by Mike Chen on 10/21/08 at 12:58 AM ET
I’ve been asked about my thoughts on the whole Covered In Oil/Edmonton Oilers controversy and I’ve been trying to come up with the right way to express my feelings about it.
A quick look at Dave’s description shows how irrational and disrespectful the Oilers staff were to him. I mean, treat the guy with a little decency; if he’s breaking your standards and rules, let him know but don’t give him a metaphorical kick to the groin. That’s uncalled for.
On the other hand, I do understand their need to try and regulate what their press pass is used for. I’ll admit, I started my hockey blogging as a hobby/off-shoot of my freelance writing business. I didn’t know where it would take me, but as my readership grew, I knew what I wanted to represent myself as. I wouldn’t hide my identity and I’d keep my content at a certain level of decency. Humor and insults are fine as long as they hit the right satirical tone and aren’t thrown for the sake of being nasty.
When I was approached to begin contributing over at FoxSports, I now had editors to oversee my work. They wanted provoking content, but they also wanted it to hit a professional chord. Makes sense; after all, they’re a mainstream sports site. If you notice the pieces I post there (most of them are cross-posted here), it’s definitely more professional in tone than the more casual fare I write in my posts, and much more so than the often irreverent stuff I put together for Battle of California. I’ve tried to maintain that style, not only to keep the content unique, but to keep my own internal boundaries about what goes where.
Elliot Friedman of the CBC had a great post over at Puck Daddy regarding where he believed the Oilers found objectionable material in Dave’s liveblogging. I didn’t read Dave’s liveblog at first, but I could understand that perspective based on what Elliot highlighted.
Still, that really begs the question: What was Dave’s purpose there? And was what he was doing necessarily disrespectful to the team or the organization he represented?
I often live by the philosophy that any sort of absolute reaction on either side is the wrong reaction. Shades of gray and an understanding of the other perspective are, in my experience, often the best way to achieve some sort of goal or agreement.
In this case, Dave’s purpose – his press pass – was to get quotes for his media organization. And some of the Oilers higher-ups might interpret his snarky comments in his liveblog as disrespectful to the team. I get that. However, there’s simply no need to react the way they did. He is, after all, a media professional, and if he steps outside of what is considered their boundaries, they should inform him of that before reacting with such venom. That shows a complete lack of judgment on the Oilers’ organization – and an alarming bit of arrogance considering how Web 2.0 the media world is becoming.
People make mistakes. For the most part, hollering and screaming about them get you as far as complaining to a ref about a bad penalty call. Reaching a mutual understanding, however, really isn’t all that difficult.
If I was going to be judge and jury on this, I would have told Dave that it’s cool to make the occasional post on his blog as long as it’s not interfering with his primary purpose for being there, and to try exchange some of the goofiness for more analytical content out of respect for both his employer and the privilege the team’s given him. I certainly wouldn’t have kicked him out, and there’s no way I’d ever treat a professional the way they treated Dave.
Elliot makes another good point about individual markets deciding whether or not bloggers should get access – and whether there’s actual space for bloggers in the press box (literally, not figuratively). And to answer that question, one really has to point to Eric McErlain, Ted Leonsis, and their collective work to establish guidelines for bloggers.
Bloggers are a reality that the mainstream media has to accept. Ignoring it is like looking the other way when a car is heading towards you. There’s a way to reach mutual understanding, and I think the Capitals have taken major steps forward in achieving that thanks to the work of Ted and Eric.
The only good thing I could see coming out of this is that maybe it opens the dialogue for the NHL to really be the leaders in the sports landscape to help create a true standard. Of course, there are blogs run by the proverbial kid in his mom’s basement. There are also blogs run by great writers who are intelligent, witty, and passionate when it comes to their hockey coverage (and, of course, everything in between). An absolute yes or an absolute no doesn’t do justice to the league, the teams, or the bloggers. Mutual understanding – it’s not that hard of a concept to grasp.
(Sorry, had to get that one in there.)
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