Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Blogging in a Small Market

A big thank you to James Mirtle for including Islanders Outsider in his reaction to the Hockey Night in Canada feature and the discussion it provoked in the hockey blogging circles. It's always a thrill when someone picks up on something you've written and deems it worthy of repeating--even more so when that person has a highly respected and widely read blog.

Speaking of repeating, many prominent bloggers made insightful contributions to the discussion, as did the readers who frequent their blogs. At the risk of holding onto this story too long, I'd like to go over some of the issues that were raised as they relate to this blog specifically and the circumstances in which it operates.

A perceived rivalry between bloggers and the mainstream media...
Has the Blog Box encroached on the turf of those who cover the Islanders for the mainstream media? Yes, it has. That turf, however, is not very well protected and there is plenty of it. On a given night, I'd say that between six and ten members of the media constitute the post-game locker room scrum. As Tom Benjamin wrote, "If I was an owner
I can't think of a good reason [why bloggers should be credentialed] unless I was in the Ted Leonsis boat and I couldn't fill my press box with MSM writers." Well, Charles Wang was last seen on the lido deck with Mr. Leonsis. The Islanders simply need more coverage, and that is where the Blog Box comes in.

Like Mike Schuerlein, I have not had a single problem with a member of the mainstream media in the locker room. Would it be different if bloggers were allowed in the press box? I can't say for sure, but I don't think so. The bloggers are a sharp group. They know their place and they adapt easily to expectations.

The blogosphere will become worthless if bloggers attempt to mimic the role of the main stream media...
Commenting on Mirtle's blog, beingbobbyorr said, "I enjoyed the piece, too, but was very disappointed to hear nothing of the main distinction between MSM & blogosphere: objective reporting (MSM) is not the same as subjective opinion essays (blogging)." I completely agree with the need to hammer home this distinction, especially as it pertains to the criticism leveled at bloggers for lacking objectivity.

However, beingbobbyorr goes on to say, "
This whole competition/encroaching-on-the-MSMs-turf debate is absurd, because the blogosphere will become worthless if it tries to do what the MSM does...." I think this may be true in some markets, but not on Long Island. At the start of the season, game coverage in three of the four major local newspapers was limited to news-service articles. Lately, those papers have had reporters on-site more often, but their column space is still very limited. The fans of small-market teams are starved for good local coverage. Bloggers can provide that.

This poses the question of what any one particular blog should be. I think in the Blog Box, we're all conscious of not trying to do the same things, at least not on a regular basis. Personally, I like variety. When I go to a game as a credentialed blogger, I generally play beat reporter for the night. That means recapping the game, reporting on the post-game comments of the team, and asking the players and coaches my own questions in order to get quotes on specific aspects of the game or the team that I think would be interesting to hear. Not only are some fans looking for this type of blogging, but they're expecting it to appear as though the content were on deadline. I have also heard a lot of support for live blogging.

Then there are those fans that really want the passionate and/or subjective opinion essays. I tend not to spout off or be overly analytical, but I try to throw in a little of everything from time to time, including entries like this that are kind of meta. I think that writing about what's going on with blogging and this whole experience is important, and I enjoy doing it. At the same time, I know there are people out there who are wondering why I'm writing this instead of reporting on the Islanders' 1-0 lead after the first in Atlanta. So, for me, the answer is...everything in moderation, including moderation.

The necessity of a hierarchy in the locker room scrum, and why it doesn't always apply...
From the outset, the Blog Box was told to let the mainstream guys get their quotes first. Someone out there had a good run-down of the hierarchy, detailing the order among TV, print, radio, etc., but I can't find it now. Regardless, the hierarchy makes sense, and right now bloggers come last. The mainstream media have deadlines, and the reporters are making their living doing this.

But the system is imperfect. We were told to hold our questions until the mainstream people were done. So we waited for a lull, not wanting to step on anyone's toes. And when the lull finally came, guess what happened? The team media representative thanked the player/coach and excused him from further questions. Now, I'm not criticizing this. I don't blame Chris Botta or Corey Witt one bit for letting the players off the hook as soon as possible. The bloggers learned quickly that we had to be a little more aggressive. We can't wait around for the lull that is a clear indicator of the mainstream reporters being done. If we do, we get shut out. So we risk ruffling a few quills.

A few weeks ago, a player entered the room and said something a little edgy when the scrum didn't immediately commence with the questioning. After just a few questions, there was a prolonged (for the situation) silence. Given the player's earlier comment, which was humorous by the way, and the fear of losing the opportunity, I fired away. Nobody bristled, nobody complained. And as far as I know, there haven't been any incidents at the Coliseum resulting from bloggers "not knowing their place."

To conclude, I really like what CapsChick had to say at Hockey's Ladies of Greatness: "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. I view it as a privilege, not a right, and I think there has to be that distinction made to some extent..."


7th Woman said...

Well, we can't say the Islanders "experiment" isn't getting some attention! Great job Ken.

Outsider said...

Thanks, Dee. I'm proud to be a part of this experiment with great people like you! Your blog never fails to entertain me.

Jim McGlynn said...

outsider, I must say that I have generally been very impressed with the poise and deference shown by bloggers at Isle press conferences. We wouldn't in any way undermine the organization for giving us this shot.

Also, I did some research and found a better route out of nyc, so if you want, I'm sure we can car pool to NVMC for weeknight games. the more the merrier.

NYIsles1/IslesTigers said...

Hi everyone.

I'm NYIsles1, the blogger added to the box after the season started. My blog is New York Islander Fan Central.

Mr Botta was kind enough to add my blog knowing I would not take a seat in the box because I want a person interested in a journalism career to have that opportunity and I wanted to give something back to the team that cost them nothing.

It is almost kind of funny to me you folks have to actually wait for Peter Botte or Dan Martin to ask questions after the way Mr Gallo and Leon Carver have treated the New York Islanders in their publications for several years.

They are on deadline to print three paragraphs and do no blogs of their own. They cover the team like it's a paycheck and would rather be anywhere else.

You folks may be Islander fans but Larry Brooks, Sam Weinman, John Dellapina and Bridget Wentworth are die hard Ranger fans who take the wins and losses just as personal as the bloggers. That's the kind of coverage our team needs.

I got a great question for you to ask these writers being that I have contacted the Times and Post editor this week and offered to print my blog for free with no publicity just so the team has more coverage.

Why can't these publications add bloggers? Someone at the Post does the Rangers who is not in the print edition. How do these writers feel about such limited space and not blogging or is Dan Martin more interested in the PSAL beat?

Sorry for the long post. Just some things I always ask on my blog because I put the media under the spotlight daily along with full team coverage.

Thanks and goodluck.

Outsider said...

I imagine that the newspapers simply don't see enough of an advantage to adding bloggers to their Sports section. They don't foresee an Islanders blog getting enough hits to justify even the limited administration that linking to an external blog would require, especially with no editorial control other than removing the link.

I think you raise a very interesting point in questioning whether the Isles should market more to New York in general instead of focusing only on Long Island. Being one of those few fans who latched onto the team from outside of LI, I'm not convinced that the rest of New York is primed to jump aboard the Islanders bandwagon--but it's definitely worth exploring.