Unlike racing (at least in New York), hockey has an off-season. Which is not to say that hockey news stops between the hoisting of the Stanley Cup in June and the opening of training camps in September: salary cap management, off-season trades, and players’ union peccadilloes all get their share of ink as we impatiently wait for the ice to be laid down.
And this year, the late summer’s hot topic might just be something that we in racing have been wrestling with for years, the old blogger vs. mainstream media debate.
It’s hard to imagine that tradition-bound racing is ahead of the curve in much of anything these days, but compared to the folks at the NHL, racing media looks absolutely progressive.
I’ve lost count of the number of hockey websites that have discussed this issue, but to get a general sense of the conversation, you can check out the following:
“The MSM Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks” Rick Stephens at Allhabs.net, September 4
From Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy:
Here, Wyshynski links to a number of hockey sites on the topic.
And this week, the matter got the attention of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.
A few quotations, all from Wyshynski, that might sound familiar:
While the whole “bloggers vs. mainstream media” fight has grown wearisome — with a few notable exceptions — the fight for respect from media-relations gatekeepers has never been more imperative for the alt-hockey media.
It’s a fight against misconceptions, like the one voiced on Monday’s conference call about bloggers having “no accountability” … in a media landscape that now sees nearly every prominent hockey blog with some affiliation to a large, corporate network. It’s not 2006 anymore; everyone has a boss to complain to now.
(In full disclosure: I’m a member of the Profession Hockey Writers Association, and working to help determine the eligibility of bloggers for PHWA membership.)
…one Western Conference team, during this week’s call, said no bloggers are getting in their building “without a ticket.”
Wyshynski also published the draft of the NHL’s “on-line services” credentialing guidelines:
The policy will be to recognize and credential for on-line services that meets all the following criteria:
1. Is part of a national news gathering agency
2. Reaches a broad audience
3. Produces original content
4. Has an established record of developing original content
5. Employs full-time journalists
Press Boxes remain the domain of the individual clubs for regular season games. If any of the member clubs determine it is in that organization’s best interest to credential an on-line service not meeting the above criteria, the following guidelines will be met:
1. Access will not [emphasis theirs] be granted to visiting club’s locker rooms and visiting team personnel media availabilities unless provided by prior written consent.
2. Every best effort must be made to provide persons not meeting the above criteria with a separate area either outside of the pressbox or in a common, designated location within the press seating area.
3. Credential issued will have some type of differentiation from standard credential so area security and visiting team PR can easily identify.
When I first started to knock on the media door in racing, in the summer of 2008, I met some resistance; Jessica Chapel and I were both spending the summer in Saratoga, and we were frustrated by what seemed to be contrived roadblocks constructed by some members of the NYRA press office.
But we also found a number of receptive ears at NYRA, and while neither of us made it to the press box that summer, we were granted paddock, winner’s circle, and backstretch access: no differentiated scarlet “B” for “Blogger” adorned our clothing, and we had as much opportunity as anyone else to try to track down stories and talk to trainers, jockeys, and owners.
Earlier that year, in April, Alan Mann of Left at the Gate live-blogged Wood Memorial Day from the Aqueduct press box, and I don’t recall anything apocalyptic happening, unless you count Dana Byerly’s flying telephone as she hit the Wood trifecta.
In some ways, those rebel bloggers days seem as far away as the days of horses running—gasp!—at least once a month. I have been credentialed and given press box access at more than half a dozen tracks since then; in fact, I’ve never been denied credentials any time I’ve requested them, and I am not alone: every press box I’ve been in lately has featured a healthy contingent of people writing strictly for the internet, for their own websites or for internet-only publications.
Don’t get me wrong: this is not an “us vs. them” mentality, even as the NHL tries to depict it as such. I love writing for this site and for Belmontstakes.com, and I love writing for the Saratogian and Thoroughbred Times. It seems to me that racing has done rather a fine job of embracing new media and new media members; the National Turf Writers’ Association, of which I am a member, considers for its writing awards work that’s not affiliated with a newspaper or magazine.
I’ve wondered whether I would have been accepted as a member of the NTWA strictly on the merits of Brooklyn Backstretch, without print publications to my credit. I’ll never know, but having the majority of my writing appear here doesn’t seem to have been a disadvantage in the eyes of the membership that voted for me. It doesn’t appear that our hockey blogging brethren yet enjoy the same respect from their mainstream media counterparts.
We are not all the way there yet: the guidelines for the 2009 media Eclipse Awards read as follows:
Print submissions (news/commentary writing, feature/enterprise writing and photography) must have been published in a paid-circulation publication OR on the Internet at a web site that is a same-name affiliate of a paid-circulation publication or recognized broadcast news organization (e.g., The Blood-Horse Interactive, the Boston Globe Online, MSNBC).
I have not been able to locate the guidelines for the 2010 awards, but even if some of those old roadblocks are still in place, racing deserves credit for its openness to new media, and for, to a certain degree, boldly going where few sports have gone before.
If you’re a racing blogger, a mainstream media type, or a racetrack press office inhabitant, I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences, whether they are similar to or different from what I’ve described. And readers…where do you get your racing news? I’m guessing that it’s a mix of new and old media, but do weigh in.