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A Brief Word on Bloggers and Credentials

This is a topic that may not be of great interest to you, but I know we have a good number of bloggers, and aspiring blogger readers so this may have some value to you, plus it wholly and entirely consumed "the community" yesterday and has inspired us all to say a word or two. If the blogger vs MSM debate is a dead horse you'd rather not beat, or if you never cared in the first place, I invite you to skip it and leave your thoughts on a great Nick Grossman contract in the thread below.

None of this is specific to the Dallas Stars, who have been very kind to us in the past and we look forward to continuing that relationship in the future.

Yesterday Puck Daddy had a series of posts related to an internal discussion going on in the NHL regarding bloggers and access to teams. There was a conference call on Monday that saw teams such as the New York Rangers voice concerns about bloggers being allowed access to visiting team locker rooms. The logic there is that if the Rangers would (in theory) not credential a blogger in their own building to talk to their team, why should some other blogger in Washington (just an example) be allowed to talk to their team?

The second, and more concerning post dealt with the aftermath of that phone call and a leaked internal email proposing a set of guidelines for credentialing "web-based media." You can see that email here.

What's concerning here is that such broad, sweeping generalizations/guidelines threaten to take the subjectivity and common sense out of the process and shut the door on the more deserving with an emphatic and blind "We don't credential bloggers, end of story. Goodbye."

The argument always seems to be (and the leaked email supports this) that if a writer is not employed full time to produce "web-based media", his/her content is somehow instantly undesirable and not relevant to a PR staffs' ultimate goal of growing the teams' brand and having the team talked about.

A credential is a trade, as I understand it. Like any other trade, there are two sides, each presumably possessing something the other would like. In the case of pro-sports teams and media, it's pretty straight forward. The team wants to be covered and talked about. The reporter wants the access to cover them...

It seems easy. Logically, the only sticking points should be:

  • "Does this media outlet have an appropriate audience for our team/brand?"
  • "Does this media outlet reach enough people to justify having another body in our locker room?"
  • "Does this media outlet have a track record of producing the kind of content with which we want to be associated?"
  • "Does this media outlet exhibit responsible reporting? i.e. Can we trust them?"

These questions should be answered by teams on a site by site basis. Instead, the question "Is this your day job?" seems to be taking center stage.

A blanket "We credential bloggers" policy is obviously inappropriate, as any yahoo with a blogspot blog (We've all been there) can say "Hey, I have a blog!" Every blog is different.

PR staffs, in an ideal world, would immerse themselves in what's happening out here on the internet. They would find out that their fan base loves to consume information in this form. They would easily see the difference between the good ones and the bad ones, or the younger ones. With a phone conversation, or an email exchange, or even a handshake and a tryout, they would see that a professional balance can be struck; That the humor on the page can be kept out of the locker room; That we're perfectly capable of a suit and a tie and a poker face in a press box. That some of us even have editors, a chain of command, and contracts.

Broad strokes and (potential) league wide policies do not bode well for what otherwise could be fruitful, mutually beneficial relationships between NHL teams and the select bloggers of their choosing.

It's entirely up to the team, of course. We don't deserve anything. We understand that bit I said earlier about "the trade."

Maybe one in ten blogs is a good fit for a given team, but they ARE out there, and they shouldn't be shut out entirely by default. Everyone loses in that scenario. The fans most of all.

The "blogosphere" is a rich and vibrant tapestry of opinion and reporting that fans are drawn to more and more each month. (Just look at our traffic). Networks like SB Nation have a specific, niche purpose to bring detailed discussion, analysis and opinion to the table from a unique point of view: That of the fan. It is in demand, and it is an undeniable part of how sports information is produced and digested in 2010. Just this week DefendingBigD was featured on the front page of Talk about a confusing message.

Sports fans are insatiable creatures. How many Stars blogs and sites can I read? How many are there? The information available is even now not proportional to our craving for it.

The potential is just now being realized. "Blogging" will likely always be a part of how teams communicate and disseminate information to their fans, whether they like it or not. Bloggers are not necessarily guys sitting in boxer shorts in their mothers basements. They're not necessarily moody teenagers with a laptop. We're also lawyers and doctors. We're small business owners. We're computer programmers (that's me!). We're in the military. We're college students. We have wives (and husbands) and children, and most of us already have season tickets.We're not trying to get in the door for free. We do however think that a story we're writing on "player x" might turn out better if we had a quote or two from "player x" to mix in there.

Mostly, we're passionate people that love our team, and we want to help its cause; Never hurt it.

Decide for yourselves, NHL teams. Don't shut the door without looking through the peephole.