Should the Atlanta Thrashers issue press credentials to bloggers who write about the team?
This question periodically gets kicked around the blogosphere from time to time. Those who support such an idea believe it would allow them to gain certain insight and information for their readers and would help the team tap into this new form of online journalism. There are some who even feel that these blogs, specifically sports blogs, are a natural evolution from the so-call mainstream media.
As most of you already know, there are a number of Thrashers blogs out there that are set up and hosted by some very talented and entertaining writers. You can find a sampling in my Blog Roll normally located to the right of this column. Their styles of blogging vary from the very serious and insightful to those who take a more light-hearted and satirical approach. The beauty of these online forums is that the author can inject a great deal of his/her personality into them as they discuss the team.
Recently I asked a handful of these online journalists that make up Thrasherville’s “internet news agencies” what their thoughts were on the subject of press creds for bloggers.
Laura Astorian runs Thrashing the Blues…a blog that revolves around her two favorite teams, the Thrashers and St. Louis Blues. She favors of the idea of blogger access to the Thrashers…citing her desire for additional information outlets.
“I actually think that it’d be a good idea, since the only media in Atlanta that covers the Thrashers is the AJC”, she shared with me. “The bloggers are excellent free press. We can provide analysis and opinion that people who work for a newspaper can’t do”.
This is a feeling shared by one of the most sharpest and, in my opinion, smartest bloggers in the Thrasher community… the Falconer, who opines at Bird Watchers Anonymous . He feels it is only a matter of time before the blogging community is officially embraced by one and all in the journalism profession.
“I absolutely think that ‘bloggers’ will be recognized as part of the digital press”, says the Falconer. “The process has already begun with teams such as the Captials, Predators and Hurricanes leading the way. The NHL granted me press access last year to the entry draft and USA Hockey did the same during the U-18 Tournament. The NHL main office has embraced bloggers, YouTube and social media”.
However, the organization certainly has to walk a fine line between just whom it is that they allow outside the locker room and up on press row.
“Of course, you need to be selective with who you give press creds to”, Laura added. “Maybe bigger blogs or blogs that are part of a network that have a solid reputation and that the leagues and other teams respect and give credentials to”.
The Falconer agrees saying, “The challenge for each team is to figure out how to handle the array of blogs that exist. In the past teams could just assume that newspaper writers knew and understood journalism ethics and practices. In the future teams may find it necessary to draft a formal statement of acceptable practices before granting access. They might also consider hosting workshops in journalism for aspiring hockey writers as well”.
“The term ‘bloggers’ covers a wide range of internet hockey writers”, Falconer continues. “At one end of the spectrum you have those who have no desire for access. At the other end, you have other sites (such as my own or Hockey’s Future for example) that aspire to conduct internet journalism. Not all bloggers have the same goals”.
These points are shared by my good friend Smoothie, who is a frequent contributor to this blog as well as the host of As the Birds Thrash.
“As a fledgling blogger myself, I think the idea of press access for established bloggers is, in essence, one with strong merit, especially in the case of the Thrashers in which actual media coverage is limited and sometimes lacking. In bigger towns where there are multiple media outlets…not just papers… giving extensive coverage to their team, I don’t think the idea makes as much sense”.
“It can be a good PR tool for a team trying to establish more of a presence in the ever-expanding sphere of internet-blogging influence”, Smoothie goes on to say. “But, unless the blogger has a reputation of consistently frequent, thorough and fair coverage of the team, I’m not keen on the idea of letting every Tom, Dick and Harry have a chance to sit in the press box on a regular basis”.
“In a city where the TV media barely pays any attention to the hometown hockey team, I think bloggers can provide a valuable and important vehicle by which expanded media exposure can be achieved”.
Certainly not all on-line hosts are hip to the jive of rooting for the Thrashers from press box row. To them, they gain the best perspective from the seats that they pay for and that is where they would prefer to remain for the most part.
Such is the case with Big Shooter of the The Blueland Chronicle… a self-described “war blog” in which bombs are thrown and the bodies allowed to fall where they may. It’s not only one of my favorite daily reading stops, but is actually Trixie’s most favorite. In fact, pinned up in her office are several posters of Big Shooter in various…ahem…poses.
“Some blogs are really suited to getting a press pass, while others are not”, Shooter says. “Personally I would much rather be in the stands yelling and having a good time as opposed to sitting in the press box. I have no illusions that I’m a professional media member. I do the blog for fun and to bring a very unique perspective from a fan”.
Mr. Shooter isn’t opposed to having access to press row… just not at the expense of being able to openly cheer for them while enjoy a couple of cold adult beverages from the seats he and TBC foursome have purchased located in the upper deck front row of the attack twice side of the arena…dubbed TBC Perch. There, he and Mortimer Peacock, the editor in chief over at TBC, take up residence during Thrashers games like Statler and Waldorff…joined by other TBC contributors Razor Catch Prey and French Catalogues.
“I have enjoyed participating in non-game day events…helps us bring some insight to our readers that they won’t get elsewhere. But ultimately, I think game days should be left to the professionals”.
He also feels the Thrashers would be walking a fine line by offering up credentials to members of the new cyber-media. “I think they need to be careful about that, because anyone can start a blog and some may do so just to gain closer access to players and to get a press pass”.
Mr. Peacock is open to the idea of blogger creds… but he too takes a cautious approach to the mater. Also, he wonders if the access gained by some would be linked directly to how critical the writer may/may not toward the play of the team and the decisions made by the front office.
“It’s ultimately up to the Thrashers who they issue press credentials to, and in some cases whether or not they issue press credentials at all”, he told me. “My own opinion is that it’d be a fine thing to see blogs with a record of decent writing and reporting get press credentials, and I would hope that getting a press pass wouldn’t be conditional on how gung-ho about the Thrashers a blog may or may not be”.
“But as we all know, any idiot can start a blog. I’m not in favor of issuing press passes to just anyone who requests them. It’s up to the Thrashers…or to whoever handles their PR…to decide which blogs are worthy of being credentialed”.
As for his own online forum, Mr. Peacock went on to say, “If we’re making newspaper/blog analogies, the Chronicle tries to be more of a loud, colorful tabloid than an august daily. So I would understand completely if the Thrashers didn’t deem us appropriate for press credentials”.
However, I think Morty could be persuaded…if the situation was right.
“But if they would allow us to cover the Thrashers in our own style…my goodness, Rawhide, you’re putting crazy ideas into my head. I think I’m going to send the Thrashers an official request for press credentials, printed on official Blueland Chronicle LLC letterhead”.
Unfortunately for Peacock, I don’t know how persuasive a letter can be when it is printed in crayon on a brown paper bag that once covered the contents from a package store or adult novelty shop.
As for my thoughts on the matter…well, I would be lying if I said the thought of being credentialed doesn’t interest me. Last year the team did invite some of us in to chat with players and coaches after morning practice and later, we were invited upstairs to enjoy the game from “blogger row” atop the press box. For that, I am truly appreciative and hope I will be able to do more of that during the coming season.
The Thrashers marketing guys have also done a very good job of recognizing that there is indeed an alternate news format in the community…one that contains more than a few very talented, interesting and thought-provoking writers. Opening doors to them is a good way to promote their product in the community and they should receive kudos for doing so.
However, I agree with those who express that a certain amount of caution should be exercised when it comes to who is eligible for press creds. Since virtually anyone can create a blog, it could be difficult to determine who and who does not qualify…though the Falconer does make a compelling argument for such with his suggestion of a formal statement of acceptable practices being drawn up by the team.
I am also one who believes that the demise of the traditional newspaper has been greatly exaggerated…even though it’s true the mainstream media is undergoing a process of evolving from the “paper on the porch” format to an internet-driven media. But papers like the AJC and others have, in my opinion, recognized that fact and have taken steps to change accordingly…finding ways to generate revenue by way of online advertisement as opposed to subscription fees. As such, in one form or another, there will continue to be a beat writer from the local paper covering professional and collegiate sports for some time for the most part.
My belief is that the new cyber-media or will include the blogging community alongside of the traditional media…but not replace it.