In light of all the talk last week about blogger access relative to the NHL, it's worth noting that here in Nashville, the Predators are extending their relationship with the local blogging scene by creating a "Blogger's Row" this season to provide access for an assortment of independent websites.
Already one of the more cooperative NHL teams, the Preds are taking a step forward by building upon previously established guidelines, and laying out a process by which a blogger can prove themselves over time. Follow after the jump for more...
Nashville's history with sports bloggers
The Predators have already provided media access for some bloggers. Preds On The Glass and Brandon Felder have been regulars in the post-game locker room for a few seasons now, although POTG originally got its foot in the door as a representative of the Columbia Daily Herald. I've enjoyed game-day media access as well on an occasional basis, and during training camp last fall, Section303.com posted updates almost every day, including quotes from Barry Trotz on how the team was shaping up.
All this came after an early independent website with media access, PredZone, flamed out in March 2007 with a lengthy podcast tirade against the local mainstream media and the team. Some organizations would have just closed the curtain to new media after that episode went down, but the Preds have continued to work with bloggers on a case-by-case basis.
Filling the void left by the mainstream media
Obviously, conditions vary from market to market, and here in Nashville, you can count on one hand the local sports media outlets which provide solid coverage of the team - WKRN Channel 2 on TV, the two sports radio stations in town, WNSR (560-AM, with the Thom Abraham Show and SlapShot Radio) and WGFX (104.5 "The Zone"), along with Jim Diamond at Examiner.com. Last year in an interview with Sports Business Journal, Preds Senior Vice President Gerry Helper outlined the situation when The Tennessean had stopped sending beat writer John Glennon (who has since been moved over to cover the NFL's Tennessee Titans) on road trips:
"Even when they were traveling, the amount of space they gave the beat writer was ridiculous... We need more coverage. More attention. If we don’t feel we’re reaching a broad enough audience, or even reaching our core fans (through the local newspaper), we have to find other ways."
Within that context, this next step that the Predators are undertaking is to broaden their working relationship with the local blogging community, which has continued to grow over the last few seasons.
Here's an excerpt of a communication recently sent to local hockey bloggers (it was drafted in July, well before last week's controversy about NHL-wide standards):
Though we intend on carrying this program out through the entire season, all bloggers granted this access would start training camp out on a trial basis. We will have a meeting for those involved prior to our first home preseason game, and work toward full-season credentials when all parties are comfortable with that commitment. We urge all potential participants to educate themselves on the professional and journalistic standards we demand of all our media. I would suggest reading the link below "Guidelines for Granting Media Credentials to Bloggers and Other Online Media Representatives" which was created by Eric McErlain, a blogger for the Washington Capitals.
It's great to see a team building off the pioneering work that Eric McErlain undertook with the Washington Capitals, and I think it makes for a refreshing counterpoint to the fearful attitude reportedly conveyed by the New York Rangers in last week's NHL media conference call.
Which team would you rather emulate? The Rangers, or the Capitals?
Just because you can, doesn't mean you should
It's also important for anyone looking to jump on board with this program to ask themselves a question posed just the other day by the Hockey Broad: "Do I really want to be a credentialed blogger? And if so, why?"
There's no cheering on press row, and let's be honest, hockey players aren't generally known for providing the most interesting post-game quotes. Working a game is, indeed, work; there's little time to enjoy the ebb and flow of the game, because you're busy crafting a narrative of the contest, and trying to make note of questions to ask key parties afterward. Yes, the popcorn's free, but it's served in these tiny cups (I may try sneaking in a feedbag one of these days), and the view's not very good. If you want to actually enjoy the game, you'll have a much better time in the stands.
That said, if you're a committed, contributing blogger and think that covering the action and providing a new angle to game reporting is something you want to do, I heartily encourage my fellow Preds writers to take up the calling. New voices and new perspectives make the entire dialogue around the team that much more robust.
Just remember, gang, if you do get in the locker room, don't step on the logo!