Dearest Bruce: A Word, Please?

*WARNING* This post is about the relationship between "Main Steam" media, and "New" media. If you are not interested in reading about this topic, please continue on. Good stuff below this post about Josh Caron, an excellent season pre-view from Wysh over at Puck Daddy, and amazing work from Russo over on the Trib's website.

For those of you still with me, make the jump, and we will have a brief discussion about one Mr. Bruce Dowbiggin, a writer for the Globe and Mail up in Toronto.

Those of you who frequent Hockey Wilderness, or really anyone who has read anything about anything in the past year and a half, knows that there is a somewhat contentious relationship between the newspaper writers and bloggers. To the point that name calling and stereotypes often come flying out, and the discussion goes nowhere.

For the most part, the blogs I read have never said they want the MSM to go away. Hell, we do all we can here at Hockey Wilderness to get you people to buy a damn StarTribune every now and then and support Russo's work. We don't want Russo going anywhere, unless they put a team in Vegas, in which case, he's going anyway, so we may as well wish him the best.

On the other hand, there are members (a small number) who seem to have the will of fundamentalist groups bent on driving Israel into the sea, except they want blogs to "know their role and shut-up." Some have proposed solutions, though none ever seem to come with equal access, and some ideas are just so ludicrous that it boggles the mind that they would even be brought up. I can only imagine this gets worse before it gets better, and as teams and the NHL continue to move to alt-media for coverage.

We are infringing on their territory, and there should be no belief that they are going to give up that territory without a fight.

It often comes down to a decision of whether or not to respond to every crackpot idea one can read on the internet. Generally, the bulk of the crap flies past, never even making a blip on the radar. However, sometimes, someone writes something that simply cannot go without answer. That happened today.

Bruce Dowbiggin, whose work I know very little about, is a "sports media columnist" for Toronto's Globe and Mail. Basically, he seems to be the "Talk Soup" of the sports media world.

On his blog (ironic, right?) today he writes this:

Now, questions are being asked as the 2010-’11 season revs up about what place will bloggers have in the media landscape this year. Some bloggers have said they deserve equal status with MSM in press boxes and in the dressing room.

Please find me a blogger who has said they "deserve" a spot in the box. We do not "deserve" a spot anymore than anyone else "deserves" it. It is not a right to cover hockey from the press box. We are afforded the right to write about anything we want in this country, we are not afforded the right to interview athletes. Government officials must face the media, hockey players? Not so much.

It is a privilege to cover hockey, and a greater privilege to do so from the inside. It is not something anyone "deserves" and anyone who feels they do needs a strong reality check. The privilege is earned, and that's all some of us want. The chance to earn that privilege.

Mr. Dowbiggin goes on to write:

The Vancouver Canucks, who are hosting a six-team prospects tournament in this city on Lake Okanagan, say they will grant equal credentials to approved bloggers. But there will be a strict code of conduct that they must follow. Should bloggers - a contrarian, independent lot - breach those conditions, the Canucks say they will pull credentials and deny access. In short, bloggers will be held to the standards of MSM when it comes to libel, slander, seeking autographs etc.

So they will be held to the same standard as everyone else. Sounds perfect. Fair, cut and dry. Moving on, right? Nope.

That might be a problem as "blogger" has come to be synonymous for bending the rules on sourcing or taking liberties with research. Others complain that bloggers hiding behind anonymity don’t reveal their conflicts or connections to either management or players. Things that would never pass muster with an editor go viral on the internet.

The term "blogger" is the problem here. Yes, anyone who has a computer can start a blog, making them a "blogger." The term is over used, and is non-descriptive of what some of us do. Just like the term "reporter" doesn't fit what some beat writers do, and "columnist" doesn't fit what opinion piece writers do.

The last line describes just how far from an understanding some members of "Main Stream" media are. "Things that would never pass muster with an editor go viral on the internet." Welcome to 1997, glad you're with us. Just because it goes viral does not make it true, and people (for the most part) know that. Of course, that carries the exception of everyone who reads HockeyBuzz.

People want a different angle, and the internet provides multiple angles. We offer you this warning, Mr. Dowbiggin, as fellow writers, and as newspaper readers. You better get on board, or you will be left behind. It is not going to change, except to make more and more online content more and more popular. It is the way it is, and for that, no one is apologizing.

Some feel that the threat of pulling credentials should suffice in keeping bloggers in line. Others, who note the lack of sourced material and accountability in many blogs, feel that more needs to be done. After all, if you sue a blogger for slander and win, what can you get? The person’s computer? The lack of risk and absence of assets as compensation makes pursuing a blogger moot. Hit-and-run has been the tactic of many blogs floating on the edge of respectability.

While the laws in Canada certainly may be different, in the United States, if you sue me for slander, or libel, you can not only take my computer, but my house, my car, and everything else I own, sir.

An aside: What Mr. Dowbiggin is doing with this section is attempting to point to the "Bloggers all live in their mom's basement" joke that has been largely credited as being old and tired, without actually writing it because he knows it is old and tired.

Some bloggers make a lot of money, sir. Ted Leonsis is a blogger. Most of the half way decent blogs on the net are written by people who work one or more full time jobs, have nice houses, and have plenty of money. they have a lot to lose, sir. As much as you do, maybe even more since the fight for credibility is squarely in your camp and not theirs.

Also, using the example of this specific blog, if you sue me for slander of libel, my guess is that the law would allow you to go after Nathan and also after SBN. I don't want that, and either do they. Thus, there is the same standard as you write under sir. Your employer is liable for your words, just as Nathan and SBN are liable for mine. It works. Let's use it.

Usual Suspects feels that if a blogger wants a place in a press box or dressing room environment there should be something more tangible at stake - say, a bond of $10,000 that a blogger would lose should a court or arbitrator find he or she broke professional standards or libel laws. Such a policy would sort out the valuable from the voluble in short order.

This is where you lose credibility, sir. Does the G&M pay a $10,000 bond to let you into Leafs games? If not, then zip it. Simple as that. Don't bring up ideas that are so monumentally stupid that they make Carrot Top look smart. You know what else can sort out the "valuable from the voluble in short order?" Ethics. Get some.

Continuing on what would make bloggers better people, Mr. Dowbiggin writes this:

So would obliging bloggers to face their subjects from time to time. Taking shots at public figures from the grassy knoll and then sneaking away promotes a Dutch courage among many bloggers. It’s a point of honour for most MSM to show up after a tough column and let the subject have his say in person. Having to look Roberto Luongo or Dion Phaneuf in the eye after a critical column about them might produce some sober second thought amongst the bloggos.

Let me ask this, sir. Wouldn't someone need access to that player in order to face their subject? It would be a point of honor to face the subject of their criticism for anyone with ethics, sir, not just the MSM. I have absolutely no fear of looking Roberto Luongo in the eye and telling him I believe he is over rated as a goaltender. I have the stats to back me up. He is an over paid, over hyped nothing that benefits from a good team in front of him, and I would love the opportunity for him to counter that argument.

Let's ask this question. How many bloggers do you plan to face after writing this? Talk about Dutch courage. Nice use of the derisive term "bloggos," by the way. A real sign of respect for your competition.

Finishing up, Mr. Dowbiggin goes on to say how much he appreciates blogs that will do stories that institutions such as the G&M won't touch. A bit disingenuous after berating blogs, and bloggers, for six paragraphs. He wraps it all up with this:

...most have evolved closer to a model that resembles Hockey Night In Canada meets TMZ. But the failures of some bloggers need not condemn the entire process. The question is where will it go next in its rivalry with MSM.

TMZ? You mean the organization recently credited with breaking more concrete, factual news about entertainment figures than any other source? Not to defend them, as I hate everything they stand for, but at least get the facts right. If you are reading blogs that resemble TMZ meets HNIC, stop reading them. Use your head, and the education you have been given, and find the blogs that "deserve" your readership. If you can't find any, send me an email, I'll help you out.

(Just to save you the trouble, Bruce, my name is Bryan Reynolds, and I approve this message.)

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