What is a Blog?
A blog can be entertaining, it can be informational, and it can be enlightening. But the most important part of a blog is that it can be activating. It allows others to look at your thoughts and follow your life and then launch their own ideas, comments and perspectives on what you’ve seen and done. In short, your personal blog is a way to leave your footprints in the sand.
— From the blog of Washington Capitals’ owner and Internet mogul Ted Leonsis, Tedstake.com
In an era where information moves quicker than the puck on a 5-on-3 power play, hockey fans can’t wait for the daily newspaper to hit their doorstep to find out what happened in rinks across North America. Most can’t even wait for SportsCenter to light up their flat screen.
In today’s streaming society, where life is measured in megabytes and nanoseconds, blogs have surfaced as the quickest and sometimes quirkiest form of news and commentary available.
Web logs, or blogs for short, have been connecting fans across the globe and have given a new face and voice to the hockey world. Often written by a die-hard fan without an unbiased bone in his body, blogs provide a new dimension to sports journalism by providing real-time game analysis or commentary while leaving the run-of-the-mill game story in the dust.
Bloggers aren’t bashful about expressing their own opinions and encourage readers to chime in with their own thoughts and comments.
Only recently have bloggers begun to shed the stereotypical image of a sports junkie posting his computer-generated rants from the safety of his parent’s basement. Today’s blogger takes on many forms, including players who create their own blogs that act as online diaries so that readers can catch a glimpse of life at the highest levels of the game.
(USA Hockey has run several player blogs during international tournaments on its Web site.)
Today’s bloggers are gaining acceptance among mainstream media, in part because professional journalists have learned that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
The rising popularity of blogs has forced mainstream media to re-evaluate which direction coverage is heading in the near future as fingers stay glued to the keyboard and eyes stay fixed on a computer screen.
“I think [blogging] sort of changed how we approached coverage of events,” said Kevin Allen, president of the Professional Writer’s Association and USA Today’s hockey writer. “Instead of just reporting what happened in the news we are interpreting it quickly, and we have been forced to do it by the amateur bloggers.”
Allen, along with most professional journalists, has taken on a larger workload, writing his own blog, “Mucking and Grinding,” along with his regular columns and other stories.
Even with an additional workload, Allen feels that in order to stay competitive mainstream media had to convert and use blogging as a news medium or perish at the hands of the amateur bloggers.
However, not every journalist feels the same, and allowing the amateur bloggers to begin attending games as regular media is a hot topic.
“My membership believes that right now there is not enough history to bring aboard bloggers,” Allen said. “They don’t really have any accountability. They can post anything and it doesn’t really matter, while those of us in the Association have accountability and have standards.”
Practicing a free form of journalism where anything goes, amateur bloggers are not required to uphold media ethics because they are not accountable to a higher authority, such as an editor or publisher.
While professional journalists are required to offer the same immediate form of media, they must still report factual and accurate news, and because professional blogs must uphold these standards, they hold a level of reliability over postings by amateur bloggers.
Some bloggers tend to post anything and everything, regardless of truth or accuracy, which can create problems because blogs that have been established as reliable must fight harder to be recognized among the established media.
“Personally, I believe that as long as a guy has proven himself to be a guy who dedicates his profession to [blogging], he deserves to be taken seriously,” Allen said.
As the debate continues to wage on, the transformations are hitting every level of hockey from grassroots to the National Hockey League as organizations across the country are starting to take a proactive approach to blogging and rethinking what constitutes a “real journalist.”
“... having fans get involved is a great way to pull your fans into the game and into
The New York Islanders have been at the front of the pack in allowing bloggers to attend games at Nassau Coliseum. Implementing an auxiliary press box, normally used to accommodate overflow during the playoffs, the Islanders have encouraged fans with running blogs to attend games as members of the press.
“We saw that blogging is becoming a major force on the Internet and is a tool for news reporting,” said Corey Witt, media relations coordinator for the Islanders. “Instead of shying away from it, we wanted to dive right in.”
The Islanders presented fans, most of whom are season ticket holders, with the opportunity to apply to become active members of the media.
Applications to earn media credentials went up in May 2007 and established hockey bloggers, not necessarily those covering the Islanders, were chosen based on quality and unique traits.
“The program was designed to have fans watch the game and blog,” Witt said. “The regular press box has rules that you can’t wear jerseys or cheer when a goal is scored, but these fans are actually encouraged to do that because they are basically sitting with the crowd, and after the game they are given full access to the Islanders like regular media.”
Striking franchise gold, the Islanders’ forward thinking has been successful on several levels. From a press standpoint, the Islanders receive more coverage at their games. From a fan standpoint, a deeper-seeded connection was formed because bloggers were embraced rather than shunned. From a business standpoint, the Islanders had sponsorships come up for the new press box. Witt described it as a win-win situation for everyone involved.
“Everyone seems skeptical about it at first, but when they talk to us and see how successful it was, they sort of saw where we were coming from,” Witt said. “I suspect other teams in the NHL will follow suit in the next year.”
The future of blogging is clear. It is a new form of media that not only provides teams with more coverage but also allows the game to grow and solidify a fan base.
“Technology can change a lot,” said Helene Elliott, sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times. “I think having interactive things, having fans get involved, is a great way to pull your fans into the game and into the sport.”
With the endless possibilities, blogging is the future of sports journalism whether the mainstream media is ready or not.
10 Great Hockey Blogs
1) Kukla’s Korner