Here in Atlanta we have what may be the largest press box in the NHL. You can look up there on any given night and the upper press box looks like a ghost town. That sure looks like a wasted resource to me. Why not fence off one side of that and create a Blogger Row? Here is a team that gets precious little coverage and fans have little to read in the mainstream press. Often the mainstream press is very negative (which is fair when factual, but that has not always been the case in my opinion). Why not encourage more fan blogs and websites by setting up something to facilitate them?The Falconer has experience blogging from the press box in Nashville, and elsewhere in the post compares the empty press box at Philips Arena to the Washington Capitals' pro-blogging, pro-innovation press policies. Why can't the Thrashers be more like the Capitals and offer press passes to bloggers who can string together coherent sentences?
"Oh, but how does the organization know that the blogger is PROFESSIONAL enough to be granted a press pass?" bleat the reactionaries.
"Professional" is a nebulous term, and sometimes (sometimes, sometimes, not the majority of the time) the "professional" ethos even gets in the way of serious and engaging journalism. Was George Orwell being "professional" by running off to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War and then writing a book about it from his very un-objective, "biased" (but highly individual and non-partisan) perspective? Did he need a press credential for his writing about the war to be "professional" and valuable?
How did I get onto this topic? What was I talking about? Hockey bloggers...yes...
To be fair, the Atlanta Thrashers organization is gradually becoming more blogger-friendly. I mean, last summer they invited us humble Thrashers bloggers to interview the new head coach! All this without pre-conditions (I never signed anything that said "You can't ask John Anderson about x, y, or z") and at a time when quite a lot of the mainstream hockey press hadn't had a crack at the guy.
I'm not saying that the Thrashers organization is backwards and hostile to today's media (it's ridiculous to call blogs and the online press "the media of the future;" look around you), because they're clearly not. Like I said in my write-up after the Anderson interview, the people in the organization who invited us are forward-thinking and smart on a purely pragmatic level to embrace the blogosphere. Like the Falconer says, print media is dying, and there's no going back to some Edenic state where bloggers don't have some measure of influence and attention.
I love newspapers and magazines, but they're declining irreversibly. Just two or so weeks ago Creative Loafing declared bankruptcy and announced that its print days are over: it's gone totally online. I suspect alternative papers around the country will follow suit (as it looks Washington DC's City Paper will do), and eventually even the mainstream broadsheets might transfer 100% of their content to the online world.
As for how a hockey club determines which bloggers are worthy of a press pass and which ones are not: judgment, kids, judgment. Most blogs are junk, but most of anything is junk; the hockey blogs that get lots of attention almost always deserve it. The hockey blogosphere is quite diverse, and the most popular blogs (Mirtle, Kukla, Puck Daddy, the Pensblog, etc.) ALL merit the traffic they receive. They deserve their popularity for different reasons, but they certainly deserve it.
Maybe hockey organizations should appoint an official blog gatekeeper, a sort of online literary critic who determines which bloggers produce content good or interesting enough to merit a press credential and which ones write meaningless dreck. The Thrashers already kind of have just such a blog gatekeeper in Ben Wright of the Blueland Blog. The Falconer offers some (to my mind) excellent ideas here:
One argument I hear against this is that people will only blog to avoid buying tickets. Well here's a news flash--I know multiple people who sit in press row on a regular basis who produce ZERO THRASHER CONTENT and simply use their press passes to attend games. Basically if you work for a media outlet at some point in your past you can get a press pass and do NOTHING and still watch NHL hockey for free. I understand why individuals would take advantage of the Thrashers organization, but I don't understand why the Thrashers organization allows itself to be taken advantage of.I dig the "publish or perish" idea. What do you think?
On the other hand, bloggers who do create Thrasher content are turned away because we don't work for professional news organizations. Look, if you're worried about a Blogger Row becoming a cheap ticket alternative, then establish some ground rules to weed out the slackers--you have to publish regularly or loose your spot--"publish or perish"--seems like I've heard that one before.
The other objection that is frequently tossed out is that bloggers are unprofessional. Fine, establish ground rules and have Blogger Boot Camp during Training Camp in which any blogger must learn and consent to basic journalistic rules before receiving a credential. At the risk of offending my journalist friends--we are not talking about learning how to split the atom here. Eric McErlain has already created a Code of Conduct statement which the Thrashers could modify to their satisfaction.