloggers in the blog box WANT to be a member of the press (god bless them). They realize that this is the presses jobs, and it's their hobby. They waited until the professionals were done and then asked intelligent questions that enhanced their blogs.

[bloggers writing is a] good thing, and I don’t mind them at all.
I’ve got my own blog now, and I plan on it being the best one possible when it comes to Avs coverage, etc. I don’t take offense to bloggers “competing” against me, but now the flip side is starting to happen: newspaper beat writers like myself are starting their own blogs. I’ll tell people what Joe Sakic was like in the locker room that day, or tell stories about players from the past, inside stories (nothing that would get me in trouble though, lol).
If people find mine more interesting and I get the most “clicks”, then yay for me. If somebody else gets more and people like them more, then I’ll be the first to tip my cap to them.
But I’m a tough competitor, and we newspaper guys are fighting for our rice bowls now, a lot harder than we used to anyway.
It’s a brave new world, and I won’t be a Luddite.

This is from Adrian Dater, written in the comments in response to the last time I wrote about this topic. I don't want Dater's job, and I don't want to compete with him. In fact I want to compliment him. He has an excellent blog, even if he doesn't update it nearly enough. I don't want his level of access because I think it will ruin me as a fan, but I am writing from a fan's perspective. If I lose that perspective my blog becomes the same thing you'd see in a reporters blog or a newspaper. I have built a nice little niche for myself here as a fan blogger and I don't want to lose that.

Limited access will only enhance that, which is why I am in favor of it, but full access will ruin that perspective. The press is the Macey's Thanksgiving day parade, and fan blogging is Mardi Gras. Yeah their both parades, but entirely different. If McErlain and others want to march to the beat of the Macey's parade that's fine and they should get access. That doesn't mean all parades have to march to the same beat.


  1. Jibble -

    "I don't want his level of access because I think it will ruin me as a fan, but I am writing from a fan's perspective. If I lose that perspective my blog becomes the same thing you'd see in a reporters blog or a newspaper."

    See, I don't understand how added access is going to tarnish your fan perspective. It's up to you whether or not you want to conform to the MSM standards, whether you want your work to reflect some professional standard that the MSM feels it should.

    I've been writing about this debate all day, fielding some phone calls as well. What I think is completely lost here is what Eric, and myself, are arguing, which is that the blog box doesn't go far enough. If you want to open the door to bloggers, open it all the way -- give them the choice not to sit in the press box or not to visit the opposing locker room. Don't act like you're doing a group of fans a favor; they're there to watch the game, write about the game and collect information after the game, just like the suits working for the local fishwrap.

    But what the Islanders have done -- for whatever reason -- is ensure that one group is subservient to another through attire, behavior and outright segregation.

    I agree that not every blogger needs credentials to do what they do. And not every blogger wants to run the kind of operation McErlain has. But the difference between my feelings and those of the Islanders PR staff is that every blogger should have the opportunity to. And creating a quasi-fan club with limited access is a model that threatens that goal.

    Keep up the great work as usual. Please continue give me a chuckle when you find your way over to the gloriously inadequate FanHouse comment forums.

  2. Oh god did I just unintentionally agree with Eklund? I feel dirty.

    Thanks for stopping by and writing a comment. Sorry i can't respond at the fan house, but my e-mail is blocked at work, making it difficult to respond, especially during the day.

    Anyway do you remember that scene in "The Prestige" where you found out the dove in a cage trick is really done by crushing a live dove, and having another one handy. That's the risk of total access.

    I am willing to concede that for bloggers like yourself and Eric the idea of a Blog Box could make it difficult for bloggers, like yourselves, who deserve a full press pass to get one. It makes it much more likely that clubs would give you the limited blog pass instead of a full press pass that you deserve.

    However I don't see why full press passes for bloggers and blog passes can't coexist. Press pass-press rules, Box Pass-Box rules, let bloggers apply for either one they want.

    I just think opening up the entire press box for all bloggers is opening up a can of worms. First of all chances are if a person is blogging about a team regularly, they are pretty die-hard. Members of the press have a hard time keeping their emotions bottled up sometimes (exhibit A: Suzyn Waldman) how is a die-hard going to do it?

    And what if you get 100 applicants a game for a press pass. Who gets turned down for one if there's overcrowding? According to you and Eric bloggers have an equal right to be there, and I agree, but what if Islander's army gets a pass but the beat writer from the New York Daily News gets shut out? You can't give everyone a press pass.

    I am getting into hypotheticals (and I hate doing that) but the point is that traditional press and bloggers are different in most cases, and there's no problem with treating them differently in my opinion. McErlain is the exception, not the rule and because of that exception he, and others like him, should get that exception and be granted a full press pass. But for the 95% of bloggers who aren't doing that style of blog a limited access badge is more than enough.

  3. I can't access the fanhouse thingy at work, but I did see this yesterday on Mirtle's blog.

    I really can see some valid points on both sides of the argument. I don't like the segregation that gwyshynski brings up, but, overall I applaud the Isles for at least making an effort to recognize the blogging community - something the Avs don't do at all.