Blogs, Credentials and Media

Paul Hendrick and LeafsTV always gets the first question in the scrums. I wonder how the other media feel about that.

For those of you who have had enough of the blogs v. mainstream media discussions, I apologize in advance for yet another 500 words on a topic that's worn more than a little thin.

For those of you interested in media relations and the inner-workings of media access and credentialing, Greg Wyshynski has put up a must read post, that reveals, among other things, that certain NHL teams want to control who has access to their locker room when they're on the road. 

I can't say I blame them. 

I also wouldn't be surprised if NHL media relations departments aren't alone in pushing for restricted access. I suspect there are some reporters out there who don't exactly relish the thought of more competition for quotes, for access, for scoops, and - heaven forbid - for insight and analysis.

Having worked in public affairs for 15+ years, often very closely with the media, I thought I'd offer some insight from the other side of the desk: what it's like to deal with the media from an organizational standpoint.

What's "Credentialing?"

There are policies for credentials all over the net and they're pretty much all the same.

Depending on the organization, or the news event, the standard credentialing process is usually just asking for a business card. If you're with a major media outlet, you're in.

More formal credentialing processes are often associated with covering federal and/or provincial legislatures, law enforcement agencies or for events where there is a great deal of media interest and limited space, such as a professional sporting event.

Why Issue Credentials?

By requiring credentials, organizations can screen and select the media that are invited to cover a news event or get access to a company spokesperson.

In return for credentials/access, journalists are often asked to observe the rules of the event and/or the organization – e.g. certain topics may be off-limits (SEC investigations are always a good place to start); there may be limited time for the interview; if it's a news conference questions should be held until the end or for scrums and one-on-one interview opportunities.

The Brouhaha About Bloggers

The news that some NHL teams wants to restrict access to bloggers shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that follows hockey.

Yes, the NHL has been at the forefront of utilizing social media to promote the game. Many NHL teams, especially those in markets that don't generate traditional media coverage, have done a great job of extending their reach through bloggers. Even the mighty Toronto Maple Leafs have been inviting bloggers to spend a night in the press box.

But the NHL has consistently missed the point that many fans want, and many blogs deliver, a level of insight that the media and NHL teams can’t or won't match - whether it's advanced statistics, legal insight or humour (and in many cases all three).  

The NHL appears not to understand that a growing number of fans who want quality content and interesting information are savvy enough to know good sites from bad and don't care if the site is run by a monolithic corporation or a guy procrastinating during his day-job.

But the NHL, their teams and the media's consistent misreading of the market doesn't change the basic dynamic of media relations:  teams have every right to determine who has access to their spokespeople.

If I was in charge of media relations for an NHL team, I'd certainly want to know who was coming in the dressing room, how they were pre-screened, and to limit access as I saw fit.

Other than a free invite to a game, I can’t see any value in bloggers seeking formal credentials from NHL clubs. I also don't see any reason for Canadian NHL teams to even offer them.

The Value of Access?

I presume that I'm like most readers here and get 95% of my Leafs info distilled from the beautifully named Barilkosphere - none of whom have access to the ACC or the Leafs dressing room. 

I could be wrong, but I don't feel like I'm missing any angles or stories by not having one of my peers attend the morning skate or the post-game scrums. I'd love to know if anyone longs for their favourite blog to have first-person access to the banality associated with post-game reports and quotidian player interviews? I don't suspect there's an appetite out there to read blogs entries with post-game quotes about 110% and "one game at a time." 

The real value of blogs, and what makes many of them must-read in an era of decreasing media relevancy, is two fold:

  1. Agglomeration - blogs, like the wonderful space that is PPP, provide a range of benefits to readers by efficiently amassing and clustering information about their favourite team or sport that's complemented by an informed commentariat
  2. The ability to provide in-depth analysis and expertise, often associated with professional training (e.g. law, statistics) that's not found in traditional media

I don't think a blogger being able to speak  to Tyler Bozak after a Tuesday night Leaf game against some Southeast Division foe adds any value to the above points.

And I don't think, by and large, fans will miss out by having NHL teams review who gets access to their players, coaches and executives when they're on the road.

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